A Lesson in Tea and Coffee

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Tea and coffee are both drinks which inspire passion. More than just simple beverages, tea and coffee are part of a cultural phenomenon filled with social meaning and ritual. They both have fairly long, extensive histories?here?s a short look at them.

According to ancient legend, coffee was first discovered in Ethiopia, where it grew wild. Goat herders made the realization that their goats, after eating the coffee berries, couldn?t keep still and couldn?t sleep during the night. There?s another story about a dissident who was sent into the desert to die of starvation. The man, whose name was Omar, and his disciples happened upon the coffee plant and in despair, they ate it. It was the coffee plant that saved their lives. They made it to a nearby town called Mocha, where local residents saw it as a miracle.

According to researchers, coffee made its first appearance as a beverage in 1000 AD. Sufi monks, in Yemen, in the south of Arabia, supposedly made and drank coffee in their monasteries. Coffee was first brought to Yemen and Egypt through Ethiopia. The Arabians are the ones that get credit for making coffee, roasting it and brewing it, as we know it today. Coffee spread from the Middle East to the North of Africa by the middle of the fifteenth century. It made its way to Europe first through Italy; from there it went to Indonesia and soon enough it arrived in the Americas.

In order to protect their investment, Arabians made their coffee beans infertile by boiling them before shipping them out. According to legend, an Indian man whose name was Baba Budan defied the Arabian measures by sneaking out fertile beans strapped to his stomach. Thus came coffee to Europe through ancient Venice and the beverage boomed.

The Dutch began growing their own coffee plants and cultivating the beans in 1616 despite the Arab prohibition on exporting beans. Dutch coffee was thus taken to Java and Ceylon. According to historians, by the early 1700’s Indonesian coffee was being drunk by Dutchmen and women by the cupful.

Today, coffee is ubiquitous. You really can?t go anywhere without seeing it. The art of brewing the perfect cup is something that is prided by many.

Tea has an equally colorful and varied history. It all starts back in old China. Some 5,ooo years ago, according to ancient tales, the wise emperor Shen Nung happened upon tea somewhat by accident. Shen Nung, being a wise emperor, required that all water be boiled before drinking. As the story goes, on a journey in a distant land, Shen Nung and his court were resting and water was to be boiled by the servants. Some dried leaves from a bush fell into the boiling water, rendering it brown. The emperor, a curious man, tasted the beverage and found it to be refreshing. Thus tea was born.

Tea became a staple in China. It became so entrenched in Chinese daily life that Lu Yu wrote a guide book about the beverage codifying cultivation methods and drinking traditions. The book became a classic amongst Chinese society.

Japan was introduced to tea by the priest Yeisei, who is now known as the father of tea in the country. After he brought tea back to Japan via China, it became an instant success.

Tea was introduced to Europe in 1560 via the Portuguese Jesuit Jasper de Cruz. From there it spread like wild fire.

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