The term “qahwa” was passed onto the Turkish word “gahvè”, translated into Italian as “coffee.” Others, however, think that the term can be traced back to the Kaffa region in southwestern Ethiopia, where the coffee plant is grown. The exact origins are unknown and its history is the subject of numerous legends. According to the most popular legend, it all began in the ninth century, in Abyssinia,present day Ethiopia. A shepherd who lived in the province of Kaffa was amazed that his goats did not manage to sleep at night. Not knowing what to do, he turned to the men of a nearby monastery, who disclosed the mystery: the goats liked to eat the cherry-like fruit of a strange plant – otherwise known as the coffee shrub. Driven by scientific curiosity, the monks prepared a tea with these berries and after drinking it, felt infused with energy. The plants exciting awakening properties were soon taken advantage of in religion for the night guards, and the coffee was also highly appreciated by the Sufi mystics in Yemen, as early as around 1450.
We know that the drink’s popularity was first diffused in the Arab world and then in Europe. In the 15th century, knowledge of the existence of this drink spread through the Middle East to Istanbul, where its consumption was prominent in meeting places and social occasions. Thanks to its relations with the East, Venice was the first city to introduce coffee to Italy. Then, in the seventeenth century, the consumption of coffee disseminated to England and France, and from then growth was so exponential so that every city in Europe in the eighteenth century had at least one café. The genus Coffea includes over 100 species, but only 10 of them recognized as valuable for commercial purposes. Among these, the most common are Coffea arabica, Coffea Canephora (known as “robusta”) and Coffea liberica.
The coffee known as “Arabica”, presents itself as full-bodied with a rich aroma, sweet flavor, with creamy hazelnut properties and a pleasant hint of bitterness; instead, “Robusta” coffee is lighter and less full-bodied, and its taste often recalls the flavors and scents of its homeland, Africa. According to the International Coffee Organization statistics, the world’s leading coffee producers are, in order of importance: Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia and Indonesia. Followed in varying order, depending on the year by: Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Peru, Ethiopia and India.