A little more than half of the adults in our country are coffee drinkers. In the U.S. alone, some 300 million cups of coffee are consumed every day. Globally, coffee commodities are only second to that of petroleum in world trade. Needless to say, …
A little more than half of the adults in our country are coffee drinkers. In the U.S. alone, some 300 million cups of coffee are consumed every day. Globally, coffee commodities are only second to that of petroleum in world trade. Needless to say, coffee is big business and a business that dates back hundreds of years.
Originating in the Horn of Africa and Ethiopia, the coffee plant’s bean was first eaten as whole and later mixed with fruit and made into a type of wine. The bean was propagated in Yemen around 575 AD but it wasn’t until the 13th century when roasting became popular. Dutch traders stole coffee plants in 1616 and soon coffee was being grown in other areas of the world. Over time the French obtained the plant and began planting in South America and the West Indies as demand for the product grew.
The British took coffee production to Jamaica in 1730 and later India in 1840. Coffee plants prosper in those sorts of tropical climates and it is the principle reason that South America quickly became the coffee capitol of the world, with its largest nation, Brazil producing 60 percent of the world’s production.
Tea, coffee’s main competition, is an even older obsession of ours, dating back thousands of years. Part of its popularity has to do with the comparatively simple process of producing it. Just steep tea leaves in hot water and it’s done, as opposed to the roasting and grinding of coffee beans before the process of brewing can even begin.
Legend has it that tea drinking began in 2737 BC, when Chinese Emperor Shen Nung was boiling water under a tea tree. A few of the leaves fell into the water and upon discovering this, the emperor smelled the fragrant tea and tasted it. A happy accident led to a rich history of tea drinking throughout the world.
Due to certain medicinal properties, Buddhist Monks took tea to Japan with them and used it to help them stay awake as they meditated. This simple act helped spread tea drinking throughout Japanese culture where it became a part of tradition and ceremony. Tea houses sprang up all over the land and tea drinking became a part of everyday life in Japan.
In the 1650s tea was sold as a medicinal drink in Europe. When Portuguese princess Catherine of Bragaze married King Charles in 1662, her affinity for the drink made tea drinking the fashion in England. In the 19th century, Anna the Duchess of Bedford started serving afternoon tea and light sandwiches and cakes to her friends. This simple gesture, a welcome respite during the time when supper was traditionally served late in the evening between 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., was the creation of afternoon tea in Britain.
Tea drinking was popular in colonial America until 1773 when British taxes and the Boston Tea Party linked tea drinking with an unpatriotic sympathy and coffee became the beverage of choice for Americans. But tea wasn’t done with the former colonies and by war’s end its consumption resumed, especially in the South, where its cold service became a cultural staple and the romance between the South and that beverage remains to this day. We love our cold, sweet tea.
If reading this has made you crave a nice cup of coffee or tea, then visit the Bay Minette Public Library’s Bookend Café. We have a variety of coffees and a breakfast tea with pods available for $2 each at the circulation desk. The wonderful Keurig Vue coffee machine was made possible through a joint effort between the North Baldwin Chamber of Commerce and your library. We do ask that no beverages be consumed near the patron computers. You are more than welcome to sit in the stacks to enjoy your coffee or tea along with a good book.
In other business news, the Old Town Bay Minette Arts Council Market Day in Blackburn Park is tomorrow – Saturday, July 13 – from 7 a.m. until 12 p.m. You will find all sorts of things that are handmade, homemade and homegrown. Hope to see you there!
Joanna Bailey is the director of the Bay Minette Public Library. She can be reached at email@example.com