#Lookback: A Brief History of Coffee

A County 10 series in partnership with the Fremont County Museum System
where we take a #Lookback at the stories and history of our community and
presented by Mick Pryor, Financial Advisor with Edward Jones.

Coffee has been used for centuries to keep people caffeinated. An Ethiopian legend describes the discovery of the high dose of caffeine in coffee by a goat herder named Kaldi. One day, Kaldi went to tend to his goats and found them full of energy after eating the fruit from a coffee shrub. Curious, Kaldi decided to try the red fruit for himself and had a similar reaction. Later, a monk witnessed Kaldi’s strange behavior and took some of the red coffee fruit back to his monastery to share with his fellow monks. After eating the fruit, the monks spent the night awake and alert.

Before the coffee bean was roasted, there were several different uses for the coffee fruit. First, the red fruits were mixed in with animal fat to create a snack bar.At some point, the fruit was crushed into a pulp and fermented to make wine. Around 1000 A.D., another drink was created using the whole fruit including the seeds. In the Middle East during the 13thCentury, the coffee bean was roasted and created the modern coffee drink we know today. The process of roasting the coffee bean made the seed infertile, so the coffee plant only existed in the Middle East and Africa until the 1600s.

During the 1600s, coffee was spread throughout Europe by their interactions with the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman Empire began drinking coffee after the Governor of Yemen, Ozdemir Pasha, brought the beverage to Istanbul in 1555, after enjoying the beverage while stationed in Yemen. Holland, however, was introduced to coffee a little differently than the rest of Europe. Holland was introduced to coffee via trade with Yemen. Then, in 1616, the Dutch began planting coffee in the first European-owned coffee farm in Sri Lanka.

The first possible time that coffee could have been introduced to America was when Captain John Smith helped found Jamestown in 1607, because he had knowledge of the drink from his travels to Turkey. It is believed that coffee first came to America when New York was known as New Amsterdam and under Dutch control. It is possible that the Dutch began importing and selling coffee in New Amsterdam as early as 1640, but it does not appear that the Dutch West India Company brought coffee with them when they founded their colony on Manhattan Island. There is also no record of coffee brought over on the Mayflower. The first official reference to coffee was not until 1668, after the English took over New Amsterdam and renamed it New York City.In 1696, the first coffeehouse was established in the America. The coffeehouse was called the King’s Arm and is believed to have been located on what is now Cedar Street in New York City. After the King’s Arm, coffeehouses were established in most of the major cities in New England.

In the 1700s, Europeans also began establishing coffee plantations in North America. In 1714, the Dutch presented Louis XIV, the King of France, with a young coffee tree from their plantation located in Indonesia on the island of Java. This sapling was planted in the Jardin des Plantes in Paris. Later in 1723, Gabriel du Clieu, brought a sapling from the tree in the Jarden des Plantes to the island of Martinique in the Caribbean. From there, coffee farms were established across the Caribbean, to Central America, and to South America. In 1727, the Portuguese brought coffee saplings from French Guyana to Brazil, which is now the largest producer of coffee in the world.

At the beginning, coffee was not the preferred drink among the colonists. Tea was still the beverage of choice until the British imposed a tax on tea.In 1767, Charles Townshend proposed the Townshend Revenue Act. This act placed duties on goods imported to the colonies, including tea, to pay the salaries of royal colonial governors. Ever since the passing of the Stamp Act back in 1765, colonists had developed resentment to all new taxes. To express their resentment, the colonists boycotted many of the goods taxed by the Townshend Revenue Act. So, in 1770, most duties from the Townshend Act were repealed. However, the tax on tea was retained. Although some colonists went back to drinking tea, many colonists continued to boycott tea. Some colonists refused to drink tea, but some decided to drink smuggled tea from Holland. The consumption of smuggled tea hurt the East India Company, which had been struggling financially. The East India Company was an integral part of Britain’s economy, so, the Parliament passed the Tea Act in 1773. This act allowed the East India Company to ship tea directly to America without landing it in England. The Tea Act lowered the price of the East India Company’s tea because they did not have to pay additional duties in England before shipping to the colonies. However, the Tea Act also cut out colonial merchants from the picture, which further angered the colonists. In addition to many other forms of protest, the colonists began drinking coffee instead. So, coffee became the drink of choice in New England.

By the end of the 18thcentury, the coffee industry was flourishing. Coffee even began to be rationed to soldiers in the military to replace rum and brandy. After the military started rationing coffee, importation of coffee increased from 12 million pounds to 38 million pounds per year. The consumption of coffee continued to rise in the United States. In 1850, the first company to commercialize and mass produce coffee was founded in San Francisco. The company was called Pioneer Steam Coffee and Spice Mills. To help the company build a mill to grind their own coffee, Pioneer Steam Coffee and Spice Mills hired J.A. Folger as a carpenter. J.A. Folger saved enough money to eventually buy some shares in the company.By 1865, Folger had become a full partner in the company. In 1872, he bought out the other partners and renamed the company to J.A. Folger and Company, which is a brand that many coffee drinkers still have in their cabinets today.

In 1966, the first Peet’s Coffee was founded by Alfred Peet in Berkeley, California. Peet’s eventually grew to become the first major coffee chain in the United States. Today, Peet’s Coffee has more than 200 locations in 11 states. Peet’s Coffee even inspired others to establish their own coffee chains. Alfred Peet taught Jerry Baldwin about the coffee trade. Later, in 1971, Jerry Baldwin, along with Gordon Bowker, and Zev Siegl, founded the first Starbucks at Pike Place Market in Seattle.

Next up for the Fremont County Museums

March 3rd6pm at the Riverton Museum “Women in Wyoming” by Linsey Linton (via Zoom)

Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series

April 7th6pm at the Riverton Museum “Seed Starting with the Riverton Garden Club”

Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series

April 17th2-4pm at the Riverton Museum “Seed Starting for Children”

Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series

Joe Scheuerle Art Exhibit: “Native Americans of Wind River Country”, 9-5 Monday-Saturday Pioneer Museum Lander Handle with Care: Art Moving

The Dubois Museum, the Pioneer Museum in Lander and the Riverton Museum are seeing significantly decreased visitation this summer as a result of Covid-19. As a result, the self-generated revenue we rely so heavily on to make ends meet is not keeping pace. We are counting on private donations to continue to maintain successful and engaging museums during this time. We urge you to make a tax deductible contribution to be used specifically for the benefit of the museum of your choosing by sending a check to Fremont County Museums 450 N 2ndRm 320 or taking it directly to the museum you choose to support.

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