Coffea arabica Linn. Rubiaceae. Coffee.
Arabia and African tropics. This shrub is found wild in Abyssinia and in the Sudan where it forms forests. It is mentioned as seen from the mid-Niger to Sierra Leone and from the west coast to Monrovia. In the territory west of Braganza, says Livingstone, wild coffee is abundant, and the people even make their huts of coffee trees. On or about the equator, says Grant, the m'wanee, or coffee, is cultivated in considerable quantities but the berry is eaten raw as a stimulant, never drunk in an infusion by the Wanyambo. The Ugundi, says Long, never make a decoction of coffee but chew the grain raw; this is a general custom. The Unyoro, says Burton, have a plantation of coffee about almost every hut door. According to the Arabian tradition, says Krapf, the civet-cat brought the coffee-bean to the mountains of the Arusi and Ilta-Gallas, where it grew and was long cultivated, until an enterprising merchant carried the coffee plant, five hundred years ago, to Arabia where it soon became acclimated.
About the fifteenth century, writes Phillips, the use of coffee appears to have been introduced from Persia to Aden on the Red Sea. It was progressively used at Mecca, Medina, and Cairo; hence it continued its progress to Damascus and Aleppo. From these two places, it was introduced into Constantinople in the year 1554. Rauwolf, who was in the Levant in 1573, was the first European author who made any mention of coffee, but the first who has particularly described it, is Prosper Alpinus, 1591, and 1592. The Venetians seem to be the next who used coffee. This beverage was noticed by two English travellers at the beginning of the seventeenth century, Biddulph about 1603 and William Finch in 1607. Lord Bacon mentions it in 1624. M. Thevenot taught the French to drink coffee on his return from the East in 1657. It was fashionable and more widely known in Paris in 1669. Coffee is said to have been first brought to England in 1641, but Evelyn says in his diary, 1637. It was first publicly known in London in 1652. According to other accounts, the custom of drinking coffee originated with the Abyssinians, by whom the plant had been cultivated from time immemorial, and was introduced to Aden in the early part of the fifteenth century, whence its use gradually extended over Arabia.
Towards the end of the seventeenth century, the Dutch transported the plant to Batavia, and thence a plant was sent to the botanic gardens at Amsterdam, where it was propagated, and in 1714 a tree was presented to Louis XIV. A tree was imported into the Isle of Bourbon in 1720. One account asserts that the French introduced it to Martinique in 1717 and another states that the Dutch had previously taken it to Surinam. It reached Jamaica in 1728. It seems certain that we are indebted to the progeny of a single plant for all the coffee now imported from Brazil and the West Indies. It was introduced to Celebes in 1822. In Java and Sumatra, the leaves of the coffee plant are used as a substitute for coffee. In 1879, four trees were known to have been grown and successfully fruited in Florida.
Coffea liberica Hiern. Liberian Coffee.
Tropical Africa. This seems to be a distinct species, which furnishes the Liberian coffee. It was received in Trinidad from Kew Gardens, England, in 1875.
Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World, 1919, was edited by U. P. Hedrick.