Coffee, then and now


Nowadays, coffee is the most widely consumed non-alcoholic drink in the world, and plants of the Coffea genus, from which the seeds are obtained, are mainly cultivated in South America, India and the Far East. However, few people know that the coffee plant actually originated from the Arabian Peninsula and Northeast Africa, and that's exactly where the first infusions from coffee beans were concocted: according to historians, the name of the beverage comes from the Kaffa Province in Ethiopia.

Despite being known and drunk well before the birth of Christ, it was only from the 12th century on that Arabians started roasting the beans before preparing the drink: the results, of course, could not compare with the blend we are now used to, but they were certainly a step forward from the infusions of fresh beans which had been produced up to that moment. Regardless of the considerable contacts between European and Arab civilizations during the Middle Ages, coffee took the longest road to reach the Old Continent and become the drink we are all familiar with. In the 17th century, thanks to diplomatic exchanges with the Ottoman Empire, drinking coffee became a trend emulated in every European court. Louis XIV, the Sun King, even ordered his gardeners to grow some varieties in the gardens of Versailles. During the same historical period, the first coffee beans arrived in the Caribbean Islands and South America due to substantial trade exchanges between nations such as France, Spain, Portugal and their overseas colonies. Still in the 1600s, India - at the time a British colony - obtained its first coffee beans and began growing its own plantations: legend says that those beans had been smuggled by a pilgrim returning from Makkah, defying the Arabians who didn't want to lose the exclusive rights on coffee production.

Conversely, what do we know of espresso, the type of coffee the whole world envies us for? In Italy the trend of coffee and Cafes, places where artists and intellectuals used to meet to enjoy the drink, developed with the Austrian occupation of the North, starting from big cities like Venice and Milan. Today espresso is definitely the beverage made from coffee beans Italians appreciate the most, and it is thanks to three illustrious compatriots that today we can taste it in the best of ways, both at home and in cafes: Luigi de Ponti and Alfonso Bialetti, who in 1933 invented the moka coffee pot, and Angelo Moriondo from Turin, who - as early as 1884 - patented the first coffee machine, ancestor to the same machine the barista brews your coffee with every morning!


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