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International Coffee Day
"I'm feeling mighty lonesome
Haven't slept a wink
I walk the floor and watch the door
And in between I drink
Black coffee ..."
~ "Black Coffee", Sonny Burke, 1948
Generally thought of as a first-line pick-me-up beverage today, in the past coffee (as opposed to tea) was originally viewed with suspicion as a foreign brew with potential to disregulate the drinker! In 1674, the Women's Petition Against Coffee claimed the beverage was turning British men into "useless corpses" and proposed a ban on it for anyone under the age of 60. Similarly, other governments sought to eradicate coffee-drinking for its alleged tendency to stimulate “radical thinking.” In 1746 Sweden took things to an extreme when it banned both coffee and coffee paraphernalia (i.e. cups and saucers). Today, coffee is the most consumed hot beverage in the world with a huge range of varieties to choose from. Connoisseurs can seek out rare artisanal roasts from high altitude coffee farms with specialty varietals for a cost. However, Kopi luwak, Vietnamese weasel coffee, is one of the most expensive coffees in the world, which can sell for up to US $500 per kilogram! Should you be interested in how weasels are involved, please research independently - not for the faint-hearted nor for those who haven't had their first cup yet.☕
The earliest credible evidence of coffee-drinking appears in the middle of the 15th century in the Sufi shrines of Yemen. By the 16th century, coffee growing spread to the rest of the Middle East, Persia, Turkey, and northern Africa. Through the efforts of the British East India Company, coffee became popular in England as well.
One of the first British coffee houses, Oxford's Queen's Lane Coffee House, established in 1654, is still operating.
When coffee reached North America during the Colonial period, it was initially not as successful as it had been in Europe - alcoholic beverages remained more popular. But during the Revolutionary War, the demand for coffee increased so much that dealers had to hoard their scarce supplies and raise prices dramatically; this was also due to the reduced availability of tea from British merchants, and a general resolution among many Americans to avoid drinking tea following the 1773 Boston Tea Party.
After the War of 1812, during which Britain temporarily cut off access to tea imports, Americans' taste for coffee grew even more. In contrast, coffee consumption declined in England, giving way to tea during the 18th century.
The coffee break originated in the late 19th century in Stoughton, Wisconsin, with the wives of Norwegian immigrants. The city celebrates this innovation every year with the Stoughton Coffee Break Festival. The term subsequently became popular through a Pan-American Coffee Bureau ad campaign of 1952 which urged consumers, "Give yourself a Coffee-Break – and Get What Coffee Gives to You."
This tartan, by designer Carol A.L. Martin, uses rich colours that "could be coffee, could be beer."
Johann Sebastian Bach admired coffee and its stimulating effects so much that he was inspired to compose the Coffee Cantata, about dependence on the beverage. To hear an excerpt from this work, take a coffee break and click the coffee.