Question: Provide an overview of the history of coffee.
The early history of coffee as an economic product is involved in considerable obscurity, the absence of fact being compensated for by a profusion of conjectural statements and mythical stories. The use of coffee in Abyssinia was recorded in the 15th century, and was then stated to have been practiced from time immemorial. Neighboring countries, however, appear to have been quite ignorant of its value. Various legendary accounts are given of the discovery of the beneficial properties of the plant, one ascribing it to a flock of sheep accidentally browsing on the wild shrubs, with the result that they became elated and sleepless at night! Its physiological action in dissipating drowsiness and preventing sleep was taken advantage of in connection with the prolonged religious service of the Mohammedans, and its use as a devotional antisoporific stirred up fierce opposition on the part of the strictly orthodox and conservative section of the priests. Coffee by them was held to be an intoxicating beverage, and therefore prohibited by the Koran, and severe penalties were threatened to those addicted to its use. Notwithstanding threats of divine retribution and other devices, the coffee-drinking habit spread rapidly among the Arabian Mohammedans, and the growth of coffee and its use as a national beverage became as inseparably connected with Arabia as tea is with China.
Towards the close of the 16th century the use of coffee was recorded by a European resident in Egypt, and about this epoch it came into general use in the near East. The appreciation of coffee as a beverage in Europe dates from the 17th century. "Coffee-houses" were soon instituted, the first being opened in Constantinople and Venice. In London coffee-houses date from 1652, when one was opened in St Michael's Alley, Cornhill. They soon became popular, and the role played by them in the social life of the 17th and 18th centuries is well known. Germany, France, Sweden and other countries adopted them at about the same time as Great Britain. In Europe, as in Arabia, coffee at first made its way into favor in the face of various adverse and even prohibitive restrictions. Thus at one time in Germany it was necessary to obtain a license to roast coffee. In England Charles II. endeavored to suppress coffee-houses on the ground that they were centers of political agitation, his royal proclamation stating that they were the resort of disaffected persons "who devised and spread abroad divers false, malicious and scandalous reports, to the defamation of His Majesty's government, and to the disturbance of the peace and quiet of the nation."
Up to the close of the 17th century the world's entire, although limited, supply of coffee was obtained from the province of Yemen in south Arabia, where the true celebrated Mocha or Mokka coffee is still produced. At this time, however, plants were successfully introduced from Arabia to Java, where the cultivation was immediately taken up. The government of Java distributed plants to various places, including the botanic garden of Amsterdam. The Portuguese introduced coffee into Ceylon. From Amsterdam the Dutch sent the plant to Surinam in 1718, and in the same year Jamaica received it through the governor Sir Nicholas Lawes. Within a few years coffee reached the other West Indian islands, and spread generally through the tropics of the New World, which now produce by far the greater portion of the world's supply.
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