Coffee is a fruit and out of its seed comes a dark and bitter drink. It is contradictory to talk about coffee in a majority tea loving nation particularly where our local chai necessitates lots of sugar and milk, and an inherent dislike for things appearing bitter. However, the human palate is ever evolving and like human behavior and culture is always being recreated. This is not always by choice. The politics of taste is complex. Coffee and tea are commodities, power and resources determine how, when and where they are spread. It is at this intersection of the history of culture, trade and politics that I would like to complicate the observed emergence of a coffee culture in Pakistan and its staggered history in the Indian subcontinent. In this series on Origins of Coffee in Pakistan we will look at the past, present and even the future of coffee in Pakistan. How coffee came to India Watercolour, A Turkish Coffee-House, Constantinople, 1854, by Amadeo, 5th Count Preziosi By the middle of the 20th century, coffee drinking had spread to the rest of the Middle East, Persia, Turkey and North Africa. During the 15th century, coffee had attained the status of such a prized commodity in the Arabian Peninsula that it was not permitted take coffee beans outside. Beans allowed for export out of the region had to be roasted and sterile, not permitting any seeds to be exported for growing coffee plants. Even the Mughal rulers of India initially exported roasted coffee from this region. The enchanting story of a wandering Sufi mystic Baba Budan is how coffee traces its passage into India. Baba Budan was from Chikkamagalur in present-day Karnataka and he lived in a cave on a hill. The Baba was revered by Hindus and Muslims alike. In one of his pilgrimage journeys to Mecca, Baba Budan brough back seven sterile, raw coffee seeds from the port of Mocha in Yemen hidden in his flowing robes or other sources mention his beard. As he reached India, he planted the seeds on the slopes of the Chandragiri hills, near the caves where he and his followers had settled. Today, coffee is still grown in these hills and the area is known as ‘Baba Budangiri’ also the site of the saint’s tomb. Baba Budangiri, Karnataka, India. The first reference to the consumption of coffee in India comes from the work of Reverend Edward Terry in the court of Emperor Jehangir in 1616. Rev Terry was the chaplain to Sir Thomas Roe, King James’ Ambassador at Jehangir’s court. Terry provides the first detailed account of the usage of coffee in India. He writes: “Many of the people there (in India), who are strict in their religion, drink no wine at all; but they use a liquor more wholesome than pleasant, they call Coffee; made by a black Seed boyld in water, which turns it almost into the same colour, but doth very little alter the taste of the water: notwithstanding it is very good to help digestion, to quicken the spirits, and to cleanse the blood.”Rev. Edward Terry, in the court of Emperor Jehangir (1616). Edward Terry Journal 1655 1777 However, the rise of commercial cultivation of coffee in India took another 200 years after Rev. Terry’s commentary. By the 17th century, coffee had become a popular drink among upper-class Indians. It was an important part of everyday life in many Mughal cities where coffee was served in public spaces called qahwahkhanas that served as centers of socialization, entertainment, and intellectual exchange. A coffee party after parade at a military station in India, including Herbert Edwardes and James Brind,Coloured lithograph. Unfortunately, with the decline in Mughal power, and the rise of the British, who were primarily tea drinkers, the coffee culture of Mughal India collapsed. French and Dutch traders began dominating the global coffee trade and the English focused on expanding tea plantation and exports in the colonies. Globally, however, European traders, colonization and Columbus exchange continued the spread of coffee around the corners of the world including South America, Indonesia, Africa and so forth. The most important lesson from early part of coffee’s history in colonial India is that trade drove taste and culture. The exigencies of the British East Indian Company influenced how tea and coffee was commercialized and for who. India Coffee House Stuart Freedman, The Indian Coffee House, Kollam (now closed), 2013, C-type print Courtesy Tasveer Coffee houses in modern India date from around 1936. A government body setup up the India Coffee House to promote the sale and consumption of Indian coffee at home and abroad. The first Indian Coffee outlet was opened on Churchgate street in Bombay on 28th September 1936. At its zenith, the chain operated 72 outlets across India and essentially introduced the coffee habit to the tea-drinking north of the country popularizing coffee houses as places of intelligence exchange, entertainment and socialization. Did Pakistan inherit any of the India Coffee Houses? Did any one of our cities have a coffee culture around the mid-20th century like other cities of India and did we inherit these after 1947 Partition? Follow us and find out more about what was happening in coffee in Pakistan after 1947 in the second part of our series ‘Origins of Coffee in Pakistan’.