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A Small Mecca of Tea in a Coffee World

A Small Mecca of Tea in a Coffee World

It’s tough selling tea in a coffee-fueled, ever working environment. Sitting on a sleepy stretch in Evanston, the small shop is a no-frills foray into the world of loose leaf tea.

If anything, Dream About Tea is a refuge from the bustling of school and work, as the owners intended. It’s an abnormally quiet cafe for a college town, except for maybe a couple exclamations from the owners’ daughter. On lazy afternoons customers sit around plain wooden tables playing a game of mahjohng, or reading a book, or learning Chinese.

More than 20 types of tea are displayed at the counter, with specialty teas running up to $6.75 a cup. Most teas, however, are around $2.25 a cup, and served without sugar or cream. These teas are meant to be savoured simply, served in an assortment of mugs reminiscent of every family’s cupboard - mugs with pictures of cats and inspirational messages.

In some ways visiting the store is like visiting the owner’s house; there’s a play area in the back for their kids, Chinese pastries and tea eggs to nibble, and more than a touch of family decorations. And because of the homey vibe and the clattering of mahjohng tablets, the tea store is the perfect setting to get some reading or real work done. After all, there isn’t any Internet.

Coffee and qahwa: How a drink for Arab mystics went global

The Arab world has given birth to many thinkers and many inventions - among them the three-course meal, alcohol and coffee. The best coffee bean is still known as Arabica, but it's come a long way from the Muslim mystics who treasured it centuries ago, to the chains that line our high streets.

Think coffee, and you probably think of an Italian espresso, a French cafe au lait, or an American double grande latte with cinnamon.

Perhaps you learned at school that the USA became a nation of coffee drinkers because of the excise duty King George placed on tea? Today ubiquitous chains like Starbucks, Cafe Nero and Costa grace every international airport, and follow the now much humbler Nescafe as symbols of globalisation.

Coffee is produced in hot climates like Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, Vietnam and Indonesia, and you could be forgiven if you thought it is a product from the New World like tobacco and chocolate. After all, all three became popular in Europe at more or less the same time, in the 16th and 17th Centuries.

In fact, coffee comes from the highland areas of the countries at the southern end of the Red Sea - Yemen and Ethiopia.

Although a beverage made from the wild coffee plant seems to have been first drunk by a legendary shepherd on the Ethiopian plateau, the earliest cultivation of coffee was in Yemen and Yemenis gave it the Arabic name qahwa, from which our words coffee and cafe both derive.

Qahwa originally meant wine, and Sufi mystics in Yemen used coffee as an aid to concentration and even spiritual intoxication when they chanted the name of God.

By 1414, it was known in Mecca and in the early 1500s was spreading to Egypt from the Yemeni port of Mocha. It was still associated with Sufis, and a cluster of coffee houses grew up in Cairo around the religious university of the Azhar. They also opened in Syria, especially in the cosmopolitan city of Aleppo, and then in Istanbul, the capital of the vast Ottoman Turkish Empire, in 1554.

In Mecca, Cairo and Istanbul attempts were made to ban it by religious authorities. Learned shaykhs discussed whether the effects of coffee were similar to those of alcohol, and some remarked that passing round the coffee pot had something in common with the circulation of a pitcher of wine, a drink forbidden in Islam.

Coffee houses were a new institution in which men met together to talk, listen to poets and play games like chess and backgammon. They became a focus for intellectual life and could be seen as an implicit rival to the mosque as a meeting place.

Some scholars opined that the coffee house was "even worse than the wine room", and the authorities noted how these places could easily become dens of sedition. However, all attempts at banning coffee failed, even though the death penalty was used during the reign of Murad IV (1623-40). The religious scholars eventually came to a sensible consensus that coffee was, in principle, permissible.

Coffee spread to Europe by two routes - from the Ottoman Empire, and by sea from the original coffee port of Mocha.

Both the English and Dutch East India Companies were major purchasers at Mocha in the early 17th Century, and their cargoes were brought home via the Cape of Good Hope or exported to India and beyond. They seem, however, to have only taken a fraction of Yemeni coffee production - as the rest went north to the rest of the Middle East.

Coffee also arrived in Europe through trade across the Mediterranean and was carried by the Turkish armies as they marched up the Danube. As in the Middle East, the coffee house became a place for men to talk, read, share their opinions on the issues of the day and play games.

Another similarity was that they could harbour gatherings for subversive elements. Charles II denounced them in 1675 as "places where the disaffected met, and spread scandalous reports concerning the conduct of His Majesty and his Ministers".

A century later Procope, the famous Parisian coffee house, had such habitues as Marat, Danton and Robespierre who conspired together there during the Revolution.

At first, coffee had been viewed with suspicion in Europe as a Muslim drink, but around 1600 Pope Clement VIII is reported to have so enjoyed a cup that he said it would be wrong to permit Muslims to monopolise it, and that it should therefore be baptised.

Austrian coffee drinking is said to have received a big boost when the Turkish siege of Vienna in 1683 was broken, and the European victors captured huge coffee supplies from the vanquished.

Perhaps that is why, to this day, coffee is served in Vienna with a glass of water - just like the tiny cups of powerful Turkish coffee with its heavy sediment in Istanbul, Damascus or Cairo. Is this just a coincidence, or a long forgotten cultural borrowing?

The beverage we call "Turkish coffee" is actually a partial misnomer, as Turkey is just one of the countries where it is drunk. In Greece they call it "Greek coffee", although Egyptians, Lebanese, Syrians, Palestinians, Jordanians and others do not seem to care overmuch about the name.

But there are other coffee drinking traditions in the Arab world. The coffee which is native to the Gulf is bitter and sometimes flavoured with cardamom or other spices.

It is often served a decent interval after a guest has arrived - to serve it too soon might be an impolite suggestion of haste - and then once again before departure.

It often comes just before or after a small glass cup of black, sweet tea. The order in which the two beverages are served varies, and seems to have no significance. What is remarkable for a Western visitor is the idea that the two very different drinks should be offered in such quick succession.

Sadly, however, while coffee has gone truly global production has declined in Yemen, the victim of cheap imports and rival crops like the narcotic qat.

In 2011, Yemen exported a mere 2,500 tonnes although there are attempts to revive cultivation of the best coffee in its original home. Today, none of the Arab countries is listed among the world's significant producers.


Eid e Qurban Mubarak to all my Muslim friends. This Eid holiday, also known as Eid al-Adha falls after the annual pilgrimage of Muslims to Mecca. Hajj is the largest gathering of Muslims in the world and it is one of the five pillars of Islam. If an able bodied Muslim has the means, they should perform Hajj once in their lifetime. Going to Hajj is cost prohibitive for most Muslims around the world. I recently discovered that it can cost well over $7,000 to go on the pilgrimage to Mecca from the United States.

I don't consider myself a devout Msulim but I have alway been intrigued by Hajj. The idea of thousands of pilgrims with one belief, one devotion and one identity gathered in one place could be an unfogettable spiritual experience. This year my sister Nabila and I made a pact that we will make a pilgrimage to Hajj in the next few years. We hope this wish will come true once we win the lottery.

TEA AND HOSPITALITY IN AFGHANISTAN - continued from last week's post.

By guest blogger: Helen Saberi

Tea, whether it is green or black, is not usually drunk with milk in Afghanistan except perhaps at breakfast time.

On formal occasions, however, such as weddings and engagements, a special tea is prepared called qymaq chai. Qymaq is similar to clotted cream or the kaymak of the Middle East. This tea is prepared with green tea and by the process of aeration and the addition of bicarbonate of soda the tea turns dark red. Milk is added (and sugar too) and it becomes a purply-pink colour. It has a strong, rich taste. Cardamom is added for added flavour.

The qymaq is floated on the top. My husband, who is very poetic, likens the colour of the tea to the rosy-hued glow of the mountains in Afghanistan as the sun rises or sets. The qymaq represents the white snow-capped peaks. He also says that the colour of the tea should be like the purply-pink blossom of the Judas tree which flowers all over in Afghanistan in the spring.

Qaymaq Chai

Add the milk to a pan and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and stir in the cream. Sieve in the cornflour, stir to mix, then whisk until frothy. Leave on a low heat. A thick skin will form on the top of the milk. This should be removed from time to time and collected in another pan until there is only a small amount of milk left. Place the pan with all the collected qymaq again on a low heat and leave for a couple of hours more. Then keep the qymaq in a cool place until it is needed.

4 to 8 tsp sugar, according to taste

1 to 2 tsp ground cardamom

Put the water in a pan and bring to the boil. Add the green tea and boil for about 5 minutes until the leaves have opened up. Add the bicarbonate of soda and continue to boil for a couple of minutes more. The tea will rise to the top of the pan whilst boiling. Each time it does add an ice cube to reduce the temperature. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the tea leaves to settle. Strain off and discard the tea leaves. Put an ice cube into another pan and pour the tea into it from a height in order to aerate the tea. (A ladle could also be used to do the aeration (see the illustration below). Repeat, pouring from a height from pan to pan, several times, adding an ice cube each time until the tea becomes a dark red colour.

Put the pan back on the heat and add the milk. The colour of the tea will now be a purply-pink colour. Slowly heat it to just below boiling point, then stir in the sugar and cardamom according to taste. Pour the tea into teacups and float two teaspoons of qymaq on top.

Recipes come from Afghan Food and Cookery by Helen Saberi published by Hippocrene in the United States. The illustrations are by Abdullah Breshna who illustrated the book.

Except where otherwise noted, all content on this blog is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported license.

Dunkin' Donuts Vanilla Chai

Medium, 14 fl oz 330 calories, 46 g sugar

Sugar Equivalent: 1.17 cans of Coke

Following skim milk, sugar is listed as the second ingredient on this drink's nutrition label, so we can't say we were surprised to learn of its excessive sugar content. We know what you're thinking: "But chai is healthy, right?" In its purest form, yes. The blend of herbs and spices found in traditional a chai tea bag have been shown to slow aging and fight everything from inflammation to stress and weight gain. However, Dunkin's Franken-beverage only uses a tiny bit of the stuff typically found in a chai tea bag. In fact, of its 30+ ingredients, instant black tea, cinnamon, and ground clove are among the last few ingredients listed. Our suggestion: Order a small Vanilla Chai from Dunkin' on occasion if you're so inclined, but make one of these tasty weight loss teas your go-to.

Tea Unleashes Its Wilder Side in Victoria, British Columbia

Yes, British Columbia's capital city revels in the history of a proper cuppa, but it's also doing some thoroughly modern, exciting takes on tea &mdash from tea-tinis and tea-infused beer to inventive cooking accents you can try in your own kitchen.

Read on for some unique tea inspirations and tips and recipes you can make at home.

Depending on the type of tea you use, steeping leaves into your home cooking can add a delicate complexity or wallop of flavor. Victoria chef Heidi Fink teaches a course on cooking with tea in which she instructs students how to incorporate a variety of blends into everyday dishes.

Even without a recipe it's easy to get creative &mdash use a tea ball to steep the flavor of your favorite blend into soups and sauces. (Fink, who used to be the executive chef at a vegetarian restaurant, steeps a small amount of smoky lapsang souchong into pea soup and tomato vodka sauce &mdash two dishes that normally get their smokiness from meat.) Or try Fink's recipes for Lapsang Maple Salad Dressing and Chai Honey Butter, a perfect topper for tea-time scones.

What do you get when you mix two of the most refreshing ways to quench your thirst? Tea beer! These brews infuse traditional ales with a variety of leaves for a smooth summer drink that starts out with your usual malt and wheat and ends with light, refreshing tea note. At Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub, they make it on site, mixing their own pale ale with white tea. If you're not in Victoria, keep an eye out for other local Canadian brews. In Ontario, Mill Street makes a lovely lemon tea ale.

Want something a little harder? Victoria's endlessly inventive bar scene is brewing up all sorts of tea-infused cocktail magic, from the Mayahuel Flame, a tequila-based drink with green-tea bitters and grapefruit at Clive's Classic Lounge (a must-visit for cocktail lovers), to the Rialto at Veneto, which uses Victoria gin and lapsang souchong tea from Silk Road. The Empress 1908 (pictured), the signature cocktail of the Fairmont Empress's Bengal Lounge, is a tea-infused vodka drink that tastes like sweet, lemony iced-tea with a kick. It's served, adorably, with a mini scone on the side.

Many consider tea to be the perfect after-dinner drink, but we strongly recommend eating it, too! Whether you use tea to poach fruit or add a teaspoon or two of finely ground matcha to your mix for a green tea cheese cake, it adds a new dimension to the last course of your meal. Heidi Fink's Japanese Sour Cherry-Green Tea Sorbet relies on a green tea blend, creating a cold treat that is both sweet and mouth-puckeringly sour &mdash and insanely refreshing. You can also use the recipe to make popsicles or an icy Italian granita.

How to Steep the Perfect Cup

Just looking to brew a perfect cup of tea? Here are some tips gleaned from a tea tasting at Silk Road, Victoria's tea mecca:

Food Network Staffer Diary: I Broke Up with Coffee for 4 Days

Coffee lovers everywhere, I did a very dumb thing: I decided to cut out coffee from my life. It was time to be an independent woman who didn’t need no caffeine. And boy — was I wrong.

As some of you may know, caffeine is a stimulant (i.e., it enhances alertness, increases heart rate and increases blood pressure) and can cause a mild physical dependence if you drink more than two cups of coffee a day (me). Concerned that I may become a little too dependent on coffee, I decided to cut it out completely for as long as possible and see if I could be just as productive — if not more — without the liquid gold. After all, I really cannot afford to buy $5 lattes every single day as a recent college grad, so maybe cutting this out could be economical.

So, here are the rules: One shall not consume coffee in any form, and one shall not eat or drink anything that has caffeine (chocolate, tea, the list goes on).

That’s it — pretty simple. To give you a sample of my regular daily caffeine intake, I usually start my day with one cup of coffee. I have a second when I get to the office, and at about 2 p.m. or 3 p.m., I have my third. You could say I’m a frequent user, and I’ll deny it.

Let’s get to the good stuff.

I was expecting to wake up as a zombie, but I'm not feeling too terrible (considering it is a Monday, after all). I head to the kitchen and fumble around, realizing I have conditioned myself unconsciously to grab a coffee mug. I have to resist the urge. Messing up a morning routine is strike No. 1 for me. I drink cold water and eat a banana with PB to get my day started.

I picked the worst day to start this cleanse we are on an all-day shoot at the mecca, the Holy Grail, Starbucks. The smell of coffee beans roasting and espresso shots being pulled is enough to make me tear up.

The barista felt badly for me, so she made me my own apple spice sans coffee. She is an angel. I rejoice, but in the back of my mind I know there is no magic elixir in the mug.

I've been on my feet all day running around, so my lack of caffeine hasn't even hit me yet. Maybe I won't even notice the sans-coffee lifestyle?

I do some research on my addiction and find out it usually takes a full 24 hours for the withdrawal symptoms to kick in. My eyes widen and internally I’m weeping, realizing the worst is yet to come.

I have a layer of grogginess stuck on me and want just one little cup of coffee to strip it away. I think my first day without coffee was a dupe and now it's actually hitting me.

Heading to work, I realize there's an overall lack of energy and bitterness in my soul. I'm afraid I may attack someone without coffee.

It’s official. I'm a troll because I am so mean without coffee. My patience is thinner than ever, and my eyes are glazed over. I do some more research on my addiction and read on that symptoms include “headache, fatigue, anxiety, irritability, depressed mood, difficulty concentrating and murder.” OK, the last one is a lie. But I swear if someone says the wrong thing at the wrong time .

I have snapped at two people already, and I have no desire to do anything. I'm seriously tempted to sneak some coffee.

I head to the company coffee maker and eye the coffee pod. I could roast just a little bit, chug it and no one would know. But there are too many opportunities for someone to pop in and catch me. I resort to hot chocolate, knowing that chocolate does have a little caffeine in it, but I decide I’ll let it slide.

I can't open the door to my apartment and turn into a puddle my roommate has to scoop me off the floor. I am on an emotional roller coaster like no other.

My roommates and I go to the gym, and my entire body aches. My legs feel like thick lead and running feels like a chore. Confused as to how I can feel so achy, I search Google for answers and read on, “Your muscles are fatigued, even when you haven’t done anything strenuous, and you suspect that you’re more irritable than usual.” I knew it! I spite the coffee gods and trudge on in my pathetic run.

I usually go to bed after midnight, but I’m emotionally exhausted and pass out two hours early.

Even though I'm well-rested, I still feel out of sorts without my morning coffee. One cannot simply rise and grind without coffee.

Work is feeling incredibly stressful, and all I want is to add some energy to my day so I can get out of this fog.

Welp. A headache is coming on now — this is just wonderful. The caffeine withdrawal is hitting hard. My brain is throbbing and telling me to give in. But I ignore my brain.

I cannot stop yawning. If I had just a quick afternoon pick-me-up, like an espresso shot, I'd be alive and ready. This day feels like an eternity, and I have no way to snap out of it. I try drinking frigid water, thinking maybe it will alert me the same way an ice-cold shower would, with little to no luck.

Giving in to my tired bones, I cuddle up on my couch and let myself pass out early.

It’s my last day on this terrible cleanse! I pretend that knowing this is enough to get me through this last day, but I know I’ll need more than that to trudge on.

I get to the office and decide I can’t put up with anyone. I plug in my headphones and hide from the world.

I slowly crumble away at my desk, wondering if any of this was worth it. My co-workers are all so joyous and alert and happy — like most normal human beings. I practically scowl at them all and realize my face has been in a permanent frown.

Nope. Nope. This was not my brightest idea. I hate every part of this no-coffee plan. I just want to be normal again.

GUESS WHAT DAY IT IS! Well, one, it’s Friday. But two, it’s the day I get to be normal again. I pop out of bed and race to the coffee maker. Baby, how did I ever leave you? I apologize to my coffee beans for ever thinking I’d break up with them and brew a cup of black coffee. No sugar needed for this one I need all of this to go straight to my veins. I wonder for a second if I can get an IV of this and then shake my head to the idea.

My co-worker asks if I want to go on a coffee run and I practically jump out of my chair in excitement. YES. YES. I will go get coffee anywhere, anytime today.

After four days of a caffeine cleanse, I’ve realized just how potent caffeine can be and the power it can have over me. The fact that caffeine can alter my brain chemistry on such a level that I could experience mild withdrawal symptoms was eye-opening and a learning experience I would never ask anyone to try for themselves. After a little more research on caffeine addiction, I found that the withdrawal symptoms are relatively short-term, and within seven to 12 days all of the terrible headaches and fog generally fade away, so if you truly wanted to kick the caffeine addiction, it wouldn’t be the hardest thing you’ve ever done. However, I do recommend you lock yourself away from any social interaction, or at least give everyone around you a fair warning, because you will be running on a short fuse.

India’s Coffee Connection

When you think of coffee, you think of cafes churning out frothy shakes and hot cups of cappuccino you don’t think of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan’s old capital and definitely not a Sufi saint who first brought coffee beans to India more than 400 years ago.

As you may have now guessed, India’s coffee connection is the story of ancient trade routes, Sufi saints and our penchant for lounging around and chatting. But the tale of coffee itself begins in Ethiopia, where legend has it that a shepherd in the highlands of Ethiopia noticed that some of his sheep were more alert and active than the rest. He began to observe his flock more closely and found that his ‘hopped-up’ sheep were munching on berries from a certain plant, which was changing their behaviour. Apparently, this is how coffee was discovered by man. It was fine-tuned over time – the seed began to be roasted to perfection – to give us the fine brews we savour today.

While there is no corroboration for the tale of the shepherd in Ethiopia, the earliest reference to people drinking coffee as a beverage comes from Yemen in the Arabian Peninsula, in the 14th or 15th CE. In fact, by now, references to coffee seem to have been popping up across.

Strengthening the Arabian connection is the root of the word ‘coffee’, which comes from the Arabic word qahhwat al-bun. This means ‘wine of the bean’, which is what it was considered, albeit not as intoxicating as the wine of the grape! But there are many similarities – coffee ‘beans’ are actually the pits of a red fruit called a coffee ‘cherry’.

So coffee ‘beans’ is incorrect, make that coffee ‘seeds’!

In Arabia, there is mention of roasting and brewing coffee as we know it today in the 15th CE. Later, it is believed that coffee was used by Sufi saints to keep themselves awake during their long religious rituals.

By the 16th century, coffee drinking had spread to the rest of the Middle East, Persia, Turkey and North Africa.

Coffee Comes To India

For the longest time, the coffee plant was so prized that people were not allowed to carry its seeds out of the Arabian Peninsula. The only beans that were allowed to be taken out were roasted and hence sterile i.e. they couldn’t be used to grow the coffee plant. This was to ensure that the Middle East retained its monopoly over coffee production, and even the Mughals initially exported coffee from here.

It took a wandering Sufi mystic to change all that in the 16th century. Baba Budan was from Chikmaglur in present-day Karnataka and he lived in a cave on a hill. The Baba was revered by Hindus and Muslims alike and while on one of his journeys to Mecca, for the Hajj, he is said to have brought back seven raw coffee seeds from the port of Mocha in Yemen, hidden in his flowing robes.

Back home, he planted the seeds on the slopes of the Chandragiri hills, near the caves where he and his followers had settled. Coffee from these plants was served as a drink to the local people. Today, coffee is still grown in these hills and the area is known as ‘Baba Budangiri’, which also houses the saint’s tomb.

The first actual mention of coffee being consumed comes from the work of Reverend Edward Terry in the court of Emperor Jehangir, in 1616. Rev Terry was the chaplain to Sir Thomas Roe, ambassador of the King of England, at Jahangir’s court.

Rev Terry provides the first detailed account of the use of coffee in India. He writes:

“Many of the people there (in India), who are strict in their religion, drink no wine at all but they use a liquor more wholesome than pleasant, they call coffee made by a black seed boyld in water, which turns it almost into the same colour, but doth very little alter the taste of the water: notwithstanding it is very good to help digestion, to quicken the spirits, and to cleanse the blood.”

By the 17th century, coffee had become a popular drink among upper-class Indians. In fact, it was a very important part of everyday life in the Mughal cities. Coffee was served in public spaces called qahwahkhanas (coffee houses) and there were many in Shahjahanabad, around Delhi’s Red Fort, especially in the famed Chandni Chowk area.

These qahwahkhanas became a hub of social and intellectual activities.

Poets would assemble to listen to each other’s verses. Scholars and laymen would debate on public issues. An ecosystem of mehfils or meet-ups of music, dance, poetry and repartee emerged in different venues in the city. Like our cafes today, in 17th century Delhi too, the qahwahkhanas emerged as a hotbed of discussion and chats, all fuelled by coffee.

Unfortunately, with the decline in Mughal power, and the rise of the British, who were primarily tea drinkers, the coffee culture of Mughal India collapsed. But it did manage to make its way back over the next 200 years.

Coffee And The World

Coffee was the drink of choice across the Islamic world – from Mecca to Istanbul and Shahjahanabad. It first reached Europe through Venice. With thriving trade between the Arab world, North Africa and Venice, many goods including coffee reached Italy. But in deeply Catholic Italy, it was initially seen as a ‘Muslim drink’ and attempts were made to ban it.

By a quirk of fate, around 1600 CE, Pope Clement VIII happened to drink some coffee and felt it was too good a drink for Christians to miss out on. He blessed it and deemed it a ‘Christian beverage’. After this, it was more widely accepted. It is after its acceptance by the church that the Italians went on to introduce coffee to the rest of Europe as ‘caffe’. By the end of the 17th century, the first European coffeehouses were flourishing across Continental Europe, Britain and its colonies in America.

The growth of coffee for commercial purposes was dominated by the Middle East till the 17th century. However, from 17th century, coffee production spread rapidly to where European traders went – Java and other islands of the Indonesian archipelago, the Americas in the 18th century and then to Brazil and the Hawaiian Islands.

The spread of coffee cultivation was so rapid that by the 20th century, the centre of coffee production shifted from Arabia to the Western hemisphere. This was a part of the exchange of plants, animals, ideas, culture and people between the Old World and the New, which is popularly called the ‘Columbian Exchange’ after the great explorer Christopher Columbus.

Interestingly enough, the heady beverage took on a political flavour in America, during the Boston Tea Party of the late 18th century. On that occasion, American Revolutionaries tossed 342 chests of the East India Company’s tea into the Boston Harbour, which triggered the American War of Independence and led to the decline of tea drinking and the rise of coffee drinking in the United States.

Ironically, it was the British who established the Arabica coffee plantations across the mountains of Southern India. In fact, it was through the efforts of the British East India Company that coffee became popular in England and made a return to India, although commercial cultivation of coffee in India began more than 200 years after Rev Terry’s mention of coffee-drinking in 1616.

By the middle of the 19th century, coffee was being served at the many upscale clubs that sprouted across India, the first being the Bengal Club in Calcutta 1827, followed by the Madras Club in 1832 and the Bangalore Club in 1863. With hill stations being set up in the north and in the south, and the British administration extending to mofussil areas, coffee drinking also spread. The Victorians loved their after-dinner coffee, a practice followed in India too.

Today, India is the sixth-largest producer of coffee in the world and is home to 16 unique varieties. It is grown in three regions in India – in Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

Did you know that the Indian Coffee House chain played a large part in the spread of coffee in India? Started by a government body, the Coffee Cess Committee in 1936, it was set up to promote the sale and consumption of Indian coffee at home and abroad. The first Indian Coffee House outlet was opened on Churchgate Street in Bombay on 28th September 1936. At its zenith, the chain operated 72 outlets across India and essentially introduced the coffee habit to the tea-drinking north of the country. It was the original adda of pre-liberalisation India, where the quintessential jholawalas debated literature, art, social welfare and the changing face of Indian society.

Today, many varieties of coffee exist, one of the most popular being moccacino or mocha coffee. It may sound fashionable and cool but this type of coffee actually gets its name from the port of Mocha in Yemen. The beans exported from this port are believed to have had a hint of chocolate flavour in the past. They may not carry this flavour any longer but the name stuck for any coffee that has an element of cacao in it.

One of the strangest coffees is also the most expensive and comes from Indonesia. Called kopi luwak, it is harvested after being digested and excreted by the Asian palm civet, a small cat-like mammal. Apparently, the digestion process gives the coffee a complex, rounded taste – one cup of this coffee can set you back upwards of $50!

From the highlands of Ethiopia, to the qahwakhanas of Shahjahanabad and the cafes of Italy, across the ocean to America and then back to India, coffee has travelled a very long way. Today, it is the second-most traded commodity in the world after oil, and certainly the most relished. And, even though the beverage has evolved, its role remains unchanged. It still facilitates the exchange of ideas, and guides conversation and innovation, whether in the qahwahkhanas of Old Delhi or the cafes of Silicon Valley.

Fasting during Ramadan

One of the most known of the many traditions surrounding Ramadan is fasting, during which you do not eat food nor drink water from sun-up to sun-down. This challenging discipline is thought to purify, to promote self-reflection, and to help the practitioner to achieve moral rectitude.

As you might imagine, since there is no food or water consumed between sunrise and sunset, an early, sustaining breakfast and a healthy, nutritious dinner are particularly important. Although there are no specific rules about what you can eat during suhoor (before sunrise) or iftar (after sunrise), nutritionists recommend a good balance of foods.

Today we’re sharing a delicious and quick Turkish iftar recipe for kebabi. There are other Turkish kebabi recipes that use cubed meat and vegetables like eggplant, peppers, and potatoes, but we like the ease of this dish. We’ve paired it with a fresh salad to include plenty of ingredients high in water content. If you’re cooking for a vegetarian, you can adapt the kebabi by omitting the meat and substituting chickpeas – or, add chickpeas to the recipe for additional protein and fiber!

World’s Smallest Tea House: Tehran’s Haj Ali Darvish

They say good things come in small packages. That may be true in Tehran’s Grand Bazaar, home to the world’ smallest tea house: Haj Ali Darvish.

Measuring just 2 meters wide, Haj Ali Darvish has been in business since 1918. In its nearly hundred-year history, the tiny shop has had just three owners. The operation opened under Haj Mohammad Hasan Shamshiri. In 1962, he sold the enterprise to Haj Ali Mabhutyan, who handed it down to his son, current owner Kazem Mabhutyan.

The miniature tea house—tea room might be more accurate—sells herbal teas, coffee, and hot chocolate.

Located inside the Grand Bazaar, the tea room is a popular destination for tourists, who are encouraged to sign the shop’s guest book and receive a souvenir coin for their patronage.

Click here to watch CNN Travel’s video of the pint-sized shop.

The Grand Bazaar is an epic shopping destination:

Measuring 20 square kilometers, the collection of shops stretches 10 kilometers long, and is divided by sections that specialize in particular materials (i.e. the copper section, the leather section). Often labeled a “city within a city,” the Grand Bazaar boasts a wide array of architecture, with some buildings dating back 400 years and other structures built in recent decades.

Tehran’s Grand Bazaar | Ljuba brank at Slovenian Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0

Lonely Planet recommends tourists visit the capital’s shopping mecca in the morning, when “business is brisk but not yet frantic.” No matter what time locals or tourists visit the bazaar, they’re likely to see workers transporting goods on pushcarts or winding through alleys carrying large wares on their backs.

It’s common for shopkeepers of all industries to offer guests tea, the nation’s unofficial beverage:

Since the 16 th century, tea has been an important part of Iranian culture, facilitating both business and social interactions. Tea has been produced since the early 20th century in the Gilan promise of Iran, which sits next to the Caspian Sea.

Haj Ali Darvish used to provide tea to many of the shops in the Grand Bazaar before the Iranian Revolution, but since then, most shops prepare their own tea.

Nonetheless, Haj Ali Darvish has enjoyed a steady stream of customers, many of whom are tourists hoping to experience maximum flavor in the worl’d smallest tea house.

In fact, tourism to Iran has increased in recent years. Europeans have been booking more and more trips to the country, while the lifting of sanctions against Iran in 2016 by the United States resulted in more Americans traveling to the county. In 2014, 5 million foreigners traveled to Iran, and the country expects its tourism to increase five-fold by 2025.

If you’re in the mood to explore Iran’s rich history and a big cup of tea in a small space, set your compass for Tehran, keeping in mind the State Department’s Travel Warning.

The History of Coffee

The coffee plant originates from the highland forests of Ethiopia. It is believed that the first plants were found growing wild in the region of Kaffa, where coffee derives its name. A popular legend tells of a goat herder named Kaldi. One day he noticed his goats behaving in a strange manner. They were full of energy, playfully chasing each other and bleating loudly. He noticed they were eating red berries from the bushes nearby. Feeling tired and slightly curious, Kaldi decided to try some of the berries. To his delight his fatigue quickly faded into a fresh burst of energy.

Kaldi was so impressed by the berries, that he filled his pockets with them and ran home to show his wife. "They are heaven-sent" she declared, "You must take them to the Monks in the monastery". At the monastery, Kaldi told the Abbot how these berries had had a miraculous energizing affect on his goats. The Abbot hurled the berries into the fire and proclaimed them as the "Devil's work".

Within minutes the berries started to smoke and the monastery was filled with the heavenly aroma of roasting beans. The other Monks quickly gathered to see what the commotion was. One Monk swiftly raked the beans from the fire and extinguished the embers by stamping on them. The rich smell of coffee obviously agreed with the Abbot's nose as he ordered the Monk to place the now crushed beans into a jug and cover it with hot water to preserve their divine goodness. He then took a sip from the jug and sampled the rich and fragrant brew that is coffee. From that day on the Monks vowed to drink coffee daily to keep them awake during the long, nocturnal devotions.

No one is exactly sure when coffee was discovered. There is evidence to suggest that coffee beans were used to make a primitive "energy bar" before they were actually brewed as a hot drink. Sometime between 575AD and 850AD, a nomadic mountain tribe known as Galla, used to mix ground coffee with ghee. These bars were consumed by the tribe's warriors to heighten aggression and increase their stamina during battle. To this day, these bars are still eaten in Kaffa and Sidamo (Ethiopia).

Some authorities claim that coffee originated from the Arabian Peninsula rather then Ethiopia, stating that coffee was cultivated in Yemen from around 575AD. An Islamic legend tells of how Sheikh Omar discovered coffee growing wild while living as a recluse near the port of Mocha (Yemen). He is said to have boiled some berries and discovered the stimulating effect of the infusion. He then administered the brew to locals who were stricken with a mysterious illness and cured them. However it is more likely that coffee spread to Yemen through Sudanese slaves. These slaves are thought to have eaten coffee beans to help them stay alive as they rowed ships across the Red Sea between Africa and Arabian Peninsula.

Evidence suggests that coffee was probably not enjoyed as a beverage until around the 10th Century. It is at this time that the oldest known documents describing the beverage coffee were written. Two Arabian philosophers: Rhazes (850-922AD), and Avicenna of Bukham (980-1037AD) both refer to a drink called "bunchum", which many believe is coffee.

As the Quran forbids Muslims from drinking alcohol, the soothing, cheering and stimulating effects of coffee made it a popular substitute in Islamic countries for wine. The first coffeehouses are said to have been established in Mecca (Saudi Arabia). Known as the Kaveh Kanes, they were public places where Muslims could socialize and discuss religious matters.

The relationship between Islam and coffee has not always run smoothly though. Some Muslims believed coffee was an intoxicant and therefore is banned by Islamic law. In 1511, the governor of Mecca, Khair Beg, saw some worshippers drinking coffee in a mosque as they prepared for a night-long prayer vigil. Angered, he drove them from the mosque and ordered all coffeehouses in Mecca to be closed. This incited the pro-coffee Muslims and a heated debate soon ensued. In this dispute, two unscrupulous Persian doctors, the Hakimani brothers, who were infamous for testifying on the side of the highest bidder, condemned coffee as an unhealthy brew. The doctors had good reason for wanted it banned, for it was popular cure among the depressed patients who would otherwise have paid the doctors to cure them. The matter was only resolved when the Sultan of Cairo, Khair Beg's superior, intervened, demanding that a drink that was widely enjoyed in Cairo should not have been banned without his permission. Khair Beg soon paid for his insolence. In 1512, he was accused of embezzlement and the Sultan sentenced him to death.

By the late 16th Century, the use of coffee was widespread throughout the Arabia, North Africa and Turkey. The nutritional benefits of coffee were thought to be so great that coffee was considered as important as bread and water. So much so that a law was passed in Turkey making it grounds for divorce if a husband refused his wife coffee.

Wherever Islam went, coffee was sure to follow. With the expansion of the Ottoman Empire, coffee quickly spread to the Eastern Mediterranean. However, it is believed that no coffee seed sprouted outside Africa or Arabia until 17th Century, as coffee beans exported from the Arabian ports of Mocha and Jidda, were rendered infertile by parching or boiling. Legend has it that this changed when a pilgrim named Baba Budan, smuggled fertile coffee beans out of Mecca, strapped to his stomach. Returning to his native India he successfully cultivated the beans in Mysore.

Part II - Spread of Coffee to Europe

It was not until 1615 that Europe was formally introduced to coffee. Venetian traders, who had strong trade links with the Levant (historical term referring to a large area of the Middle East incorporating the countries of: Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria) started to import coffee into Italy. Once in Europe, the consumption of coffee soon spread. However, the introduction of coffee into Europe was not without its controversy.

According to many accounts, a group of Christian clerics tried to have coffee banned before it had become widely available. They came to Pope Clement VIII (1535-1605) claiming that coffee was for Satan's followers, and that Christians who drank it might lose their souls to the Devil. But before Pope Clement would ban coffee he insisted on tasting it. After drinking his first cup, the Pope was so impressed with the flavor that he reasoned that such a drink could not possibly be the work of Satan and instead declared that coffee should be baptized to make it a true Christian drink.

The first person recorded to have brewed coffee in England was an international student named Nathaniel Conopios from Crete, who was studying at Balliol College, Oxford. This simple act, which happened in May 1637, was recorded by both scholar John Evelyn and historian Anthony Wood. Shortly afterwards Conopios was expelled from college, but his influence had a lasting effect on Oxford. It was in Oxford that the first English coffeehouse was opened in 1650 by Jacob, a Lebanese Jew. Even though Jacob moved to London a few years later to repeat his success, he had begun a trend that saw many more coffeehouses open in Oxford during that decade.

The most significant of these coffeehouses was the one opened by Arthur Tillyard in 1655. Tillyard's coffeehouse became a meeting place for a group who were known as the Oxford Coffee Club. This group was made up of Oxford's leading scientists, including Sir Robert Boyle, and their students, who would meet to discuss their theories and research and share ideas. It is from the Oxford Coffee Club which the world famous Royal Society, one of the leading scientific societies in the world, evolved from.

The first coffeehouse in London was opened in 1652 by an Armenian man named Pasqua Rose. Originally brought to London as a servant by the merchant Daniel Edwards, Rose served coffee each morning to Edwards' house guests. Curiosity about the new drink soon spread through Edwards' friends, and the number of visitors to Edwards' house steadily grew over time. There was so much excitement created by Rose's brew that Edwards eventually decided to financially back Rose in opening a coffeehouse at St. Michael's Alley in Cornhill. As with Oxford, the idea soon took off, and by 1715 there were as many as 2,000 coffeehouses around London.

One of the world's largest insurance companies, Lloyds of London, started as a coffeehouse on Tower Street in 1688. Opened by Edward Lloyd, it primarily served seafarers and merchants. Lloyd would circulate amongst his customers creating a list of what ships were carrying, their schedules, and their insurance needs. This list drew underwriters to his coffeehouse to sell insurance to those who needed it and merchants so they could keep track of the ships.

It is thought that the custom of tipping originated in English coffeehouses. There would often be a small boxes hung near the counter in establishments with the words "To Insure Promptness" (TIP) inscribed on them. Customers would drop a coin in the box to encourage swift service.

The early growth of coffeehouses was largely due to support by doctors promoting coffee for its supposed healing abilities. Before the introduction of coffeehouses, there was a widespread problem with public drunkenness as beer was consumed with almost every meal. But with public knowledge of the health benefits of coffee, and with coffee being significantly cheaper then beer, coffeehouses began to replace the tavern as the meeting place of choice. Needless to say, tavern owners were not going to let their profits dwindle without a fight, and many of the most aggressive attacks against coffee came from them. They claimed that coffee was an Arabic drink not suitable for well-mannered Christian men, unlike beer which had been brewed by Monks' for centuries.

Tavern owners were not the only group to attack coffee. Women upset that their men spent more time at coffeehouses than in their homes, soon started to protest. In 1674, the 'Women's Petition against Coffee' was published. In this document, women protested that coffee reduced the male sperm count and would lead to a decline in the population: "coffee makes a man as barren as the dessert out of which this unlucky berry has been imported that since its coming the offspring of our mighty forefathers are on the way to disappear as if they were monkeys and swine." It was understandable that women were aggrieved. At the time, they were banned from setting foot in a coffeehouse. The "Men's Answer to the Women's Petition against Coffee" was published later that year. The document defended coffee claiming that women should be thankful for coffee, as it was in fact an aphrodisiac.

Part III - Colonization of Coffee

By the 17th Century, with the popularity of coffee ever increasing in Europe, the interest of the then World Superpowers - Britain, France, Netherlands, Portugal and Spain - also grew. Up until this point, coffee imported into Europe had come from the Arabian Peninsula, over which none of these nations had any control. The Europeans had sampled coffee and liked it, and now they wanted to start producing it for themselves. The race was on to establish their own coffee plantations in their respective colonies.

It was the Netherlands who took an early lead in this race. In 1616, Dutch spies successfully managed to smuggle a coffee plant out of Mocha (Yemen). At first, they were only involved in small scale cultivation. This changed in 1658 when they defeated the Portuguese to take control of Sri Lanka. Very soon coffee plantations spread all over Sri Lanka and into Southern India. Then in 1699, the Dutch started production in Indonesia, when cuttings were successfully transplanted from Malabar (India) to Java.

Without help from the Dutch, the other Superpowers would not have got out of the starting blocks. By 1706, the first coffee beans from Java had reached Amsterdam along with a coffee plant for the Botanical Garden. From this plant, a number of successful cuttings were made. These new plants soon found their way into various botanical gardens throughout Europe as they were given as gifts to visiting dignitaries.

One such plant was given to King Louis XIV of France in 1714, by the Burgomaster of Amsterdam. The plant was re-homed in le Jardin des Plantes in Paris. Several years later, a French Naval Officer named Mathieu Gabriel de Clieu, while on leave from his station in Martinique, asked for the King's permission to take a cutting of this plant back with him. Unfortunately for him, the King refused his request. Convinced that the Caribbean would be an ideal place to cultivate coffee, de Clieu led a daring moonlight raid on the Jardin des Plantes to secure a cutting.

In 1723, de Clieu began his journey back to Martinique with his newly procured coffee cutting in tow. He kept the shoot in a glass cabinet which he would bring up to the deck each day so it could be warmed by the sun. If de Clieu had thought that the hard part of his mission was over, he would have been wrong. During the journey, one of the men on board (allegedly with a Dutch accent) tried to wrestle the plant off of de Clieu, managing to break a side-shoot in the process. The crew had to fend off an attack by pirates which lasted nearly a whole day. A storm descended that shattered the glass cabinet and the portable water supply ran so low that de Clieu had to share his water ration with the plant.

Finally, de Clieu returned to Martinique where he successfully cultivated the coffee plant. Some twenty months later, de Clieu had his first harvest which he distributed among the island's doctors and other intellectuals. As luck would have it, the cocoa plants on the island were doing badly after a recent volcanic eruption, so coffee was soon adopted by the locals. Within three years, coffee plantations spread all over Martinique and to the neighboring islands of St. Dominique and Guadeloupe. Coffee production was so successful in the Caribbean that King Louis XIV forgave de Clieu for his earlier transgression and made him governor of the Antilles.

The coffee plant had become a very desirable object. In 1727, the Brazilian government decided it was time they joined the coffee market. Using the guise of an intermediary in a boundary dispute between the French and Dutch in the Guianas, Brazil sent Lieutenant Colonel Francisco de Mello Palheta on a mission to steal a coffee plant from the French. Using his charm and charisma, Palheta befriended the governor of French Guiana's wife. Once the dispute was resolved, the governor's wife presented Palheta with a farewell gift, a coffee cutting concealed in a bouquet of flowers. From this scant shoot grew the world's largest coffee empire.

The British did not seriously compete in the coffee race until 1796 when they took control of Sri Lanka from the Dutch. With the arrival of the British, even more land was cleared for coffee plantations. So much so that the relatively small island of Sri Lanka briefly became the world's largest coffee producer in the 1860s. However in 1869, a lethal fungus known as coffee rust arrived on the island. This fungus causes premature defoliation of a coffee plant, seriously weakening its structure and reducing its yield of berries. Since rust was not considered to be a serious disease, the British continued to clear more land for coffee plantations during the next decade. It was not until 1879 that they realized the seriousness of the situation. Unfortunately by then it was too late. The productivity of the plants had declined so greatly that they were no longer economically viable.

Luckily for the British, a successful marketing campaign led by the British East India Company for tea entitled "the cup that cheers" had laid the foundations for tea to become the British national drink. Between 1700 and 1757, the average annual tea imports into Britain more than quadrupled and consumption continued to grow steadily for the rest of the century. So when coffee rust devastated the coffee plantations of Sri Lanka, and later India, production simply switched and the coffee plants were uprooted and replanted with tea. Although Britain continued to cultivate coffee on a limited amount of colonial land, mostly in Jamaica, Uganda and Kenya, by the end of the 19th Century tea had surpassed coffee as their beverage of choice.

Part IV - Commercialization of Coffee

For many connoisseurs, the period from the mid-19th Century to the late 20th Century is the "Dark Age" of coffee. During this era, coffee lost its Middle-Eastern mystical charm and became commercialized and, quite frankly, ordinary.

When coffee was first introduced into Britain during the 17th Century, it was a drink enjoyed by every social class. While the rich would enjoy coffee almost ceremonially in their social clubs, the poor saw coffee as an essential nutrient - a hot drink to replace a hot meal or hunger suppressant. With the advancement of technology, it was only a matter of time before large companies formed to take advantage of the coffee commodity.

Traditionally, coffee was roasted in the home or in the coffeehouse. A practice imported from the Middle-East was to simply stir-fry green beans in an iron pan over a fire until brown. Some coffeehouses used a more sophisticated method of a cylindrical unit hung above a fire with a handle to rotate the beans inside. Both these methods were only capable of roasting small batches of coffee - a couple of kilos or several pounds at most - which ensured that the coffee was always fresh.

With the onset of the industrial revolution and mechanization, coffee roasting technology soon improved. Commercial coffee roasters were being invented which were capable of roasting much larger batches of coffee. It was now possible for the few to meet the coffee needs of the masses.

It was in the United States where coffee first began to be commercialized. In 1865, John Arbuckle marketed the first commercially available packages of ground, roasted coffee. His brand, "Ariosa", was sold over a far larger area then any other coffee roaster. Instead of being confined to a small area close to the roasting factory, Arbuckle was able to establish his coffee as a regional brand. Others soon followed suit and, by World War I, there were a number of regional roasters including companies such as Folgers, Hill Brothers, and Maxwell House. These companies offered customers consistent quality and convenient packaging for use in the home, but at a price: freshness. It could be several weeks, or even months, before the end product would reach the customer.

One approach to prolonging the freshness of roasted coffee was to glaze it with a glutinous or gelatinous matter. After the coffee beans had been roasted, a glaze would be poured over them which would form a hard, protective barrier around the bean. One such glaze patented by John Arbuckle in 1868, consisted of using: a quart of water, one ounce of Irish moss, half an ounce of isinglass, half an ounce of gelatin, one ounce of white sugar, and twenty-four eggs, per hundred pounds of coffee. Arbuckle experimented with many different glazes over the years, eventually settling on a sugar based glaze. In fact, Arbuckle became such a prolific user of sugar that he entered into the sugar business rather then give a profit to others for the huge quantities he required.

So why were customers willing to buy this coffee? Once ground, coffee quickly loses its flavor and therefore should be consumed as soon as possible (at the very latest within 48 hours). But this was the age of the brand, where consistency ruled king over quality. Local roasters would often produce excellent coffee, but they could also produce foul coffee, occasionally containing a number of adulterations. Customers wanted to trust what they were buying. They wanted their coffee to taste exactly the same, time and time again.

Worse was to come to the brew known as coffee. As regional roasters grew into national roasters and then into international roasters, their pursuit of profit intensified. Traditionally, coffee came from the 'arabica' variety of coffee bush. But in the 1850s, the French and Portuguese began to cultivate a different variety of coffee bush, known as 'robusta', on the west coast of Africa between Gabon and Angola. Robusta beans were (and still are) cheaper then arabica beans as they are easier to grow and have an inferior flavor. Coffee roasters looking to minimize their production costs started blending robusta beans with arabica beans in increasing quantities. They also used shorter roast times to reduce weight loss and thus stopped the coffee from fully developing its complex flavor.

However the lowest point for coffee came with the introduction of instant coffee - a drink bearing little resemblance in taste to actual coffee. The first commercially produced instant coffee, called 'Red E Coffee', was invented by George Constant Washington, an English chemist living in Guatemala. It was marketed in 1909.

It's the Nestle Company that is generally assumed to have invented instant coffee. In 1930, Nestle was approached by the Instituto do Cafe (Brazilian Coffee Institute) to help find a solution to their coffee surpluses. They believed that a new coffee product that was soluble in hot water, yet retained its flavor, would help stimulate world coffee sales. After seven years of research and frequent tasting, scientist Max Mortgenthaler finally achieved their desired results and, on 1st April 1938, Nescafe was launched, first in Switzerland and then later in Britain.

With the coffee industry focused on price rather then quality, it was little wonder that coffee sales became stagnant. Coffee drinking was now more about a caffeine fix rather then about savoring the taste. It was something to be gulped during a break from work, rather than a treat to be enjoyed over conversation or while reading the newspaper. Unsurprisingly the younger generations born in the 70s and 80s turned their back on bitter coffee, preferring sugary soft drinks such as Coca Cola and Pepsi for their caffeine kicks.

Part V - Specialty Coffee

With the large multi-national coffee companies focused purely on coffee as a commodity rather then a drink to be savored, it allowed a new sector to emerge in the coffee industry: specialty coffee. Specialty coffee was nothing new, rather the opposite. It stripped coffee making back down to the grass roots: pure Arabica beans, roasted long enough for the coffee to fully develop all its characteristics and flavors.

During the "Dark Age" of coffee there was still excellent coffee available, if you knew where to look for it. A number of small cafes and shops continued to trade, sourcing and roasting high quality Arabica beans. These outlets were typically run and frequented by immigrants (usually Arabs, Turks, Greeks and Italians), far from the mainstream.

All this began to change in the 1960s, with the post World War II "Baby Boomers" coming into adulthood. Many of this generation were keen not to follow in their parents footsteps, preferring to act in a more bohemian way. For them, these cafes and shops were an ideal place to meet, read poetry, take drugs and experience alternative culture.

One such coffee shop in Berkeley (California) is widely credited as being the main inspiration on the emergence of the specialty coffee sector. Peet's Coffee & Tea store, opened in 1966 by Alfred Peet (dubbed the 'grandfather of specialty coffee') and enthused a number of its customers, who later became key players in the specialty sector. Peet, an immigrant from Alkmaar (Holland), had developed a distinctive style of roasting coffee from working in his family's coffee and tea business. After immigrating to California, aged thirty-five, he opened his shop employing his artisan coffee roasting techniques to build a loyal customer base. Peet's coffee was so loved that he even had his own set of groupies: the 'Peetniks'.

Two of Peet's most important customers (historically) were a couple of Seattle coffee lovers named Jerry Baldwin and Gordon Bowker. In 1971, after tasting Peet's fine brews, they were inspired to open their own coffee shop back in Seattle called Starbucks. Starbucks opened as a bean-only-store, steadily building a loyal customer base during the 70s and early 80s through its fine Arabica beans and darker roasts.

In 1984, the director of retail operations and marketing, Howard Schultz, tried to persuade Baldwin and Bowker to open the first Starbucks coffeehouse. Schultz had just returned from a trip to Milan, where he had noticed the existence of coffeehouses on almost every block. These were not just places to enjoy great espresso coffee, but also served as meeting places. Schultz was keen to recreate this kind of coffeehouse in America, but Baldwin and Bowker rejected Schultz's plans as they were unwilling to get into the restaurant business.

Undeterred, Schultz left Starbucks in 1985 to open his own coffeehouse, Il Giornale. Still using Starbucks coffee beans to make espresso drinks, Il Giornale proved extremely popular with the Seattle public. So popular, in fact, that in 1987, Schultz was able to buy Starbucks from Bowker and Schultz. Changing Il Giornale's name to Starbucks, Schultz began to rapidly expand, opening over 1,000 stores in a decade.

The story of the first British specialty coffeehouse also involves Alfred Peet. In 1995, Scott and Ally Svenson wanted to open a coffeehouse in Covent Garden, London. Their background was in marketing and design and, even though they were originally from Seattle, they did not know much about coffee. This is why they approached Steven Macatonia and Jeremy Torz of Union Coffee Roasters. Steven and Jeremy had fallen in love with coffee while working at Peet's in California. On their return home they decided to open their own roasting outlet and were soon supplying places such as the River Cafe, the Caprice, and the Ivy.

The Covent Garden coffeehouse, named the Seattle Coffee Company, was another big success and inevitably expansion soon followed. The rapid growth of the company caused increasing demand on Union Coffee Roasters, so the two companies decided to merge together. In 1998, after opening over 60 outlets throughout the UK, Starbucks came knocking at their door. They saw the acquisition of the Seattle Coffee Company as an ideal way to enter the UK market. Soon the Seattle Coffee Company was no more, with all its stores re-branded as Starbucks.

The popularity of coffeehouses has been phenomenal. Almost every high street in Britain has a least one coffeehouse now. Words such as espresso, cappuccino and cafe latte are commonplace. In fact the price of a cafe latte is now one of the products that the British government uses to measure inflation. Market analyzers believe that the success of the coffeehouse is not solely due to the coffee they serve, but the atmosphere in which it is served. Coffeehouses in Britain in the 1990s were a break from convention. In the consumerist landscape of the high-street, coffeehouses represented a place to relax. Customers were encouraged to take their time over their coffee sit on big comfy sofas offered the daily newspapers to read allowed to idle the afternoon away watching the world go by. In other words, coffeehouses had returned to playing their original role in society, as they had done when they first arrived in Britain back in 17th Century.

The growth of these coffeehouses has helped to heighten the public's awareness of the specialty coffee sector. Increasingly, individuals are looking to have a slice of the coffeehouse in their own home, investing in espresso makers and other coffee accessories. Coffee is now widely available from a multitude of origins, roasted to differing degrees and ground to your requirement. In short, the "Dark Age" of coffee is well and truly over.

James Grierson is the owner of Galla Coffee, a UK online retailer of designer coffee accessories. Through the Coffee Knowledge section of his website he aims to help people understand more about coffee and give them tips on how to make great tasting coffee in their home.

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