Two-thirds of the world's coffee beans are of the Arabica variety, which originated in Abyssinia (modern day Ethiopia). Legend has it that around the 6th century, an Abyssinian goat herder named Khalid noticed that his flock seemed particularly lively after eating some red berries and green leaves that were growing on nearby bushes. Thinking it odd, Khalid sampled some of the berries himself, and soon he too was full of energy.
Khalid would later introduce the berries to monks at a nearby monastery, who began boiling them in water. They discovered that drinking the magical elixir gave them a renewed sense of clarity and helped them to avoid falling asleep during prayers! As the story goes, word of the monks who never slept soon spread throughout the country, giving rise to one of today's most popular beverages.
Coffee made its way to Japan in the Edo Period, when a traveler from the Netherlands brought some to the Dutch trading post Dejima Island in Nagasaki Bay. Official imports began in 1858 under the Japan-US Treaty of Amity and Commerce. In 1911, a coffee house called "Café Paulista" was opened in Ginza, offering the beverage at the extraordinary price of just five sen per cup (five hundredths of a yen). The café soon became immensely popular, counting notable figures like Kan Kikuchi and Haruo Sato among its regular customers. In fact, drinking Brazilian coffee at Ginza Paulista is thought by some to explain the origin of the popular expression Gin-bura in Japanese, which means to stroll about the Ginza area. Bura-bura means "to take a leisurely stroll", but bura is also part of burajiru (the Japanese pronunciation of Brazil). Today Japan imports coffee beans from more than 40 nations, and is the world's fourth largest coffee consumer.
The coffee year, as established by the International Coffee Organization, begins in October. It is the perfect time to relax over the rich aroma of our favorite brews, as we reflect on the origins and history of this amazing beverage.
Mitsubishi Corporation purchases coffee beans from many nations, including Brazil (the world's largest coffee producer), Colombia, Guatemala, Vietnam, and Ethiopia. In Brazil, we carefully select the beans ourselves before exporting them to places like Japan, Europe, and the US. In 2012, we invested in Brazil's Ipanema Coffees, one of the world's largest coffee farms. Ipanema's plantations are stringently managed in terms of agricultural chemicals and practices, working conditions, and social and environmental impact. The company's coffees have been certified by many western organizations.
Article appeared in Asahi Shimbun's "GLOBE" feature of November 21, 2012