Originally Posted by Hajo Flettner
Good article! I was very surprised to hear that tobacco was more expensive then coffee for much of Ottoman history. I always assumed that tobacco got translated to Turkey pretty quickly after the Spaniards started colonizing the new world and it would seem that coffee had to be imported from equally far away places as tobacco but I clearly am missing something.
Actually, coffee was solidly established in the Middle East, mostly centered in Egypt, by the 11th century. There's some pretty interesting evidence that up until the 9th century, the only coffee tree's that existed in the world were to be found in what is today Ethiopia, in a region that was known as 'Kaffa'. The Ethiopians were the first to harvest and consume the coffee bean, but not as a drink. They would grind the bean much as we do today, combine it with animal fat, roll it into balls, and consume it thusly. They also made a wine from the fermented crushed beans. (I imagine that was a heady drink!) The Egyptians brought coffee beans and plants into Egypt in the early 10th century and soon established a healthy method of cultivation. Coffee was then spread through the rest of Middle East by Islamic pilgrims, and by the 13th century could be found pretty much everywhere from Turkey to Egypt. By the 1500's a lucrative trade in roasted beans had been established with European traders, but it was illegal to export viable beans or plants from the Middle East, and the punishment was death. It wasn't until the 17th century that some enterprising Dutch traders managed to successfully smuggle coffee plants from the Middle East to Java, where the plants thrived. The Dutch also tried to restrict the availability of viable beans and plants, but in the early 18th century coffee made it's way to Brazil, and then spread from there.
So indeed, Hajo, while your distant ancestors were kind enough to gift my ancestors with the tobacco plant, I'd say the return gift of the coffee bean made for an equitable exchange!