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On this day ten tears ago…
via Wine Lover’s Guide to Ancient Britain

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Tombstone excavated in the gladiator cemetery at Ephesus. Photo: © 2014 Lösch et al.

Biblicalarchaeology.org

By Robin Ngo

Study reveals gladiator diet was largely plant-based with an ash tonic on the side

 

For abdominal cramp or bruises,” states Marcus Varro, and I quote his very words, “your hearth should be your medicine chest. Drink lye made from its ashes, and you will be cured. One can see how gladiators after a combat are helped by drinking this.”
Pliny,
Natural History XXXVI.203

The Roman gladiator calls to mind a fierce fighter who, armed with an assortment of weapons, battled other gladiators—and even wild animals. What did gladiators eat? Roman author Pliny the Elder reported that gladiators went by the nickname “hordearii” (“barley-eaters”) and drank a tonic of ashes after combat (Pliny, NHXVIII.72, XXXVI.203). A study recently published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE confirmed that gladiators really did eat mostly plants—especially barley and wheat—and may have indeed consumed ashes.

Gladiators were typically enslaved prisoners of war and criminals, though free men as well as women participated in gladiatorial games. What began as a component of funeral rites in the early Roman Republic evolved over centuries into bloody spectacles for the entertainment of the Roman people, reaching their peak in popularity in the second century C.E.

Researchers from the Institute of Forensic Medicine at the University of Bern and the Medical University of Vienna aimed to investigate how the diet of gladiators compared to the rest of the population. Using spectroscopy to conduct isotopic analysis on the bone remains from a second–third-century C.E. gladiator cemetery in Roman Ephesus in Turkey, the researchers were able to confirm that the individuals buried in the cemetery consumed a mostly plant-based diet—as did the rest of the population in Ephesus.

Gladiators appear to have eaten a diet similar to that of most other occupants of the Roman Empire, and the authors’ isotope data fit well with my own and others’ research into diet in the first few centuries C.E.,” said bioarchaeologist Kristina Killgrove in an email to Bible History Daily.

The study further found that those buried in the gladiator cemetery had higher strontium-calcium ratios than their contemporaries. This suggests that the gladiators at Ephesus may have really drunk a tonic of ashes as described by Pliny (“cinis lixivus potus”).

“Plant ashes were evidently consumed to fortify the body after physical exertion and to promote better bone healing,” study leader Fabian Kanz explained to ScienceDaily. “Things were similar then to what we do today—we take magnesium and calcium (in the form of effervescent tablets, for example) following physical exertion.”

In an email to Bible History Daily, classicist Daniel Harris-McCoy offers a caution when using Pliny the Elder as a textual source:

“Pliny the Elder is willing to print anything and everything, which makes him fun to read but sometimes hard to use as a source of solid information. He includes wild ‘facts’ about the giant gold-digging ants of India and even talks about ancient hallucinogenic drugs. But the material about gladiators consuming an ash drink seems credible, especially since Varro is his source.”

 

 

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Original article:

Eurekalert.org

Researchers find cacao originated 1,500 years earlier than previously thought

University of British Columbia

As Halloween revelers prepare to feast on chocolate, a new study from an international team of researchers, including the University of British Columbia, is pushing back the origins of the delicious sweet treat.

The study, published online today in Nature Ecology & Evolution, suggests that cacao–the plant from which chocolate is made–was domesticated, or grown by people for food, around 1,500 years earlier than previously thought. In addition, the researchers found cacao was originally domesticated in South America, rather than in Central America.

Archaeological evidence of cacao’s use, dating back to 3,900 years ago, previously planted the idea that the cacao tree was first domesticated in Central America. But genetic evidence showing that the highest diversity of the cacao tree and related species is actually found in equatorial South America-where cacao is important to contemporary Indigenous groups-led the UBC team and their colleagues to search for evidence of the plant at an archaeological site in the region.

“This new study shows us that people in the upper reaches of the Amazon basin, extending up into the foothills of the Andes in southeastern Ecuador, were harvesting and consuming cacao that appears to be a close relative of the type of cacao later used in Mexico–and they were doing this 1,500 years earlier,” said Michael Blake, study co-author and professor in the UBC department of anthropology. “They were also doing so using elaborate pottery that pre-dates the pottery found in Central America and Mexico. This suggests that the use of cacao, probably as a drink, was something that caught on and very likely spread northwards by farmers growing cacao in what is now Colombia and eventually Panama and other parts of Central America and southern Mexico.”

Theobroma cacao, known as the cacao tree, was a culturally important crop in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica–a historical region and cultural area in North America that extends from approximately central Mexico through Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and northern Costa Rica. Cacao beans were used both as currency and to make the chocolate drinks consumed during feasts and rituals.

For the study, researchers studied ceramic artifacts from Santa Ana-La Florida, in Ecuador, the earliest known site of Mayo-Chinchipe culture, which was occupied from at least 5,450 years ago.

The researchers used three lines of evidence to show that the Mayo-Chinchipe culture used cacao between 5,300 and 2,100 years ago: the presence of starch grains specific to the cacao tree inside ceramic vessels and broken pieces of pottery; residues of theobromine, a bitter alkaloid found in the cacao tree but not its wild relatives; and fragments of ancient DNA with sequences unique to the cacao tree.

The findings suggest that the Mayo-Chinchipe people domesticated the cacao tree at least 1,500 years before the crop was used in Central America. As some of the artifacts from Santa Ana-La Florida have links to the Pacific coast, the researchers suggest that trade of goods, including culturally important plants, could have started cacao’s voyage north.

Sonia Zarrillo, the study’s lead author and adjunct assistant professor at the University of Calgary who carried out some of the research as a sessional instructor at UBC Okanagan’s department of anthropology, said the findings represent a methodological innovation in anthropological research.

“For the first time, three independent lines of archaeological evidence have documented the presence of ancient cacao in the Americas: starch grains, chemical biomarkers, and ancient DNA sequences,” she said. “These three methods combine to definitively identify a plant that is otherwise notoriously difficult to trace in the archaeological record because seeds and other parts quickly degrade in moist and warm tropical environments.”

Discovering the origins of food that we rely on today is important because it helps us understand the complex histories of who we are today, said Blake.

“Today we all rely, to one extent or another, on foods that were created by the Indigenous peoples of the Americas,” said Blake. “And one of the world’s favourites is chocolate.”

 

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Overhead view of a possible ancient tavern, with three reddish circles marking the bread ovens and pebbles marking built-in benches in the dining room at the right. (Photo: Lattes excavations)

Overhead view of a possible ancient tavern, with three reddish circles marking the bread ovens and pebbles marking built-in benches in the dining room at the right.
(Photo: Lattes excavations)

The kitchen of what looks like an ancient tavern, with three reddish circles where the three ovens -- for baking flatbread and other dishes -- once stood. (Photo: Lattes excavations)

The kitchen of what looks like an ancient tavern, with three reddish circles where the three ovens — for baking flatbread and other dishes — once stood. (Photo: Lattes excavations)

 

Original Article:

Traci Watson, Special to USA TODAY, Feb 2016

usatoday.com

 

Finally a decent place to eat! Archaeologists digging in southern France have found a restaurant-like structure roughly 2,100 years old, making it one of the earliest such taverns in the western Mediterranean.

The dining complex in the ancient town of Lattara was open for business as the Romans conquered the area, bringing with them ideas that would shake up the local economy and way of life. According to the tavern’s discoverers, Lattara’s people were farmers before the Romans marched in; after the Roman takeover, new kinds of jobs likely arose – and so did dining out.

“If you’re not growing your own food, where are you going to eat?” says archaeologist Benjamin Luley of Gettysburg College, co-author of a new study in Antiquity describing the site. “The Romans, in a very practical Roman way, had a very practical solution … a tavern.”

At first the researchers thought they’d uncovered a bakery. In a room near a key intersection in Lattara, excavations over the last five years revealed the remains of three indoor gristmills and a trio of ovens, each three to four feet across, commonly used to bake flatbread. A home cook had no need for equipment on such an industrial scale.

In another room just across a courtyard, earthen benches lined the walls and a charcoal-burning hearth occupied the middle of the floor. Those features suggested a sit-down joint rather than a takeout counter.

The menu must’ve been extensive. Fish bones littered the kitchen, and bones from sheep and cattle were found in the courtyard. The floors were scattered with shards of fancy drinking bowls imported from Italy, as well as debris from large platters and bowls, report Luley and his colleague Gaël Piquès of France’s National Center for Scientific Research.

The interpretation of the site as a tavern is “plausible,” says one scholar who was not associated with the research. The Celtic people of western Europe “were famous (or infamous) in antiquity for their love of wine,” the University of Buffalo’s Stephen Dyson, an expert in Roman archaeology, says via email. The ceramic remains show “they imported the drinking vessels as well as the wine. No guzzling, sotted Celts these.”

But the site did not yield any coins, suggesting the complex could’ve been a private dining room, says Roman historian Penny Goodman of Britain’s University of Leeds. She also says there was ample trade and jobs for artisans in the region even before the Roman conquest, so it wasn’t necessarily the Romans’ arrival that spurred demand for a tavern.

Luley responds that before the Romans, Lattara show no evidence of large workshops that needed lots of labor. He also argues that people tend not to lose coins, so the absence of money in the tavern doesn’t mean diners weren’t paying for their meals.

Broken pottery, however, was regarded as trash, and at Lattara that trash is now providing a window into the carousing that took place. “They’re eating a fair amount,” Luley says, but “the most common ceramic object we found are drinking cups,” making a first-century-B.C. diner sound like the bars of today.

The dining room of what might have been an ancient tavern, showing banks of pebbles where built-in benches once stood against the walls. (Photo: Lattes excavations)

The dining room of what might have been an ancient tavern, showing banks of pebbles where built-in benches once stood against the walls. (Photo: Lattes excavations)

 

 

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Even in a town that archaeologists have probed countless times since 1930, few places have been dug over as many times as the landmark compound that makes up the historic colonial campus at the College of William and Mary.

But that doesn’t mean the triangle of property that surrounds the late-1600s Sir Christopher Wren Building — which ranks as the nation’s oldest college structure — has been stripped of all its secrets.

Spurred by a small but unexpectedly substantial brick feature unearthed by college archaeologists in 2011, a Colonial Williamsburg team has uncovered surprise after surprise since mid-May, when they begin exposing the increasingly large footprint of a previously unknown structure hidden under the grass in the Wren’s south yard.

Lurking as much as 2 feet below the surface, the main part of the early-1700s building measures 20-by-18-feet in size, while a smaller addition on its south wall checks in at about 20-by-12 feet.

Evidence of a central fire pit may help identify the structure as the college’s busy 18th-century brew house — which provided the students and faculty with a drink far safer and more pleasant than water — while an unusually large trash deposit located outside its east wall may hold clues to life inside the Wren Building before it was gutted by a fierce 1705 fire.

“With as much archaeological work as we’ve done in the College Yard over the years, it’s astonishing to find something like this — and to find so much of it still intact,” says Louise Kale, who is retiring after nearly two decades as director of the college’s historic campus.

“I’ve seen at least a dozen digs here during my time here — and this is the most important. It’s a real gold mine.”

Original article:
By Mark St. John Erickson
9:00 pm, July 23, 2014
daily press

IMG_0823.JPG
Archaeologists from Colonial Williamsburg are exploring the remains of an unexpectedly substantial colonial-era building first uncovered under the ground on the south of the Wren Building. The dig has been going on since early summer and has uncovered a substantial masonry foundation as well as large numbers of artifacts and this may be a brewhouse building. Tour groups are greeted by staff members at the dig site.
10:42 am, July 22, 2014
Joe Fudge / Daily Press

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Detail of the Alexander Mosaic, Naples National Archaeological
Museum [Credit: Ruthven/WikiCommons]


An Otago University scientist may have unravelled a 2,000-year-old mystery of what killed Alexander the Great.

National Poisons Centre toxicologist Dr Leo Schep thinks the culprit could be poisonous wine made from an innocuous-looking plant.

Classical scholars have been deeply divided about what killed the Macedonian leader, who built a massive empire before his death, aged 32, in June of 323BC. Some accounts say he died of natural causes but others suggested members of his inner circle conspired to poison him at a celebratory banquet.

Dr Schep, who has been researching the toxicological evidence for a decade, said some of the poisoning theories – including arsenic and strychnine – were laughable.

Death would have come far too fast, he said.

His research, co-authored by Otago University classics expert Dr Pat Wheatley and published in the medical journal Clinical Toxicology, found the most plausible culprit was Veratrum album, known as white hellebore.

The white-flowered plant, which can be fermented into a poisonous wine, was well-known to the Greeks as a herbal treatment for inducing vomiting. Crucially, it could have accounted for the 12 torturous days that Alexander took to die, speechless and unable to walk. Other suggested poisons – including hemlock, aconite, wormwood, henbane and autumn crocus – would likely have killed him far more quickly.

Dr Schep began looking into the mystery in 2003 when he was approached by a company working on a BBC documentary.

“They asked me to look into it for them and I said, ‘Oh yeah, I’ll give it a go, I like a challenge’ – thinking I wasn’t going to find anything. And to my utter surprise, and their surprise, we found something that could fit the bill.”

Dr Schep’s theory was that Veratrum album could have been fermented as a wine that was given to the leader. It would have tasted “very bitter” but it could have been sweetened with wine – and Alexander was likely to have been very drunk at the banquet.

But whether Alexander was poisoned is still a mystery. “We’ll never know really … ”

Original article:

archaeologynewsnetwork

Posted by Tann

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Skull of ‘Nutcracker Man’ or Paranthropus boisei. The image is of Olduvai Hominid 5 (OH 5), the most famous of the early human fossils, which was found at Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. (Credit: Courtesy of Donald C Johanson)

Topic: Evidence ancient man ate Tiger Nuts
An Oxford University study has concluded that our ancient ancestors who lived in East Africa between 2.4 million-1.4 million years ago survived mainly on a diet of tiger nuts. Tiger nuts are edible grass bulbs still eaten in parts of the world today. The study published in the journal, PLOS ONE, also suggests that these early hominins may have sought additional nourishment from fruits and invertebrates, like worms and grasshoppers.

Study author Dr Gabriele Macho examined the diet of Paranthropus boisei, nicknamed “Nutcracker Man” because of his big flat molar teeth and powerful jaws, through studying modern-day baboons in Kenya. Her findings help to explain a puzzle that has vexed archaeologists for 50 years.

Scholars have debated why this early human relative had such strong jaws, indicating a diet of hard foods like nuts, yet their teeth seemed to be made for consuming soft foods. Damage to the tooth enamel also indicated they had come into contact with an abrasive substance. Previous research using stable isotope analyses suggests the diet of these homimins was largely composed of C4 plants like grasses and sedges. However, a debate has raged over whether such high-fibre foods could ever be of sufficiently high quality for a large-brained, medium-sized hominin.

Dr Macho’s study finds that baboons today eat large quantities of C4 tiger nuts, and this food would have contained sufficiently high amounts of minerals, vitamins, and the fatty acids that would have been particularly important for the hominin brain. Her finding is grounded in existing data that details the diet of year-old baboons in Amboseli National Park in Kenya — a similar environment to that once inhabited by Paranthropus boisei. Dr Macho’s study is based on the assumption that baboons intuitively select food according to their needs. She concludes that the nutritional demands of a hominin would have been quite similar.

Dr Macho modified the findings of the previous study on baboons by Stuart Altmann (1998) on how long it took the year-old baboons to dig up tiger nuts and feed on various C4 sources. She calculated the likely time taken by hominins, suggesting that it would be at least twice that of the yearling baboons once their superior manual dexterity was taken into account. Dr Macho also factored in the likely calorie intake that would be needed by a big-brained human relative.

Tiger nuts, which are rich in starches, are highly abrasive in an unheated state. Dr Macho suggests that hominins’ teeth suffered abrasion and wear and tear due to these starches. The study finds that baboons’ teeth have similar marks giving clues about their pattern of consumption.

In order to digest the tiger nuts and allow the enzymes in the saliva to break down the starches, the hominins would need to chew the tiger nuts for a long time. All this chewing put considerable strain on the jaws and teeth, which explains why “Nutcracker Man” had such a distinctive cranial anatomy.

The Oxford study calculates a hominin could extract sufficient nutrients from a tiger nut- based diet, i.e. around 10,000 kilojoules or 2,000 calories a day — or 80% of their required daily calorie intake, in two and half to three hours. This fits comfortably within the foraging time of five to six hours per day typical for a large-bodied primate.

Dr Macho, from the School of Archaeology at Oxford University, said: ‘I believe that the theory — that “Nutcracker Man” lived on large amounts of tiger nuts- helps settle the debate about what our early human ancestor ate. On the basis of recent isotope results, these hominins appear to have survived on a diet of C4 foods, which suggests grasses and sedges. Yet these are not high quality foods. What this research tells us is that hominins were selective about the part of the grass that they ate, choosing the grass bulbs at the base of the grass blade as the mainstay of their diet.

‘Tiger nuts, still sold in health food shops as well as being widely used for grinding down and baking in many countries, would be relatively easy to find. They also provided a good source of nourishment for a medium-sized hominin with a large brain. This is why these hominins were able to survive for around one million years because they could successfully forage — even through periods of climatic change.’

Original article:
sciencedaily

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20140106-133537.jpg

Topic: Tomb of beer maker in Egypt

The tomb of goddess Mut’s head of beer production was discovered today in Al-Khokha area on Luxor’s west bank

A Japanese mission from Waseda University uncovered the tomb of Khonso-Im-Heb, who was the head of beer production for goddess Mut and the head of the galleries during the Ramesside era.
The discovery occurring during routine cleaning work carried out at the frontcourt of tomb number TT47, which belongs to a top official in the reign of the New Kingdom king Amenhotep III.

The tomb of Khonso-Im-Heb is T-shaped with two halls and a burial chamber. It is also connected to an unfinished tomb of an as-yet unidentified person called Houn.

Jiro Kondo, head of the Japanese mission, said that the tomb is well preserved and is fully painted with scenes depicting the tomb’s owner with his family members and in front of different ancient Egyptian deities.

Scenes of the “Open Mouth” ritual also figures on one of the tomb’s wall while the ceiling is decorated with geometrical paintings with vivid colours. A solar boat is depicted at its core.

Minister of State of Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim told Ahram Online that security has been tightened around the tomb until the completion of the excavation works there. He said that a comprehensive restoration would be carried out after it is fully excavated to allow visitors.

Original article:
ahram.org.eg
Nevine El-Aref , Friday 3 Jan 2014

20140106-134503.jpg

Scenes of the “Open Mouth” ritual inside the newly discovered tomb of the chief beer-maker in Luxor, Egypt, Friday, Jan. 3, 2014 (Photo: Al-Ahram Arabic Website)

The ritual is called the opening of the mouth, where the deceased was reanimated so as to partake in the afterlife which included eating and drinking.
For more see: Wikipedia.org

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streets of Pompeii

Topic: Dining in ancient Pompeii !

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS—In Pompeii, a team led by University of Cincinnati archaeologist Steven Ellis has discovered evidence that challenges the traditional perception of Roman dining, which holds that the rich feasted on exotic animals while the poor were reduced to eating simple fare. In a two block area near the city's Porta Stabia gate, the team excavated some 20 shop fronts that would have served food and drink to the general public. Scraps of food recovered from latrines and cesspits show that these businesses weren't just serving gruel, but a wide variety of foods, including cuts of expensive meat and salted fish imported from Spain. In one drain the archaeologists found shellfish and a leg joint of a giraffe, the first giraffe bone to be reported at a site in Italy. "The traditional vision of some mass of hapless lemmings—scrounging for whatever they can pinch from the side of a street, or huddled around a bowl of gruel—needs to be replaced by a higher fare and standard of living, at least for the urbanites in Pompeii," said Ellis.
archaeology.org
Jan 2, 2014

More information on this topic:
No scrounging for scraps: Research uncovers the diets of the middle and lower class in Pompeii

University of Cincinnati archaeologists are turning up discoveries in the famed Roman city of Pompeii that are wiping out the historic perceptions of how the Romans dined, with the rich enjoying delicacies such as flamingos and the poor scrounging for soup or gruel. Steven Ellis, a University of Cincinnati associate professor of classics, will present these discoveries on Jan. 4, at the joint annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) and American Philological Association (APA) in Chicago.

UC teams of archaeologists have spent more than a decade at two city blocks within a non-elite district in the Roman city of Pompeii, which was buried under a volcano in 79 AD. The excavations are uncovering the earlier use of buildings that would have dated back to the 6th century.

Ellis says the excavation is producing a complete archaeological analysis of homes, shops and businesses at a forgotten area inside one of the busiest gates of Pompeii, the Porta Stabia.

The area covers 10 separate building plots and a total of 20 shop fronts, most of which served food and drink. The waste that was examined included collections from drains as well as 10 latrines and cesspits, which yielded mineralized and charred food waste coming from kitchens and excrement. Ellis says among the discoveries in the drains was an abundance of the remains of fully-processed foods, especially grains.
“The material from the drains revealed a range and quantity of materials to suggest a rather clear socio-economic distinction between the activities and consumption habits of each property, which were otherwise indistinguishable hospitality businesses,” says Ellis. Findings revealed foods that would have been inexpensive and widely available, such as grains, fruits, nuts, olives, lentils, local fish and chicken eggs, as well as minimal cuts of more expensive meat and salted fish from Spain. Waste from neighboring drains would also turn up less of a variety of foods, revealing a socioeconomic distinction between neighbors.

A drain from a central property revealed a richer variety of foods as well as imports from outside Italy, such as shellfish, sea urchin and even delicacies including the butchered leg joint of a giraffe. “That the bone represents the height of exotic food is underscored by the fact that this is thought to be the only giraffe bone ever recorded from an archaeological excavation in Roman Italy,” says Ellis. “How part of the animal, butchered, came to be a kitchen scrap in a seemingly standard Pompeian restaurant not only speaks to long-distance trade in exotic and wild animals, but also something of the richness, variety and range of a non-elite diet.”

Deposits also included exotic and imported spices, some from as far away as Indonesia.

Ellis adds that one of the deposits dates as far back as the 4th century, which he says is a particularly valuable discovery, since few other ritual deposits survived from that early stage in the development of Pompeii.

“The ultimate aim of our research is to reveal the structural and social relationships over time between working-class Pompeian households, as well as to determine the role that sub-elites played in the shaping of the city, and to register their response to city-and Mediterranean-wide historical, political and economic developments. However, one of the larger datasets and themes of our research has been diet and the infrastructure of food consumption and food ways,” says Ellis.

He adds that as a result of the discoveries, “The traditional vision of some mass of hapless lemmings – scrounging for whatever they can pinch from the side of a street, or huddled around a bowl of gruel – needs to be replaced by a higher fare and standard of living, at least for the urbanites in Pompeii.”

Contributing team leaders on the project who have focused on diet and food ways are Michael MacKinnon, a professor the University of Winnipeg; Mark Robinson, professor at Oxford University; Jennifer Robinson, also of Oxford University; Emily Holt, professor at Oberlin College and Professor Andrew Fairbairn of the University of Queensland.

Original article:
Phys.org

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Topic: Coffee

In the Ethiopian highlands, where the legend of Kaldi, the goatherd, originated, coffee trees grow today as they have for centuries. Though we will never know with certainty, there probably is some truth to the Kaldi legend.

It is said that he discovered coffee after noticing that his goats, upon eating berries from a certain tree, became so spirited that they did not want to sleep at night.

Kaldi dutifully reported his findings to the abbot of the local monastery who made a drink with the berries and discovered that it kept him alert for the long hours of evening prayer. Soon the abbot had shared his discovery with the other monks at the monastery, and ever so slowly knowledge of the energizing effects of the berries began to spread. As word moved east and coffee reached the Arabian peninsula, it began a journey which would spread its reputation across the globe.

Today coffee is grown in a multitude of countries around the world. Whether it is Asia or Africa, Central or South America, the islands of the Caribbean or Pacific, all can trace their heritage to the trees in the ancient coffee forests on the Ethiopian plateau.

The Arabian Peninsula

The Arabs were the first, not only to cultivate coffee but also to begin its trade. By the fifteenth century, coffee was being grown in the Yemeni district of Arabia and by the sixteenth century it was known in Persia, Egypt, Syria and Turkey.

Coffee was not only drunk in homes but also in the many public coffee houses — called qahveh khaneh — which began to appear in cities across the Near East. The popularity of the coffee houses was unequaled and people frequented them for all kinds of social activity. Not only did they drink coffee and engage in conversation, but they also listened to music, watched performers, played chess and kept current on the news of the day. In fact, they quickly became such an important center for the exchange of information that the coffee houses were often referred to as ‘Schools of the Wise.’
With thousands of pilgrims visiting the holy city of Mecca each year from all over the world, word of the ‘wine of Araby’ as the drink was often called, was beginning to spread far beyond Arabia. In an effort to maintain its complete monopoly in the early coffee trade, the Arabians continued to closely guard their coffee production.

Coffee Comes to Europe

European travellers to the Near East brought back stories of the unusual dark black beverage. By the 17th century, coffee had made its way to Europe and was becoming popular across the continent. Opponents were overly cautious, calling the beverage the ‘bitter invention of Satan.’ With the coming of coffee to Venice in 1615, the local clergy condemned it. The controversy was so great that Pope Clement VIII was asked to intervene. Before making a decision however, he decided to taste the beverage for himself. He found the drink so satisfying that he gave it Papal approval.

Despite such controversy, in the major cities of England, Austria, France, Germany and Holland, coffee houses were quickly becoming centers of social activity and communication. In England ‘penny universities’ sprang up, so called because for the price of a penny one could purchase a cup of coffee and engage in stimulating conversation. By the mid-17th century, there were over 300 coffee houses in London, many of which attracted patrons with common interests, such as merchants, shippers, brokers and artists.

Many businesses grew out of these specialized coffee houses. Lloyd’s of London, for example, came into existence at the Edward Lloyd’s Coffee House.

The New World

In the mid-1600’s, coffee was brought to New Amsterdam, a location later called New York by the British.

Though coffee houses rapidly began to appear, tea continued to be the favored drink in the New World until 1773 when the colonists revolted against a heavy tax on tea imposed by King George. The revolt, known as the Boston Tea Party, would forever change the American drinking preference to coffee.

Plantations Around the World

As demand for the beverage continued to spread, there was tense competition to cultivate coffee outside of Arabia. Though the Arabs tried hard to maintain their monopoly, the Dutch finally succeeded, in the latter half of the 17th century, to obtain some seedlings. Their first attempts to plant them in India failed but they were successful with their efforts in Batavia, on the island of Java in what is now Indonesia. The plants thrived and soon the Dutch had a productive and growing trade in coffee. They soon expanded the cultivation of coffee trees to the islands of Sumatra and Celebes.
The Dutch did a curious thing, however. In 1714, the Mayor of Amsterdam presented a gift of a young coffee plant to King Louis XIV of France. The King ordered it to be planted in the Royal Botanical Garden in Paris. In 1723, a young naval officer, Gabriel de Clieu obtained a seedling from the King’s plant. Despite an arduous voyage — complete with horrendous weather, a saboteur who tried to destroy the seedling and a pirate attack — he managed to transport it safely to Martinique. Once planted, the seedling thrived and is credited with the spread of over 18 million coffee trees on the island of Martinique in the next 50 years. It was also the stock from which coffee trees throughout the Caribbean, South and Central America originated.

Coffee is said to have come to Brazil in the hands of Francisco de Mello Palheta who was sent by the emperor to French Guiana for the purpose of obtaining coffee seedlings. But the French were not willing to share and Palheta was unsuccessful. However, he was said to have been so handsomely engaging that the French Governor’s wife was captivated. As a going-away gift, she presented him with a large bouquet of flowers. Buried inside he found enough coffee seeds to begin what is today a billion-dollar industry.

In only 100 years, coffee had established itself as a commodity crop throughout the world. Missionaries and travellers, traders and colonists continued to carry coffee seeds to new lands and coffee trees were planted worldwide. Plantations were established in magnificent tropical forests and on rugged mountain highlands. Some crops flourished, while others were short-lived. New nation’s were established on coffee economies. Fortunes were made and lost. And by the end of the 18th century, coffee had become one of the world’s most profitable export crops.

Original article
nausea.org

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