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Grow Your Own Coffee - History of Coffee In the New World

I’m personally not a coffee drinker, but whenever I see someone with a cup of coffee I am reminded of my Grama Daisy, who loved coffee so much that she flavored a lot of other foods with coffee. I’m talking about homemade coffee flavored ice cream, coffee flavored cookies, and even coffee flavored icing on cakes.

So to honor her I grow a few coffee plants and have always figured if the modern world ends as we know it, growing your own tea and coffee makes sense.  I've always found that for me a big part of enjoying any garden, including my own, has to do with the facinating history behind many plants.

Thinking about coffee, always leads me to thinking about goats because the curiosity of goats supposedly had a lot to do with the discovery of coffee. Gram’s version of the well-known Kaldi Coffee legend, complete with dancing goats, was a little bit different than the original story.

Coffee Plant

Coffee Plant

Coffee History

In the third century,some monks who had fled from oppression, had taken refuge in the highlands of Ethiopia, across the Red from modern Saudi Arabia. There, they sustained themselves by raising goats, sheep, and crops. One night one of the monks came running into the monastery, ashen and shaky.

“The animals are bewitched!” he gasped breathlessly. “They are running around like it was a spring morning.”

“Peace my son, perhaps you fell asleep and were having a dream” his fellow monk told him. “I’ll go back and tend to the herd.”

However, the second monk found both the goats and sheep running around in the moonlight, instead of sleeping. For many nights afterwards, this odd behavior continued. Concerned the monks prayed and even performed exorcisms. Then, one of the monks saw a goat chewing on the leaves and the fruit of an unfamiliar shrub that grew wild in vast numbers.

Picking some of the ripe cherry-like fruits, he chewed the seeds, and found that he too felt unusual energy and couldn’t sleep no matter how he tried. Thus, coffee was discovered.

Coffee Beans

Coffee Beans

Of course, this is one of the many legends handed down about the discovery of coffee, but like other legends it is rooted in fact, this is where the shrub we now know as coffee originated. It is also a historical fact that by the fifteenth century, pilgrims to Mecca used to drink a tea of roasted coffee bean to keep them from falling asleep during the long religious services of the Muslim faith..

From that part of the world, coffee was carried to Constantinople, to Venice, and then to England, France, and other European countries. Coffee houses soon started appearing with the rich and famous (and their wanna-be fan club hopeful members) being first in line as they always are. The first coffee house is believed to have been in London in 1652.

By 1675, these places were so popular that even King Charles II tried to get rid of them because he considered them “seminaries of sedition.” Meanwhile, over in Paris, these establishments were so popular that the common name, “café” is the French word for “coffee” or “coffee house

Ripe coffee fruits

Ripe coffee fruits

Grow Your Own Coffee

If you want to grow your own coffee and don’t live in a country where coffee is produced and fresh coffee fruits are available – there are a few things you can do to start your own coffee plant to insure success:

First:  Buy green coffee cherries online, remembering that coffee is a very slow germinator, depending upon the freshness of the coffee seed.  Freshest seeds will germinate in approximately four months, older seeds can take up to six months to germinate.

Second:  Remember that as with many slow germinating seeds it is best to soak them for about a day prior to planting them.

Third:  Plant your coffee seed in vermiculite (I usually mix in about ¼ cup of fine sand), mixed with bone meal, cow manure, and dried blood.  You plant the seed by laying it flat side down and be careful not only lightly cover with soil.

Fourth:  Until the coffee seed is germinated you will need to additionally do two other things:

Fifth:  Cover the soil with a fine layer of straw (or cut and mulched grass clippings);

Sixth:  Water EVERYDAY keeping moist but also being careful to not overwater.

Container grown coffee plant

Container grown coffee plant

The perfect place, especially in warmer climates to grow your coffee plant is in a container.  The coffee plant makes a showy attractive plant for indoor or patio use.  

Growing Coffee Is An Exercise In Patience – Or Why Coffee Costs So Much

You can expect that it will be at least six or seven years before your coffee plant (technically a tropical ever-green shrub) matures enough to produce flowers and then the resulting coffee beans.  Also, once your coffee plant is germinated it will require a good bit of tender loving care before you ever get a cup of coffee from your plant.  As the plant grows, I switch my soil to a cactus mix, simply because they drain well.  As it grows you will need to transplant it into successively larger plants.  Always remember to water thoroughly but at the same time to make sure that after watering that the plant is drained completely as this is one species of plant that does not like to have its roots wet.


The Right Place to Grow Your Coffee Plant

Coffee plants are tropical plants in nature.  If you don’t live in a tropical climate or even if you do, they do best as a container plant.  Even here in Florida, I grow mine indoors in containers and because they are large, I have them on low rollers – bringing them in during the winter and out on the patio during the summer.  Indoors keep them near a window or under florescent bulbs. I feed mine 10-10-10 liquid fertilizer every two weeks from spring to fall, but not during the winter.

If You'd Like To Know More About Growing Coffee