A brief account of the
cultivation of the coffee plant in the Old World and its introduction
into the New—A romantic coffee adventure
The history of the propagation of the coffee plant is closely
interwoven with that of the early history of coffee drinking, but for
the purposes of this chapter we shall consider only the story of the
inception and growth of the cultivation of the coffee tree, or shrub,
bearing the seeds, or berries, from which the drink, coffee, is made.
Careful research discloses that most authorities agree that the coffee
plant is indigenous to Abyssinia, and probably Arabia, whence its
cultivation spread throughout the tropics. The first reliable mention
of the properties and uses of the plant is by an Arabian physician
toward the close of the ninth century A.D., and it is reasonable to
suppose that before that time the plant was found growing wild in
Abyssinia and perhaps in Arabia. If it be true, as Ludolphus
writes, that the Abyssinians came out of Arabia into Ethiopia in
the early ages, it is possible that they may have brought the coffee
tree with them; but the Arabians must still be given the credit for
discovering and promoting the use of the beverage, and also for
promoting the propagation of the plant, even if they found it in
Abyssinia and brought it to Yemen.
Some authorities believe that the first cultivation of coffee in Yemen
dates back to 575 A.D., when the Persian invasion put an end to the
Ethiopian rule of the negus Caleb, who conquered the country in 525.
Certainly the discovery of the beverage resulted in the cultivation of
the plant in Abyssinia and in Arabia; but its progress was slow until
the 15th and 16th centuries, when it appears as intensively carried on
in the Yemen district of Arabia. The Arabians were jealous of their new
found and lucrative industry, and for a time successfully prevented its
spread to other countries by not permitting any of the precious berries
to leave the country unless they had first been steeped in boiling
water or parched, so as to destroy their powers of germination. It may
be that many of the early failures successfully to introduce the
cultivation of the coffee plant into other lands was also due to the
fact, discovered later, that the seeds soon lose their germinating
However, it was not possible to watch every avenue of transport, with
thousands of pilgrims journeying to and from Mecca every year; and so
there would appear to be some reason to credit the Indian tradition
concerning the introduction of coffee cultivation into southern India
by Baba Budan, a Moslem pilgrim, as early as 1600, although a better
authority gives the date as 1695. Indian tradition relates that Baba
Budan planted his seeds near the hut he built for himself at
Chickmaglur in the mountains of Mysore, where, only a few years since,
the writer found the descendants of these first plants growing under
the shade of the centuries-old original jungle trees. The greater part
of the plants cultivated by the natives of Kurg and Mysore appear to
have come from the Baba Budan importation. It was not until 1840 that
the English began the cultivation of coffee in India.
is the major coffee constituent affecting individual's tolerance or
intolerance. In a healthy liver, the majority of caffeine is degraded
by the hepatic microsomal enzymatic system. Caffeine is mostly degraded
to paraxanthine substances, partially to theobromine and theophylline,
and a small amount of unchanged caffeine is excreted by urine.
Therefore, the metabolism of caffeine depends on the state of this
enzymatic system of the liver.
Elderly individuals with a depleted enzymatic system do not tolerate
coffee with caffeine. They are recommended to take decaffeinated
coffee, and this only if their stomach is healthy, because both
decaffeinated coffee and coffee with caffeine cause heartburn. Moderate
amounts of coffee (50-100 mg of caffeine or 5-10 g of coffee powder a
day) are well tolerated by a majority of elderly people.
Excessive amounts of coffee, however, can in many individuals cause
very unpleasant, exceptionally even life-threatening side effects.