Coffee Time……
By Maxwell Pereira
Jt. Commissioner of Police/Traffic, Delhi

maxpk@vsnl.com

Legend has it that coffee seeds were first brought into India from Arabia by a mendicant, Baba Budan and planted on the rain washed slopes of the lush western ghats around Chickmagalur district in Karnataka. Another story that did the rounds in my childhood, was that Baba and Budan were two brothers, credited to have first brought in these seeds. Whichever of them be real fact, these particular hills now bear the name as Baba Budan Giris.

Coffee is a drink - call it a beverage - made by infusion or decoction from the roasted and ground or pounded beanlike seeds of a shrub of the genus Coffea in the family Rubiacae. The seeds come out of the fruit of this evergreen tree or shrub which flourishes mostly in tropical and subtropical regions around the world. These trees produce clusters of fragrant jasmine-scented white blossoms and fruit known as cherries.
In each cherry, protected by pulp and parchment, are 2 coffee beans. Approximately 4000 beans are needed to produce one pound of roasted coffee, making it one of the few commodities that requires enormous human effort.

The word "coffee" meaning the drink, is a modified form of the Turkish kahveh, which in turn is derived from the Arabic kahwa or qahwah. The African word for the coffee plant was bun which then became the Arabic bunn, meaning both the plant and the berry. Coffee has been used since ancient times for healing and medicinal purposes.

Initially, coffee was only consumed as part of a religious ceremony or on the advice of a physician. Once doctors observed the beneficial effects of coffee, it was prescribed more frequently. Coffee has been used to treat an astounding variety of diseases, ranging from kidney stones and gout to smallpox, measles and coughs.

Rhazes, a follower of Galen and Hippocrates who lived in Persian Iraq, compiled a medical encyclopedia in which he referred to the bean as bunchum. His work on the healing properties of coffee led to the belief that coffee was known as a medicine over 1000 years ago. Similar references appear in the writings of Avicenna (AD 908-1037), another distinguished Muslim physician and philosopher.

In Europe, coffee beans were originally used by individual botanists but soon became standard features in the apothecary shops, where they were a vital part of the treatment collection used by 17th century herbalists, chemists and even housewives. Today, the caffeine in coffee has been shown to increase mental functioning and even memory - when used in moderation. Too much however, can reduce concentration and cause nervousness or jitters.

In ancient Turkey, many well to do households kept coffee stewards, whose sole responsibility was to attend to the preparation and service of coffee. The Chief Steward, or Kahveghi, had the privilege of an "apartment " (little more than a cupboard )located next to the coffee hall where visitors were received. The hall was decorated with richly coloured rugs and pillows and gleaming ornamental coffee pots. Coffee was served on silver or painted wooden trays large enough to hold up to 20 porcelain coffee dishes. These were always half-filled, not only to prevent spilling, but so that the dish could be held with the thumb below and the two fingers on the upper edge.

In Japan, a country which was notably slow to take up coffee drinking due to its historical partiality to tea, coffee was used to beautify the skin. As it is believed that coffee contains elements beneficial to healthy skin, huge vats or tubs of coffee beans are prepared for individuals to lie in the roasted beans.

In Germany, coffee was not accepted in the home until the second half of the 18th century. This was due to a mixture of factors - a long standing fondness for local beer, a general distrust of things considered "un-German" as well as ongoing prohibition, taxes & libel specifically directed against coffee.

This trend was reflected in Bach's Coffee Cantata of 1732, a satirical operetta which provides a musical insight into some of the prevailing attitudes. It tells of the efforts of a stern father to check his daughter's propensity for coffee-drinking by threatening to make her choose between a husband and coffee. Unperturbed, the daughter sings an aria which begins, "Ah, how Sweet coffee tastes - lovelier than a thousand kisses, sweeter far than muscatel"

Among Coffee Quotations, are Lord Byron's: "And Mocha's berry, from Arabia pure In small fine china cups, came in at last Gold cups of filigree, made to secure the hand from burning, underneath them place. Cloves, cinnamon and saffron, too, were boiled Up with the coffee, which, I think, they spoiled." Then Napolean Bonaparte's famous admission: "Strong coffee and plenty, awakens me. It gives me warmth, an unusual force, a pain that is not without pleasure. I would rather suffer than be senseless." …and Balzac's: "The coffee falls into your stomach and straightaway there is a general commotion. Ideas begin to move like the battalions of the Grand Army on the battlefield when the battle takes place. Things remembered arrive at full gallop, ensign to the wind."

(The author can be reached at http://planetindia.net/maxwell or his email: maxpk@vsnl.com ) 900words. 25.08.2003: Copy Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23, Gurgaon-122002. You can interact with the author at http:// www.maxwellperira.com and maxpk@vsnl.com

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