The history of coffee has been documented as early as the tenth century AD, where its use was largely restricted to the native beans of Ethiopia. Here highlanders first farmed the coffee plant, however it was the Arabs who saw the trading potential and sold the beans to northern Africa where mass-cultivation occurred. Early 14th Century explorers upon seeing the coffee drinking in the near east labelled it as a drug, reporting the many medicinal benefits from consumption in the morning. From there, the beans entered the European and Indian markets in the 17th Century, where the popularity of the coffee became widespread, as the “the wine of Arabia”
Coffee was first introduced to Europe from Egypt through the Italian city of Venice, where a flourishing trade between the local businessmen and Arabs enabled a large variety of commodities and goods to be imported. Merchants sold this coffee to the wealthy in Venice, charging them greatly for the privilege of drinking this exciting new beverage.
Due of it’s eastern roots, coffee in Italy was at the outset considered a sinful and deemed as an Islamic threat to Christianity. However its popularity grew regardless, and Pope Clement VIII upon wisely sampling the heathen drink was instantly enamoured by the unique taste and aroma. Consequently, it was decided that far from religious conspiracy, it would be a great sin to banish such a delightful drink and thus it was deemed Christian beverage – giving rise to the first Italian coffee house.
Named for the beverage that it served, the first caffee, or café, in Venice opened around 1683 and soon became synonymous with comfortable atmosphere, conversation, and good food, this adding romance and sophistication to the coffee experience.
Historically most Italian coffee is brewed strong, and fast in the form of espresso, which is perhaps why this country developed various milk based coffees such as the cappuccino and latte. The incentive to develop this type of coffee was not due to its superior taste, but a shrewd 18th Century Italian businessman who sought to reduce the time his workers spent on their morning coffee break. Thus a lever driven machine was developed to force water through tightly packed ground coffee, incidentally creating a stronger more aromatic brew. Although the strong association between Italy and coffee can be deemed somewhat of a misnomer as only humble amounts are grown in this country, early Italian culture welcomed the drink as if it were their own and did much to advance its status of the beverage worldwide.
The influence Italians have made on coffee throughout world has continued from the 17th Century through the tradition of high quality espresso coffee; this inspiring the proliferation of retail coffee giants and specialty coffee roasters encountered today. Here we see the constant recreation of the stylish, attractive, and relaxing environment of the Italian cafes and classic Italian renditions of coffee served. Nowadays we can enjoy the same atmosphere and superior taste even at home, where domestic coffee machines, serve genuine Italian espresso just as if it served in a café.