In honour of our ‘No Coffee, No Workee’ t-shirt here are a few facts that you might not know about everybody’s (ok, maybe not absolutely everybody but most of us like it don’t we?) caffeine-powered beverage –
1. Goatherds in 6th Century Abyssinia (now Ethopia) noticed that their goats got livelier when they ate the berries from the coffee plant. Pretty soon the goatherds were eating the same berries to stay awake during their long working hours. It sounds funny, but we really hope that it’s true.
2. Another (and some might say more credible) account of coffee’s origins concerns Sheik Omar, who whilst exiled from Yemen to a desert cave near Ousab chewed coffee berries from nearby shrubbery in an attempt to stave off hunger. Finding them to be bitter he tried roasting them in a hope to improve the flavour; he then tried boiling them to soften the seed – after drinking the resulting liquid Omar was revitalized, and when stories of this ‘miracle drug’ reached Mocha he was asked to return to Yemen where he was made a saint.
3. By the middle of the 15th Century Sufi monks were drinking coffee to stay awake and prey. Soon the first coffee houses began to appear in Arabia, but Muslim sects objected and The Governor Of Mecca closed down the coffee houses and outlawed coffee drinking.
4. Meanwhile in Turkey a woman could divorce her husband if she thought he wasn’t providing her with enough coffee. We’ll leave you to do your own punchline on that one… but with Arab nations attempting to stop beans being exported so that they could keep a monopoly on coffee a pilgrim called Baba Budan smuggled seven beans out of India, and Pope Clement VIII baptised a cup of coffee to ‘make it a truly Christian beverage’.
5. And then there’s the somewhat bizarre tale of what’s sometimes referred to as ‘The Swedish Coffee Experiment’. With the drink becoming more and more fashionable among the country’s wealthier citizens King Gustav III of Sweden decided that this was a danger to public health and issued a statement against what he called ‘the misuse and excesses of tea and coffee drinking’ in 1746. He introduced taxes and the confiscation of cups followed by an outright ban, then ordered a rather peculiar experiment involving two identical twins that had been tried, found guilty and condemned to death – he commuted their sentences to life imprisonment provided one drank three pots of coffee every day and the other drank the equivalent amount of tea. He ordered two of his doctors to observe the effect of the drinks on the twins – not only did both of them die before the twins but Gustav was assasinated in 1792, meaning that he didn’t live to see that the tea-drinking twin died first aged 83. Ironically Sweden is now one of the top ten highest coffee-consuming nations in the World.
6. The first Espresso machine was the Tipo Gigante, invented in 1901 by an Italian factory owner as a way of speeding up his employees’ coffee breaks It used a combination of steam and boiling water forced through ground coffee to make a cup of coffee quicker than any other method in use at that time.
7. In 1964 74,000 members of the United Auto Workers Union threatened to come out on strike unless The Chrysler Corporation agreed to them having a 12 minute coffee break every day.
And in 2013 Balcony Shirts produced this very cool retro-styled ‘No Coffee No Workee’ t-shirt :-