Without coffee, it would probably be quite a bit harder for most of us to get up in the morning. Especially in the US, our conceptualization of coffee revolves around Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, and our local coffee house. Coffee has undergone the process of creolization; it’s become commercialized and has spread around the world. As it did that, its value changed. Thanks to creolization, the idea of morning coffee is an institution, now more than ever. So where was this legacy born?
Coffee Arabica (the finest bean) is believed to have been discovered in 600AD growing along the central Ethiopian plain land; trees had also been growing in Yemen. The Arab people guarded the Arabica beans until 1650, when seeds were stolen by an Indian traveler who then returned back to India. The French and then the Dutch would attempt to grow coffee. While the French failed for growing the beans too far up north, the Dutch were able to successfully breed coffee trees from seed. In 1715, the Dutch gave Louis XIV of France a coffee tree as a sign of favor and good will. This coffee tree, called the Noble Tree, is the tree from which all coffee in France is derived. It continues to produce seeds which are sent back and grown in Ethiopia. From France, coffee tree seeds traveled with nobles to the Caribbean. Being geographically close France, soon England had coffee. Of course, this meant that our colonial ancestors soon were soon able to enjoy it.
Dorothy Jones was the first woman in the American colonies licensed to sell coffee. She sold coffee seeds to enterprising young colonists. Coffeehouses became extremely common. During the Revolution, coffeehouses were sites of pro-colonial sentiment. Colonists planned the Boston Tea Party while at a coffeehouse. The Declaration of Independence was first read publicly at a coffeehouse, and plans for the Constitutional Congress were conceived in a coffeehouse.
There’s no argument that the number of coffeehouses in the US has skyrocketed since then. Americans love their coffee. Besides its delicious taste, a cup of coffee represented many things in the past that it still represents today: warmth, energy, a moment’s peace. Not much has changed in how we view our coffee (except perhaps for those who grab their coffee on the go, it is not so much “a moment’s peace” but the willpower they need to get to work).
The aspect of coffee which has creolized is its method of delivery. In America it seems we want our coffee to be served quickly and to taste impeccable. We do not want to go to a coffee shop and get good coffee the first day, bad coffee the next. Chains like Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts have capitalized on these market desires, opening up across the country. They each serve their own products and thus each has developed a specialized language – like a grande skinny caramel macchiato or a medium vanilla dunkaccino. Small individual coffee shops which open up as a countermovement to this commercialization do find success, but it is often limited to localized regions or neighborhoods. The most lucrative coffeehouses are the national chains. This is one way that coffee consumption differs in the US as compared to other places in the world. In Europe for example, though Starbucks exists, it is not the norm. Starbucks is mostly found in airports to accommodate tourists. Additionally, Dunkin Donuts is almost nonexistent outside of the US. Rather, the local population drinks at locally run coffeehouses.
The ways in which coffee preferences and coffee distribution have evolved are quite extraordinary. No other beverage has the universal appeal of coffee. As it travelled around the world, its nature changed and shaped lives.
Source: “Coffee and its Origins.” Online. http://www.italiancook.ca/origins-coffee.htm