A sip of coffee history

Take a break; be a part of history

Perhaps it is the slow coming of spring and my need for a bit of extra warmth, but I have been thinking a lot about coffee lately.

With my ever-curious brain and its search for more trivia, that led me to thinking about the whole psychology that goes with our coffee culture. Why has a simple beverage become a ritual for us, an intrinsic part of our every-day life?

Even people who don’t partake, know the steps in the coffee ritual, and the places that support such rites are now rife with adaptations for these non-believers. No one wants to be left out, after all.

Thanks to Oprah, you can visit Starbucks and be caffeine-free.

Did you know that the discovery of coffee apparently gets credited to an Ethiopian shepherd who lost his sheep and later found them dancing around a red cherry bush? The bush was a coffee plant, and when he tried the red cherries (unroasted coffee beans) he began to dance around the bush too.

He recounted the story to the local monks and they told him they make a drink from the beans As you can see, celebration was obviously an early part of the coffee ritual.

The first coffee shop opened in Constantinople in 1475, and in those days coffee was so important to the people that a woman could legally divorce her husband if he did not provide her with her daily quota of coffee. (Now doesn’t that make an interesting Timmy’s commercial.)

When Pope Clemente VIII was asked to place a ban on coffee drinking, he refused saying, "This beverage is so delicious, it would be a sin to let only misbelievers drink it!"

There is much research and documentation to prove the relationship coffee has had to the development of our culture. Bach wrote a Coffee Cantata. Many a politician and literary personality developed their craft in coffee houses around the world.

The Boston Tea Party made drinking coffee a very patriotic thing to do in the new United States. You can consider yourself in good company the next time you sit and sip your grande, non-fat latte.

Coffee is, however, not the only way to enjoy a peaceful break. If you are not a coffee fan, do not dismay. I don’t want you to feel like you cannot be a part of history as well.

Consider another trend that has created a culture around itself, that all familiar treat – ice cream. It too, has existed since somewhere in the second century B.C. although there is no record of the inventor.

We do know that personages such as Alexander the Great, King Solomon and Emperor Nero were all fond of iced concoctions reminiscent of today’s treat.

Marco Polo is credited with the somewhat modern version of sherbet and then advancements allowed for the adaptations with cream. It was a delicacy that was mostly reserved for the rich, as storing frozen goods was no mean feat in the days before refrigeration.

It was not until the 1800s that insulated ice houses became the start of an industry in America. (A few years before, President George Washington spent the tidy sum of $200 on ice cream consumption one summer. Perhaps he invested in ice houses.)

During the Second World War, ice cream was a symbol of America’s prowess — the armed forces took great pride in being able to serve it to the troops, with the piece de resistance being a floating ice cream parlour the Navy built in the South Pacific.

When the war was won, Americans celebrated by eating ice cream: they consumed 20 quarts of the stuff per person in 1946.

Nowadays, as with most things, ice cream has become an expanded concept. It can now include soy or rice milk products. You can have it scooped, or blended with bits of extra stuff. You can even have it as mini melts, tiny balls that are flash frozen, which apparently seals in more flavour to every mouthful.

Perhaps that is the way to bridge the gaps we have in our world, to bring generations and cultures closer together over a cup of half-caff extra hot caramel latte or a cup of mini melts.

There is long tradition in sharing ideas while taking a break from the hectic pace of every-day life, and we all certainly deserve a break, don’t we?

Maybe we won’t solve the problems of the world, but at least we can say we enjoyed ourselves for a moment or two.

There are lots of great coffee shops and ice cream salons in Kelowna and surrounding areas. You could even make it a goal to try all of them.

 One of our favourite places, where they serve coffee and ice cream, is GioBean, next to the Delta Grand Okanagan on Water Street.

If you’d like to try the taste of ice cream or coffee at home, here’s a fun recipe courtesy of my hubby. This coffee-infused crème brulée recipe can be made as usual, or if you take the custard and put it in an ice cream maker, you have coffee ice cream.

Bon Appetit!

More Happy Gourmand articles

About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."


E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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