Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Coffee, named from Caffa, one of the provinces of Abyssinia, of which the original coffee-shrub is a native, is the horny seed of shrubs belonging to the rubiaceous genus Coffea. They are shrubs or small trees of the tropics, with opposite glossy leaves, small sessile white flowers, and berry-like bi-carpellate fruits, resembling red cherries. The pulp and a parchment-like covering having been removed, the seeds or "beans," of which there are two in each fruit, are roasted, by which process a fragrant oil is produced. Coffea arabica was introduced from Abyssinia into Arabia early in the fifteenth century by Sheikh Djemaleddin-Ebn-Abou-Alfagger, and its use, in spite of opposition, soon became general. It reached Constantinople in the middle of the sixteenth century, and the first coffeehouse in London was opened in 1652, The plant is now cultivated throughout the tropics, and we receive more from Central America than from any other country. The consumption of coffee in England has diminished from 1.23 lbs. per head in 1860 to .82 lb. in 1890. This is partly due to the ravages of the coffee-leaf fungus (Hemileia vastatrix) in Ceylon, and of the moth (Cemiostoma cofeellum) in Dominica. Coffea liberica, a native of west equatorial Africa, is somewhat more robust than C. arabica, and since its introduction in 1876 has extensively replaced it. Coffee has a stimulant effect upon the circulatory and nervous systems owing to an aromatic oil and the alkaloid caffeine which it contains. The latter substance, closely identical with the theine in tea, occurs also in the leaves of the coffee-shrub, and in Sumatra they are infused instead of the berries. Chicory, acorns, and parsnips are among the common cheap adulterants of ground coffee. Imitation coffee-beans are manufactured from compressed meal in the United States, and a company was floated in England a few years ago for the preparation of coffee from date-stones.