HOW about a cafezinho, freshly made and piping hot? For some, this custom is on the wane, but Brazilians still enjoy the fame of drinking coffee from early morning till late at night. Inflated cost of coffee has not caused a hurried switch to other drinks. In fact, one third of the world’s population still are coffee drinkers. For instance, every year the Belgians drink 149 liters (39 gallons) of coffee, compared with only six liters (1.6 gallons) of tea. The average American drinks 10 cups of coffee to one of tea. In the Western world, only the British break the general rule by annually consuming six liters of coffee to 261 (69 gallons) of tea.
Brazil holds the title as the world’s largest producer and exporter of coffee. In the first four months of 1977, receipts for exports of this “brown gold” reached the staggering total of $1,000,000,000 for 4.5 million bags, an all-time record.
However, coffee is not at all native to Brazil. Would you like to know how the use of this almost universal drink developed, where it originated, and how it got to Brazil?
Origin and Use
The word “coffee” is derived from the Arabic qahwah, meaning strength, and came to us through the Turkish kahveh. Coffee’s early discovery is shrouded in legend. One story tells about Kaldi, a young Arabian goatherd who noticed his goats’ frolicsome antics after nibbling on the berries and leaves of a certain evergreen shrub. Moved by curiosity, he tried the mysterious little berries himself and was amazed at their exhilarating effect. Word spread and “coffee” was born.
Originally, coffee served as a solid food, then as a wine, later as a medicine and, last, as a common drink. As a medicine, it was and still is prescribed for the treatment of migraine headache, heart disease, chronic asthma and dropsy. (Immoderate use, however, may form excessive gastric acid, cause nervousness and speed up the heartbeat. The common “heartburn” is attributed to this.) As a food, the whole berries were crushed, fat was added and the mixture was put into round forms. Even today some African tribes “eat” coffee. Later on, the coffee berries yielded a kind of wine. Others made a drink by pouring boiling water over the dried shells. Still later, the seeds were dried and roasted, mixed with the shells and made into a beverage. Finally, someone ground the beans in a mortar, the forerunner of coffee grinders.
Coffee in Brazil
Although coffee probably originated in Ethiopia, the Arabs were first to cultivate it, in the fifteenth century. But their monopoly was short-lived. In 1610, the first coffee trees were planted in India. The Dutch began to study its cultivation in 1614. During 1720, French naval officer Gabriel Mathieu de Clieu left Paris for the Antilles, carrying with him some coffee seedlings. Only one survived and was taken to Martinique. From Dutch Guiana coffee spread through the Antilles to French Guiana, and from there Brazilian army officer Francisco de Melo Palheta introduced it to Brazil by way of Belém, doing so about 1727. During the early nineteenth century, coffee cultivation started in Campinas and other cities of São Paulo State, and soon reached other states, especially Paraná.
Nowadays, coffee plantations are planned with technical rigidity. Instead of sowing seeds in the field, seedlings are cultivated in shaded