Episode 1 - A History of Coffee transcript

Here’s a surprising fact: coffee was only invented around the time Michelangelo was chiselling his statue of David. Why did it take so long for humans to invent the cup of coffee? In this first episode of A History of Coffee, Jonathan and James unpack how humans figured out that delicious flavours were contained in the roasted seeds of a coffee tree’s cherries. The answer has nothing to do with dancing goats...but, in some ways, it has everything to do with a shepherd in the forests of Ethiopia.

James Harper: I have in my hand here, a coffee roasted by 19 Grams, a Berlin roastery, but it's from Guji, Odo Shakiso. This is an Ethiopian coffee.

**Professor Jonathan Morris: ** Yeah.

James Harper:  It also happens to be where coffee comes from.

Professor Jonathan Morris: You mean in the sense that Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee, absolutely.

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James Harper: Ethiopia as the birthplace of coffee.

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James Harper: So take me back in time. What does it look like? What does that mean?

Professor Jonathan Morris: It means that the coffee is growing underneath the tree canopy of effectively what are often called as the cloud forest of Ethiopia

James Harper: I'm Googling cloud canopy, Ethiopia.

Professor Jonathan Morris: Okay.

James Harper: And I see these beautiful kind of rolling mountains, carpeted with thick, dark green trees.

Professor Jonathan Morris: Yeah.

James Harper: And these clouds wisping in between the waves of trees on the horizon.

Professor Jonathan Morris: This is the kind of, almost like the African version of the rain forest. The clouds up in the sky. It's shady. We've got to get plenty of moisture, plenty of rain. This is perfect coffee place.

James Harper: Let's dive into the forest canopy diving past the cloud through the canopy. And what would we see on the forest floor?

Professor Jonathan Morris:I'm imagining diving down through the canopy, we're coming down through the forest leaves, we're looking underneath now the trees were about eight foot up, we're seeing the tops of the coffee bushes. We're seeing little straggly strands of branch, maybe a few cherries on there because this is wild coffee, this is not, you know, coffee grown in rays or anything. It's growing wild. It's doing its thing. Gradually. We're hitting the ground. We're going to see some spent fruit there. We can see birds. You've actually picked the coffee. We’ve probably pass a few birds on the way down. Wewon't even see them, you know, spitting out the coffee or it's excreting the coffee bean and thereby planting new coffee for us.

James Harper: Thank you very much birds. And if we rewind the clock thousands and thousands of years, Isn't Ethiopia also the birthplace of man?

Professor Jonathan Morris:That's absolutely right. Yeah. Ethiopia is the birthplace of man we're in the rift Valley. We're in the absolute places where the oldest humanoid skeletons have been found, so we are in the birthplace of man and the birthplace of coffee. It's really quite a special place.

James Harper: The birthplace of man and the birthplace of coffee. I mean,Jonathan, that's quite an interesting combination. And across these next six episodes, we're going to be exploring how mankind shaped coffee.

Professor Jonathan Morris:Yeah. And indeed her coffee shape mankind.

James Harper: And on the coffee side, we'll go from how you know, we had these trees, you know, interspersed under these cloud forest and Ethiopia to parts of the world where these forests they're ripped up, and then coffee is planted systematically row by row, by row for miles over the horizon pumped full of fertilizer, dripping with insecticide.

Professor Jonathan Morris: Yes. I'm afraid. That's exactly what we're going to see. I think what we're going to see is the way that coffee has changed in some way, scarred our environment.

James Harper: And we're going to explore how coffee shaped mankind.We're going to look at the things that humans did to get their hands on a cup of this delicious flavored psychoactive drug, you know, caffeine. Yeah.

Professor Jonathan Morris:Yeah.

James Harper: Things get dark.

Professor Jonathan Morris:Things get very dark. I think the way to put it would be we're going to look up the ways that human societies exploited each other and humans within societies exploited each other in order to satisfy that desire for coffee.

James Harper: It will result in enslaved Africans being thrown off ships to drown in the middle of the sea, to these ginormous factories that turn, you know, coffee brown and make a handful of industrious fabulously wealthy along the way.

Professor Jonathan Morris:Yeah

James Harper: But Jonathan is also a backlash.

Professor Jonathan Morris:There is a backlash that starts with the kind of the ethics of coffee, when we start seeing the rise of fair trade. And there's a backlash, of course, that brought you and I into the industry, James, the backlash of specialty coffee.

James Harper: Right. And across these six episodes, we are going to be looking at how there has been this deliciously, deadly dance between coffee and humanity for 500 years.

Professor Jonathan Morris:It's a fascinating dance. It shows humanity in both its best and worst light.

James Harper: James Harper, the creator of Filter Stories, a coffee documentary podcast

Professor Jonathan Morris:And I'm Jonathan Morris, professor of history and author of Coffee, A Global History.

James Harper: And this is A History of Coffee. A six episode podcast series, where we explore how a tiny psychoactive seed changed the world and shapes the life today.

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James Harper: Now Jonathan, in this episode, we're going to be exploring the origins of coffee before the Europeans get their hands on it. We're going to explore how a ripe red fruit growing on a tree in a forest in Ethiopia. This red fruit gets transformed into the drink that we know today, coffee, but the kind of the interesting thing is that this transformation actually only occurs around the time that, you know, Michelangelo was carving, his famous statue of David.

Professor Jonathan Morris: Yeah, that's absolutely right. James, it's only the last 500 years that humans have been interacting with coffee beginning to make it as we know today.

James Harper: So let's rewind the clock, before the time of Michelangelo, let's go thousands and thousands of years back. And actually once we evolved to be the anatomically modern humans that we are, let's say 5,000 years ago, Human societies then, what would they look like and how would they interact with the coffee?

Professor Jonathan Morris: So, I mean, human societies then are obviously as you know, hunter-gatherer type societies. So they go out into the forests forage. Bring back the berries use the berries using the leaves, use all parts of the tree

James Harper: And so on to where coffee is made from the seeds inside that cherry. Exactly. Right.

Professor Jonathan Morris:Okay.

James Harper:  So you're saying that were consuming coffee, but were they drinking coffee or were they doing something else with the plant?

Professor Jonathan Morris: Okay. So no they're doing other things with the plant. So if they take the cherries, you can also kind of put the cherry, mix it in with milk or something, mix it with a bit of butter, and they would actually form these kinds of balls that they would take with them as they went around the forest, which they would eat as a kind of energy food.They're using the leaves to make tea, kuti. So in effect, they're doing many other things, but they're not actually making coffee.

James Harper: It's like for thousands of years, it's just missing out on the true potential. In my opinion of this plant

Professor Jonathan Morris:In a way that's true. Yes.

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James Harper: let's unpack for listeners. Okay. So we know there's a cherry at one end and we know there's a bean at the other end, but there are many layers in between Jonathan paint for us that picture, if we were zooming layer by layer through a coffee, cherry to the bean, what does it look like?

Professor Jonathan Morris:Let's slice our cherry in half.So imagine we've got the semicircle. What are we going to see on the very outside begin to see the skin? Then the next layer is that kind of layer of pith.

James Harper: The red gooey mushy stuff.

Professor Jonathan Morris: At the very sort of center. First, we see a very, very mushy substance. This is called the mucilage and it's adhering to what appears to be the seeds.But in fact, the seeds are wrapped in a, what we call a parchment, and it's only when we then cut through that parchment that we see there are two seeds, they have sitting between them, what is effectively feeding them, it's a little bit of a foodstuff that becomes the silver skin that actually is wrapped around the seeds themselves.

James Harper: I see

Professor Jonathan Morris:Cherry seeds, stones, whatever you used to call them. What we call them is beans.

James Harper: I see. And it's the beans that you take out from these many, many layers.

Professor Jonathan Morris:Let me take you through this, but James, so we've got our beautiful cherry. Now what we have to do is get those beans out the way that would have been used in Ethiopia is to dry the cherry, dry the cherry until it's absolutely dried, and then you literally kind of haul off the fruit and you're down to the stone.

James Harper: Yeah, I see. And at the end of it all, you get a green bean, which is then thrown into fire, heat and it turns Brown.

Professor Jonathan Morris:Yeah

James Harper: And then that's what you grind up at hot water and voila you have coffee

Professor Jonathan Morris:That is exactly correct

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James Harper: But Jonathan, how did people figure out that what they had to do is get the seeds in the middle, roast them up, grind them up, add hot water, and then you can drink it.

Professor Jonathan Morris:What's a great question, James. And of course the answer is. The great shepherd Kaldi, Kaldi young man out tending his goats in Ethiopia sees that his goats are eating those beautiful red cherries off a Bush. And then you notices, Hey, these goats are dancing around. This is really weird. Why is this happening? So it goes over pluck some of those barriers and he tries some himself. And wow are Kaldi feels energized. He starts doing a little bit of dancing and himself. He's really amazed by this. So takes some more picks the berries looks out for one of the elders, the sort of the more religious men that he knows goes to consult with him.The prodigious elder is not so impressed. You know, he eats it and he spits it out, but he spits it out into the fire,  and it starts roasting, and it smells gorgeous and they think, well, this smells really good before it'd be able to do something with this.

James Harper: Right.

Professor Jonathan Morris:So they gather up the roasted beans and they grind them up and then they think, okay, we've just add some water, see what happens and kaboom coffee! How about that?

James Harper: I mean, that's an extraordinary story, but how do we know this? I mean, do we have a record of Kaldi? I mean, did he write his own memoirs or something?

Professor Jonathan Morris:Well, that's the sad bit, James. So we have no record of Kaldi and I think it's pretty certain that that Kaldi never existed. I can tell you where we first got this story.In 1671, a guy called Antonio Fausto Naironi wrote this story down for us to explain the origins of coffee.

James Harper: It's funny though. I mean, you see Kaldi used in a lot of coffee marketing, a lot of coffee shops roasters. So what you're kind of saying is it's a story we don't know quite where it comes from, but it's a fanciful story.

Professor Jonathan Morris:It's a mythical story, but I'll tell you, what's fascinating about that story and why we have it. It has a lot of grains of the true story of the origins of coffee in it. It's just compressed them into one simple anecdote.

James Harper: Okay, Jonathan. So the Kaldi myth is supposed to explain, you know, how humanity discovered coffee, but of course it's a myth. So how did it actually happen?

Professor Jonathan Morris:So we've got this situation where basically coffee starts becoming traded across the Arabian straits. Now, why is it being traded? Because there is demand for the dried fruit of the coffee cherry to make a beverage, which is known as Qishr.Qishr is primarily made of the dried fruit, now often that dried fruit would probably contain a bit of bean, probably contains the beans as well because people aren't necessarily doing the separation.

James Harper: Let me just be clear about this. The cherries from these coffee trees that are in these mountainous forests, they take these cherries, they take the pips, they throw out the pips, they keep the red mushy stuff, they dry it and then sell it.

Professor Jonathan Morris:No, I'm not saying that they take the pips out. I'm saying they're dry the cherry hole.

James Harper: In the same way that today, you know, we might eat a watermelon and we can either swallow the pips or we take out the pips.

Professor Jonathan Morris:Yeah. And to be honest, you know, how much care do we take preparing the watermelon? That's really the issue.

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James Harper: And then it slowly moves East because geographically, Ethiopia it's near the horn of Africa.

Professor Jonathan Morris:That's right. Yeah.

James Harper: So it moves towards the coast

Professor Jonathan Morris: And there it's beginning to hit the trade routes.

James Harper: And it hits the trade routes.So tell me about the trade routes. Who's trading, what?

Professor Jonathan Morris: Essentially we have a whole such a trading costs, but probably the most dominant one is actually based in Gujarat and those are the called the Banians or the Banyans.

James Harper: What year is this?

Professor Jonathan Morris:About the fourteen hundreds, something like that.

James Harper: Okay.

Professor Jonathan Morris: And they are in effect, you know, you go from one port to another. And do you trade things in and out so you trade spices, you pick up commodities that you think you might be able to trade elsewhere and so forth. That then means that what's happening is as goods become popular. So the demand for them is created.

James Harper: Okay, I see. So these Gujarati traders are saying, we want more of this, get us more of this Qishr

Professor Jonathan Morris:Yeah.

James Harper: And out people go.

Professor Jonathan Morris:Exactly.

James Harper: So what are they bringing to the horn of Africa, what are they taking from the horn of Africa?

Professor Jonathan Morris: What are they taking from the horn of Africa? I would say they're taking mostly things. Yes. Like coffee, like dried goods, but really what they're bringing to Africa is spice.

James Harper: These good Gujarati traders,  they unload these boxes of Cardamom onto the  shores of Africa, and here they get the sacks of dried coffee, fruit, and then they put them into the hold of the ship. And then where do they take them?

Professor Jonathan Morris: And then they're probably going to take them across the red sea and land them over in Arabia Usually in Mokha.

James Harper: Okay. So Jonathan, I know that Qishr, you know, this tea, coffee, light drink is very popular amongst the Sufis around this time. But one thing I always wanted to know is actually who are the Sufis?

Professor Jonathan Morris:What they are, is a form of Islam, which is quite a spiritual form. And the reason that they want to use Qishr is because it helps them in their devotions, where they use mantras and so forth to get themselves almost into a transcendental state of communing, spiritually.It gives them the energy they need, because the thing about the Sufis is they are not a religious order. They are people who are working every day, ordinary people.

James Harper: Oh, I see.

Professor Jonathan Morris:So they are meeting to perform devotions to God outside of their normal lives, but then going back to their normal lives.So if they're going to perform a night ceremony, for example, well, they've got to have something to keep them awake, but give them the energy to get through it and get through into the next day. So this is where the Qishr comes in.

James Harper: Okay. So. I'm going to type into a cozier, the tree planting search engine.Sufis let's see what comes up.

Professor Jonathan Morris:Okay.

James Harper: It's essentially men wearing tall cylindrical hats, and they're all in white and they kind of spin around in circles with their arms outstretched.

Professor Jonathan Morris:Yeah, that's right.

James Harper: So I'm imagining in the middle of these ceremonies, it's say it's, you know, it's two o'clock in the morning.Sufis have been dancing for hours and then they get this cup of basically caffeinated drink, which is this Qishr.

Professor Jonathan Morris:Yeah.

James Harper: And, you know, get a gulp of this and you keep on going

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Professor Jonathan Morris: just to add for listeners who've have tried. Cascara. The tea made with the dried coffee fruit. That's probably as near to qishr as we've got, certainly when I tried that. So I don't know about you, James, but actually I find cascara is very energizing.

James Harper: Let's say we're talking about, you know, the 1400s, I'm imagining. Okay. Coffee trees growing in Ethiopia being picked, coffee fruit being dried and traded. Gujaratis take them to Yemen and they sell them to the Sufis who use them, you know, to stay awake during these long nights ceremonies. But at what point do we get coffee as I'm drinking right now?

Professor Jonathan Morris:So we kind of have qishr being the dominant thing as the beverage becomes popular, it moves outside religious cycles. It spreads up Arabia, as it spreads up. So we begin to get a beginning of a separation between using the dried fruit skin, which makes their classic qishr and using purely the dried beans. And that becomes known as, as Buna or later also known as qahwa. Now, mostly when it's being made on its way up the peninsula, they start doing a little bit of light roasting versus the stuff in a pan before you make the drink. But by the time it gets to Turkey as part of the capital of the Ottoman empire. By then, we're really concentrating on the bean alone, roasting the bean pretty dark. And by the time you have the descriptions of coffee in Turkey, it sounds like coffee today. Dark roasted, pulverized add the hot water, make a beverage that, you know, we know as one person calls you know the black enemy of sleep, because we've really blackened the beans

James Harper: So let me just be clear here. So as coffee is being dragged up the Arabian peninsula, you know, up into Turkey where. Is this coffee being grown?

Professor Jonathan Morris: The time that coffee arrives into Turkey is probably about the time that coffee begins to start being cultivated as a crop, not in Ethiopia, but in Yemen.

James Harper: In Yemen?

Professor Jonathan Morris: Yeah. In Yemen. From about the 1540s, 1550s, a whole network of getting the coffee from those peasants up in the mountains, down to the ports via a huge wholesale market in what we call Bayt al-Faqih, out to then the ports of Al-Hudaydah and Al-Makha.

James Harper: Wow. Now this is different from the cultivation of coffee in Ethiopia because their coffee grows wild under forest, right?

Professor Jonathan Morris:Correct.

James Harper: But this is the intentional planting of coffee for consumption.

Professor Jonathan Morris:This is a whole new level. This is coffee as a commercial crop.

James Harper: I think to our 21st century ears. So what. You grow coffee, you put it on a ship, you sell it in another market, but this is a big deal! Because this is the foundations of the modern supply chain.

Professor Jonathan Morris: This is absolutely the foundation to modern supply chain. And it indeed is the modern supply chain up until really gone the 1700s. So we're talking from, you know, from the 1550s to the 1700s. All the coffee that's commercially grown, is grown in Yemen and all the world's coffee is supplied from, as it were what to becomes known colloquially as Mokha, because what happens is that at all, whether it's coming out of Ethiopia, As, you know, dried fruits or whatever, or is coming out of Yemen, it's all going into a supply system that is run around that red coast, Indian ocean trading system.

James Harper: What you're saying is that Yemen. Is the Amazon distribution center of the day.

Professor Jonathan Morris:Yes, absolutely. Yeah.

James Harper: For coffee, least.

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James Harper: So Jonathan, we're talking about Yemen being the heart of coffee production, you know, in the 15 hundreds. I want to know what it tastes like. And actually what I've done is ground up some Yemeni coffee on my trustee Commandante.

Professor Jonathan Morris: I put it through the Sage grinder.

James Harper: I mean, it tastes fantastic. Okay. Like tropical fruits, butterscotch.

Professor Jonathan Morris:That's some combination. Isn't it?

James Harper: This particular coffee it's grown by this chap from Yemen called Hasan Al-Salool and it was roasted by friends of the show, a roastery called Dark Woods in the middle of England.

Professor Jonathan Morris: Yeah. Up in Huddersfield. I know them well.

James Harper: And what I want to know is what does coffee growing in Yemen actually look like?And so what I'm going to do, I'm going to type in the name of the village, where this coffee we're tasting right now came from, give me a sec…Obarat, Haraz.

Professor Jonathan Morris: Okay. What have you got James?

James Harper: Oh, wow. So I'm seeing this stone structure, maybe what, three stories. But if you zoom out on the town center, you see that it's perched right on top of a cliff top.

Professor Jonathan Morris: Oh wow!

James Harper: And there are these terraces where crops are growing kind of like Chinese rice patties, but you know, for no water, the green bushes growing on the horizontal bits, which I presume might be coffee.

Professor Jonathan Morris: Plunging down from the sky here. We're looking at that wonderful village overhead, and we'll be seeing flat roofs.And then we're diving down through cliff. There's no forest canopy here. We're just plummeting right down, straight onto little steps down the side of the mountain. That's where replanting the coffee bushes, possibly sometimes with a few bushes around them to give some kind of shade. But I mean, this is a totally different environment from our forest coffee of Ethiopia.

James Harper: I mean, where's the water?

Professor Jonathan Morris:Where's the water? the water isn't going to be there very often. You know, there is a rainy period and then we have this sort of sudden runoff of water. What they call the wadis, you know, these dry streams that become suddenly torrents of water as they plunged down.

James Harper: Extraordinary. And why were they growing coffee here?Were they drinking it themselves? Were they being forced to buy some kind of colonial oppressor?

Professor Jonathan Morris: They're growing because the people who govern the trade networks, who are mostly those Gujarati, Banyan type traders, they have financed a credit network that will in effect, enable these people to grow coffee as a cash crop that can be traded down all the way, literally down the mountain down.Out through many, many changes of hands until it reaches those ports of Mokha and Al-Hudaydah. So in effect, they are being integrated into a coffee supply chain.

James Harper: Right.

Professor Jonathan Morris: And that coffee supply chain has all those features of finance, of trading, of numerous intermediaries of shipping.

James Harper: So Jonathan, you know, I'm tasting this Yemeni coffee, I'm getting these extraordinary tropical notes, lushes and this is where it comes from. It might have even come from a terrace field, just like the one I'm looking at in this picture.

Professor Jonathan Morris: Yeah.

James Harper: But this is what it looks like today. It looked pretty old already. I mean, 500 years ago, back in the day when this was the coffee producing powerhouse of the world did look different.

Professor Jonathan Morris: No

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Professor Jonathan Morris: The basic scenery, the basic view of what you're saying now that is how coffee growing was and is.

James Harper: Okay, so here's Yemen and it's producing all this coffee. Where's it going? So it's going to coffee houses across the Arabian peninsula up in modern day Turkey?

Professor Jonathan Morris:Yeah, it's going that way. And it's going the other way. It's going out round the Gulf round, the Indian ocean, what would be Persia modern day, Iran, Iraq, et cetera.

James Harper: What would it be drank? Can you like paint for me a picture of the kind of establishment where it would be.

Professor Jonathan Morris: You have fantastic sort of coffee houses in the great capitals in Cairo and in what was then called Constantinople.

James Harper: Do we have images of those coffee houses?

Professor Jonathan Morris: Got images from about the 16th century, but mostly they're drawn by Europeans who've never actually been there, but are drawing.

James Harper: Okay. So let me get a cozier on the job. Let's see. Turkish coffee house 16th century…

Professor Jonathan Morris:Yeah. You will see actually an image that looks totally unlike a coffee house of today.

James Harper: Jonathan, I don't know what kind of coffee shops you frequent, but my coffee shops don't have indoor fountains, but it's extraordinary image.You have this kind of hanging lantern, these big glass windows, a lot of ornate stucco everywhere. In the corner of the room is a very opulent looking fireplace.

Professor Jonathan Morris:Exactly. And I suspect that's where sort of, if not roasting, certainly brewing is taking place. Probably some roasting will be done there as well.And we see also lined up, next to the fireplace, we see a lot of what we would regard as Ibriks

James Harper: Ah, this is the Turkish coffee brewing method. What's kind of remarkable about this image is this does look pretty similar to my local cafe.

Professor Jonathan Morris: Yeah.

James Harper: If you just, you know, change what they're wearing and change the opulence to like some hipster vibe

Professor Jonathan Morris: Yeah

James Harper: But the idea of people hanging out and chatting over a cup of coffee, this is it in a room.

Professor Jonathan Morris: Yeah. I mean, that is the business model that works.

James Harper: It works.

Professor Jonathan Morris: We've seen that over most of history that this business model done right is the one that works.

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James Harper: I just want to touch on this European centricity of evidence here.

Professor Jonathan Morris: Yeah.

James Harper: Because a lot of it seems to come from accounts by Europeans.

Professor Jonathan Morris: We have plenty of Arabic manuscripts. What we don't have is the imagery.

James Harper: Okay.

Professor Jonathan Morris: So the imagery is where we are generally using the sort of the European things where peoples have oral traditions rather than Britain traditions.Then again, we're very reliant on what Europeans, travelers can tell us about those traditions.

James Harper: So what does that mean in terms of, you know, the perspectives when it comes to telling the history of coffee?

Professor Jonathan Morris:So it means if you're a professional historian, as I am, then you are bound to be very critical and careful about your sources.

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James Harper: I'd like to jump back into Yemen. Okay. So here are these coffee houses and these Egyptian men are enjoying their Arabic style coffee, and that coffee is almost certainly from Yemen.

Professor Jonathan Morris: Yeah.

James Harper:  Now take me to the port of Mokha, the giant warehouse of global coffee at this point in time, who's running the trade?

Professor Jonathan Morris:Those Gujuratis who are organizing the tray are actually incredibly wealthy again. So there's ships that go to Mokha usually have on them a person who's not necessarily owner of the ship, but as the kind of the businessman in control, there are great ceremonies. When these people arrive and come, they dress up in fantastic outfits, they have five guns, so that it's fired off from the ports.

James Harper: Hold on. So are you saying that when a ship from the Gujarati traders sails into the port of Mokha in Yemen, they get a five gun salute. Why?

Professor Jonathan Morris: Because they're so important. These guys are bringing wealth and they're creating wealth from they're taking wealth and they need to be treated as honored guests.There's stuff about sort of, you know, some ships. If they only got three guns, wouldn't come in.

James Harper: Wow.

Professor Jonathan Morris:You know, they want the whole five gun or, you know, so that those are real, it’s absolutely true.

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James Harper: Paint for me. What does the port even look like? You said a five gun salute. Where are these cannons?

Professor Jonathan Morris:We have one image of Mokha, which again is  an image that is created from

James Harper: Let me guess, the Europeans interpretation?

Professor Jonathan Morris: a European interpretation. It's a Dutch interpretation.

James Harper: Let's have a look. So in the backdrop, you have these big, beautiful mountains along the shore, you have what looks like a lot of minarets, spires, forts, flags. And I see fortifications too?

Professor Jonathan Morris:Yeah, exactly.

James Harper: And then in the foreground, you have these very choppy waters and what, I don't know, a dozen or so ships sailing in?

Professor Jonathan Morris:This was a very, very, very prosperous port. Course they were protective and had fortifications. You know, these were places with a lot of gold.

James Harper: And I think you can see that because the minarets, I see minarets where I live in Berlin because I'm in a historically Turkish neighborhood, but these are much taller than them. These tower, what? It looks like 50 meters in the air

Professor Jonathan Morris:They certainly are now how, you know, whether that's realistic, there are all of those minarets I see. But it's not that exaggerated. So if you Google up some images of current day Mokha and you'll Google up merchant's house Mokha

James Harper: Let's do that right now.

Professor Jonathan Morris: Let's do it

James Harper: Yeah. Okay. M O K H A. Okay. So you have this building, which is not dissimilar to what looks like a Venetian palace, and it's sitting on sand slightly at an angle and it completely bought it up, but there are columns.

Professor Jonathan Morris:Exactly.

James Harper: Chiseled stone.

Professor Jonathan Morris:Yeah.

James Harper: Tell you what Jonathan, I wouldn't mind living in a house like that

Professor Jonathan Morris: I would be very happy to live in a house like that. So this would belong to the kind of people who were the import-export in actions. These are people who are well off, to be blunt, but it gives you a sense of what the prosperity of Mokha was.

James Harper: The rich port.But Jonathan, I know that today, the port of our Mokha looks rather different. Let me just quickly search this in a cozier to Jonathan I can count maybe six rusty fishing vessels.

Professor Jonathan Morris:Yeah.

James Harper: A few containers, and not a lot going on

Professor Jonathan Morris:Very little going on.

James Harper: It's such a far cry from the prosperity and the wealth and the busy-ness of that previous image.Okay. So let's freeze frame in 1600.

Professor Jonathan Morris:Okay.

James Harper: So if you were in Egypt at that time, if you're in Turkey, when you went to your coffee house and you took a sip that was grown by a Yemeni farmer

Professor Jonathan Morris:Almost certainly.

James Harper: Today, when we pick up a coffee, a generic coffee, say down in our local cafe, what is the chance that that coffee is from Yemen?

Professor Jonathan Morris: No point, no, not 1%. I should think.

James Harper: Wow. That's almost a rounding error. That is a rounding error

Professor Jonathan Morris: I effect. For many years, it has been treated as a rounding error.

James Harper: So what shifted to make that the case? How did Yemen go from this point of total coffee producing dominance to being a rounding error?

Professor Jonathan Morris: There are two reasons James. One is the terrain or the state. There's just a very limited amounts of land that could be used for growing coffees. One of the things that really frustrated coffee traders was it's actually very difficult to get a lot of coffee out of Yemen.

James Harper: Right.

Professor Jonathan Morris: So there were stories of people who went to Mokha, and tie up their ship and they would take months, maybe years to acquire enough coffee to fill the ship. Yeah, because this is really difficult to do because there's only so much coffee around. It's very rare that we see Yemeni coffee. And again, you know, this coffee that we're drinking, it's fantastic that we've actually just got it because of course the political situation in Yemen is such that it's highly disruptive to trade.And in fact, if we think about it now, or the coffee areas that we talk about, so we've been talking about Mokha, Al-Hudayday, Sana, the coffee, growing areas. These are all currently under Houti control within the context of the current civil war in Yemen. So it's incredibly difficult for people to actually trade normally when you have a civil war going on, and there have been innumerable conflicts over the years in Yemen, between all kinds of parties frequently, basically a set of proxy wars between two powers, which is just what we have going on right now.

James Harper: Yes. Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Professor Jonathan Morris: Exactly, yes.

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James Harper: And all the while the coffee sits there on the mountain slope growing, like it has done for hundreds and hundreds of years.So for over a hundred years, Yemen is thiscoffee growing powerhouse, and it's being shipped across the world mostly by Arabic and Gujarati traders and the Ottomans who dominate the peninsula at the time, I'm making a lot of money out of this. They made sure that the coffees were so dried out that you couldn't grow coffee from the beans.

Professor Jonathan Morris:Yeah. soon afterwards followed by the French, etcetera, etcetera.

James Harper: So how was that stranglehold broken? Who broke it?

Professor Jonathan Morris:Ultimately by the Dutch, there's a guy called Nicholas Witson who manages to get hold of some coffee seedlings, which he takes to Java, and that shortly soon afterwards followed by the French, etcetera, etcetera.

James Harper: And a lot of colonization

Professor Jonathan Morris:A lot of colonization coffee becomes a colonial product, basically colonial good

James Harper: It ashes in the use of forced labor in the production of this drink and the deaths of many people

Professor Jonathan Morris: As we go into that next phase I think where people refer to coffee as having a dark history, this is where the dark history is really. Comes to the fall. We'll see the spread of coffee around the world being accompanied by significant problems that go way beyond the problems of economic inequality, but go to the hearts of freedom and the hearts of what we have done in the name of commodity production.

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James Harper: And that is what we'll cover in the next episode.But before we get to the next episode, I dohave one final question. Jonathan, just taking a step back here. Coffee was growing in Ethiopia wild for thousands of years.And here you have Yemen trading with the Gujaratis, trading with the Dutch. And it just seems like a lot of activity, a lot of big power play happening by the big powers at the time. Meanwhile, over in Ethiopia, like what's going on? Is coffee still important in Ethiopian society?

Professor Jonathan Morris: Let's go back to that cloud forest.So Kaffa is a kingdom. It's its own kingdom. It has its own sort of set of religions and so forth. So people in Kaffa, when they grow and pick the coffee, they will often make some kind of sacrifice to the coffee or something to acknowledge the forest spirits that look after the coffee. So they might, when they drink coffee, pour a little bit of coffee onto the ground as a way of sort of acknowledging that it came from the ground.Sometimes when they go and harvest, they will sacrifice something like a chicken, but there's story about Kaffa that really brings this hype, and that is about in 1890, the burial of the last independent King of Kaffa. When the King dies, he sees remains to take him to the forest for burial and within buried the things that he will need in his afterlife and into his grave, well, They put various things. They take a slave and I'm afraid they slaughter the slave, a boy, and put the slave into the grave, they also put in coffee and coffee cups.And that sort of somehow sums up the centrality of coffee in Kaffa. That is what's going on back in Ethiopia.

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James Harper: Wow. So much history bundled into such a simple drink.

Professor Jonathan Morris:You know, the great thing. If I could say, as a finishing thought, James is, you know, to anyone listening to this podcast, try Ethiopian coffee, try Yemeni coffee, because that is drinking your original coffee that is drinking coffee history.

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Professor Jonathan Morris: So, thank you for listening for a history of coffee, the first episode in our podcast series.

James Harper: And if you click subscribe, you'll also automatically download the second batch of episodes when they drop in a couple of weeks.

Professor Jonathan Morris:But you know, there are so many greatstories we didn't actually have time to cover James. The really good news is that we're going to appear at the barista leads, High Density virtual free conference, something for our basically coffee people, but anybody interested in coffee.

James Harper: So we are going to be exploring coffee myths. And of course we already mentioned one of them. Kaldi's.

Professor Jonathan Morris:  Yeah

James Harper: But there are a few others too.If you are in the specialty coffee world, you're very familiar of the waves. So it will be, uh, disentangling, let's say that myth

Professor Jonathan Morris: I’m looking forward to that

James Harper: The myth. There's also the myth around Baba Budan and his seven seeds, which comes up in the next episode. So in the next time your barista says something to you around the origins of coffee, you may actually be in a more informed place.

Professor JonathanMorris:That's true. And if you are a barista, the reverse applies, you can educate your customers.

James Harper: There we go.

Professor Jonathan Morris:James, we've put up some illustrations as well. You've described some of the scenery that we've been looking at. We've been flying over places, but you know, for those of you who really want to get a true sense of it on my Instagram feed and my Twitter feed, which is @coffeehistoryjm, I'm posting images from Ethiopia, which kind of been given to me by Colin Smith of coffee origin trips, including ones of tributes to Kaldi. And I believe you’ve some stuff up to.

James Harper: Yean, on my Instagram, which is @filterstoriespodcast, you know, this beautiful coffee terraces in Yemen.

Professor Jonathan Morris:Yeah. The white houses and the flat roofs. Yeah.

James Harper: So I’ll be putting some of those images on my Instagram, so you can see what coffee growing looked like in the past, and frankly still looks like in Yemen.

Professor Jonathan Morris:I already, of course, have up on my sites are linked to Coffee, a global history, my book

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James Harper: Now this podcast was produced by myself and you, Jonathan. I wrote and played the piano music. And if you liked the show and you want to help others find the show, the best thing you can do, obviously tell a friend and also leave a review on Apple Podcasts.

Professor Jonathan Morris: Well, there we go. Looking forward to you downloading the next episode.Don't forget to press that subscribe button and we will speak again then.

James Harper: Catch with the next episode.

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