Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Coffea Robusta

Coffea Robusta Emil Laurent, in 1898, discovered a species of coffee growing wild in Congo. This was taken up by a horticultural firm of Brussels, and cultivated for the market. This firm gave to the coffee the name Coffea robusta, although it had already been given the name of the discoverer, being known as Coffea Laurentii. The plant differs widely from both arabica and liberica, being considerably larger than either. The tree is umbrella-shaped, due to the fact that its branches are very long and bend toward the ground. The leaves of robusta are much thinner than those of liberica, though not as thin as those of arabica. The tree, as a whole, is a very hardy variety and even bears blossoms when it is less than a year old. It blossoms throughout the entire year, the flowers having six-parted corollas. The drupes are smaller than those of liberica; but are much thinner skinned, so that the coffee bean is actually not any smaller. The drupes mature in ten months. Although the plants bear as early as the first year, the yield for the first two years is of no account; but by the fourth year the crop is large.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

New York's First Coffee House

Hutchins Coffee House, New York Some chroniclers of New York's early days are confident that the first coffee house in America was opened in New York; but the earliest authenticated record they have presented is that on November 1, 1696, John Hutchins bought a lot on Broadway, between Trinity churchyard and what is now Cedar Street, and there built a house, naming it the King's Arms. Against this record, Boston can present the statement in Samuel Gardner Drake's History and Antiquities of the City of Boston that Benj. Harris sold books at the "London Coffee House" in 1689. This view shows the garden side of the historic old house as it was conducted by John Hutchins, near Trinity Church, on Broadway. The observatory may have been added later The King's Arms was built of wood, and had a front of yellow brick, said to have been brought from Holland. The building was two stories high, and on the roof was an "observatory," arranged with seats, and commanding a fine view of the bay, the river, and the city. Here the coffee-house visitors frequently sat in the afternoons. It is not shown in the illustration. It stood for many years on Broadway, opposite Bowling Green, in the old De Lancey House, becoming known in 1763 as the King's Arms, and later the Atlantic Garden House The sides of the main room on the lower floor were lined with booths, which, for the sake of greater privacy, were screened with green curtains. There a patron could sip his coffee, or a more stimulating drink, and look over his mail in the same exclusiveness affected by the Londoner of the time. The rooms on the second floor were used for special meetings of merchants, colonial magistrates and overseers, or similar public and private business. The meeting room, as above described, seems to have been one of the chief features distinguishing a coffee house from a tavern. Although both types of houses had rooms for guests, and served meals, the coffee house was used for business purposes by permanent customers, while the tavern was patronized more by transients. Men met at the coffee house daily to carry on business, and went to the tavern for convivial purposes or lodgings. Before the front door hung the sign of "the lion and the unicorn fighting for the crown." For many years the King's Arms was the only coffee house in the city; or at least no other seems of sufficient importance to have been mentioned in colonial records. For this reason it was more frequently designated as "the" coffee house than the King's Arms. Contemporary records of the arrest of John Hutchins of the King's Arms, and of Roger Baker, for speaking disrespectfully of King George, mention the King's Head, of which Baker was proprietor. But it is generally believed that this public house was a tavern and not rightfully to be considered as a coffee house. The White Lion, mentioned about 1700, was also a tavern, or inn.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The First Coffee Persecution

At length the pious Mahommedans began to disapprove of the use of coffee among the people. For one thing, it made common one of the best psychology-adjuncts of their religion; also, the joy of life, that it helped to liberate among those who frequented the coffee houses, precipitated social, political, and religious arguments; and these frequently developed into disturbances. Dissensions arose even among the churchmen themselves. They divided into camps for and against coffee. The law of the Prophet on the subject of wine was variously construed as applying to coffee. About this time (1511) Kair Bey was governor of Mecca for the sultan of Egypt. He appears to have been a strict disciplinarian, but lamentably ignorant of the actual conditions obtaining among his people. As he was leaving the mosque one evening after prayers, he was offended by seeing in a corner a company of coffee drinkers who were preparing to pass the night in prayer. His first thought was that they were drinking wine; and great was his astonishment when he learned what the liquor really was and how common was its use throughout the city. Further investigation convinced him that indulgence in this exhilarating drink must incline men and women to extravagances prohibited by law, and so he determined to suppress it. First he drove the coffee drinkers out of the mosque. The next day, he called a council of officers of justice, lawyers, physicians, priests, and leading citizens, to whom he declared what he had seen the evening before at the mosque; and, "being resolved to put a stop to the coffee-house abuses, he sought their advice upon the subject." The chief count in the indictment was that "in these places men and women met and played tambourines, violins, and other musical instruments. There were also people who played chess, mankala, and other similar games, for money; and there were many other things done contrary to our sacred law—may God keep it from all corruption until the day when we shall all appear before him!" Two brothers, Persian physicians named Hakimani, and reputed the best in Mecca, were summoned, although we are told they knew more about logic than they did about physic. One of them came into the council fully prejudiced, as he had already written a book against coffee, and filled with concern for his profession, being fearful lest the common use of the new drink would make serious inroads on the practise of medicine. His brother joined with him in assuring the assembly that the plant bunn, from which coffee was made, was "cold and dry" and so unwholesome. When another physician present reminded them that Bengiazlah, the ancient and respected contemporary of Avicenna, taught that it was "hot and dry," they made arbitrary answer that Bengiazlah had in mind another plant of the same name, and that anyhow, it was not material; for, if the coffee drink disposed people to things forbidden by religion, the safest course for Mahommedans was to look upon it as unlawful. The friends of coffee were covered with confusion. Only the mufti spoke out in the meeting in its favor. Others, carried away by prejudice or misguided zeal, affirmed that coffee clouded their senses. One man arose and said it intoxicated like wine; which made every one laugh, since he could hardly have been a judge of this if he had not drunk wine, which is forbidden by the Mohammedan religion. Upon being asked whether he had ever drunk any, he was so imprudent as to admit that he had, thereby condemning himself out of his own mouth to the bastinado. The mufti of Aden, being both an officer of the court and a divine, undertook, with some heat, a defense of coffee; but he was clearly in an unpopular minority. He was rewarded with the reproaches and affronts of the religious zealots. So the governor had his way, and coffee was solemnly condemned as thing forbidden by the law; and a presentment was drawn up, signed by a majority of those present, and dispatched post-haste by the governor to his royal master, the sultan, at Cairo. At the same time, the governor published an edict forbidding the sale of coffee in public or private. The officers of justice caused all the coffee houses in Mecca to be shut, and ordered all the coffee found there, or in the merchants' warehouses, to be burned. Naturally enough, being an unpopular edict, there were many evasions, and much coffee drinking took place behind closed doors. Some of the friends of coffee were outspoken in their opposition to the order, being convinced that the assembly had rendered a judgment not in accordance with the facts, and above all, contrary to the opinion of the mufti who, in every Arab community, is looked up to as the interpreter, or expounder, of the law. One man, caught in the act of disobedience, besides being severely punished, was also led through the most public streets of the city seated on an ass. However, the triumph of the enemies of coffee was short-lived; for not only did the sultan of Cairo disapprove the "indiscreet zeal" of the governor of Mecca, and order the edict revoked; but he read him a severe lesson on the subject. How dared he condemn a thing approved at Cairo, the capital of his kingdom, where there were physicians whose opinions carried more weight than those of Mecca, and who had found nothing against the law in the use of coffee? The best things might be abused, added the sultan, even the sacred waters of Zamzam, but this was no reason for an absolute prohibition. The fountain, or well, of Zamzam, according to the Mohammedan teaching, is the same which God caused to spring up in the desert to comfort Hagar and Ishmael when Abraham banished them. It is in the enclosure of the temple at Mecca; and the Mohammedans drink of it with much show of devotion, ascribing great virtues to it.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Second London Coffee House

London Coffee HouseProbably the most celebrated coffee house in Penn's city was the one established by William Bradford, printer of the Pennsylvania Journal. It was on the southwest corner of Second and Market Streets, and was named the London coffee house, the second house in Philadelphia to bear that title. The building had stood since 1702, when Charles Reed, later mayor of the city, put it up on land which he bought from Letitia Penn, daughter of William Penn, the founder. Bradford was the first to use the structure for coffee-house purposes, and he tells his reason for entering upon the business in his petition to the governor for a license: "Having been advised to keep a Coffee House for the benefit of merchants and traders, and as some people may at times be desirous to be furnished with other liquors besides coffee, your petitioner apprehends it is necessary to have the Governor's license." This would indicate that in that day coffee was drunk as a refreshment between meals, as were spirituous liquors for so many years before, and thereafter up to 1920.

The London coffee house was "the pulsating heart of excitement, enterprise, and patriotism" of the early city. The most active citizens congregated there—merchants, shipmasters, travelers from other colonies and countries, crown and provincial officers. The governor and persons of equal note went there at certain hours "to sip their coffee from the hissing urn, and some of those stately visitors had their own stalls." It had also the character of a mercantile exchange—carriages, horses, foodstuffs, and the like being sold there at auction. It is further related that the early slave-holding Philadelphians sold negro men, women, and children at vendue, exhibiting the slaves on a platform set up in the street before the coffee house.

The resort was the barometer of public sentiment. It was in the street before this house that a newspaper published in Barbados, bearing a stamp in accordance with the provisions of the stamp act, was publicly burned in 1765, amid the cheers of bystanders. It was here that Captain Wise of the brig Minerva, from Pool, England, who brought news of the repeal of the act, was enthusiastically greeted by the crowd in May, 1766. Here, too, for several years the fishermen set up May poles.

Bradford gave up the lease in 1780, transferring the property to John Pemberton, who leased it to Gifford Dally. Pemberton was a Friend, and his scruples about gambling and other sins are well exhibited in the terms of the lease in which said Dally "covenants and agrees and promises that he will exert his endeavors as a Christian to preserve decency and order in said house, and to discourage the profanation of the sacred name of God Almighty by cursing, swearing, etc., and that the house on the first day of the week shall always be kept closed from public use." It is further covenanted that "under a penalty of £100 he will not allow or suffer any person to use, or play at, or divert themselves with cards, dice, backgammon, or any other unlawful game."