HE plant that produces coffee is called the
coffee-tree. This is in reality little more than a
shrub, bearing some resemblance to a small pear-tree in
its rounded top and bushy branches. Its leaves are oval
and shiny; its blossoms, which resemble those of the
jasmine and have a sweet smell, are grouped in small
bunches in the axils of the leaves. These blossoms are
succeeded by berries, first red and then black, having
the appearance of our cherries, but with very short
stems and crowded close together. Their pulp is insipid
and sweetish, enclosing two hard seeds, round on one
side, flat on the other, and united by their flat
sides. These seeds are the so-called coffee-beans which
we use after roasting them in a sheet-iron cylinder
revolving over the fire. In color they are half-way
between white and green, but turn to a chestnut hue in
FRUITING BRANCH OF COFFEE PLANT
"The coffee-tree can thrive only in very warm
countries. It is indigenous to Abyssinia, where it
 grows abundantly, especially in the province of Kaffa,
from which it seems to have taken its name. In the
fifteenth century the coffee-tree was introduced from
Abyssinia into Arabia, and it is there that the plant
has found a climate most favorable for the development
of its peculiar properties. Indeed, the most highly
prized coffee comes to us from the southern provinces
of Arabia, especially from the neighborhood of Mocha."
"Then," said Marie, "when we speak of a coffee of
superior quality as Mocha, we give it the name of the
town that furnishes the best."
"Precisely. Look at the map and you will find Mocha
very near the southern end of Arabia, at the entrance
to the Red Sea. It is in this corner of the earth,
under a burning sun, that the most highly esteemed
"The Dutch were the first Europeans to turn their
attention to coffee; they introduced it into their East
Indian colonies, notably Batavia, whence a few young
trees were sent to Amsterdam to be cultivated in
hot-houses, as the climate of Holland would by no means
ensure the thriving of this warmth-loving shrub in the
"One of these young trees was given to the Botanical
Garden of Paris, where care was taken to multiply it
under glass, and one of the plants thus obtained was
given to Déclieux, who started for one of our colonies,
Martinique, with his little coffee-tree rooted in a
pot. Never, perhaps, has the prosperity of a country
had so humble a beginning: this feeble coffee-plant,
which a sunbeam might have dried up on the
 way, was to be for Martinique and the other Antilles
the source of incalculable riches.
"During the journey, which was prolonged and made
difficult by contrary winds, fresh water ran short and
the crew was put on the most meager rations. Déclieux,
like the others, had only one glass of water a day,
just enough to keep him from dying of thirst. The young
coffee-tree, however, needed frequent watering in that
extremely hot climate. But how water it when thirst
devours you and every drop of water is counted?
Déclieux did not hesitate to devote his own scanty
allowance to the needs of his charge, one day giving
the whole glass, and the next going shares with it,
preferring to suffer the most painful of privations in
order to reach his destination with the young
coffee-tree in good condition. And this satisfaction
was not denied him. Today Martinique, Guadeloupe, Santo
Domingo, and most of the other Antilles are covered
with rich coffee plantations, all owing their origin to
the feeble plant imported by Déclieux."
"That plucky traveler is a man to be admired," declared
Jules, "and every time I drink coffee I shall think of
him and what he did."
"Nothing in our part of the world can compare in beauty
with an orchard of coffee-trees bearing simultaneously
as they do, throughout most of the year, leaves of a
lustrous green, white blossoms, and red berries,
vegetation in those sun-favored regions knowing
scarcely a moment's repose. Over the perfumed tops of
the trees hover butterflies whose wings, as large as
both hands, astonish one with the
magnifi-  cence of their coloring. In the forks of the topmost
branches the humming-bird, a living jewel, builds its
nest of cotton, half the size of an apricot. On the
bark of old tree-trunks great beetles shine with more
radiant splendor than the precious metals. In an
atmosphere laden with sweet odors negroes carrying
baskets on their arms go through the plantations from
one coffee-tree to another, carefully gathering the
ripe berries one by one so as not to disturb those that
are still green. Scarcely is this harvest gathered when
other berries redden, and then still others, while
fresh buds form and new blossoms open.
"The coffee-berries, or cherries, as they are called,
are passed through a kind of mill which crushes and
removes the pulp without touching the seeds. Then these
are exposed to the sun. Every evening, to protect them
from the dew, they are piled in a heap and covered with
large leaves, to be spread out again the next morning.
When the drying process is finished they are winnowed,
the spoiled seeds rejected, and the harvest is ready
"After that," said Claire, "the coffee only has to be
roasted and ground and it is ready for use. Does any
one know who was the first to use it?"
"According to a tradition current in the East, the use
of coffee goes back to a certain pious dervish who,
wishing to prolong his meditations through the night,
invoked Mohammed and prayed to be delivered from the
need of sleep."
"A pious dervish, did you say?" Emile interposed. "I
don't know what a dervish is."
"It is the name given in Oriental religions to
cer-  tain men who renounce the world and devote themselves
to prayer and contemplation."
"Mohammed is a celebrated character who about twelve
centuries ago founded in Arabia a religion that has now
spread over a great part of the world, especially in
Asia and Africa. This religion is called Mohammedanism
or Islamism, and Mohammed is often designated by the
title of Prophet.
"To return to the dervish who wished not to sleep that
he might have so much the more time for prayer and
meditation, he addressed his petition to Mohammed, and
the Prophet appeared to him in a dream, advising him to
go in quest of a certain shepherd. This man told the
dervish that his goats remained awake all night,
leaping and capering like fools, after having browsed
on the berries of a shrub that he pointed out to him.
It was a coffee-tree, covered with its red fruit. The
dervish hastened to try on himself the singular virtue
of these berries. That very evening he drank a strong
infusion of them, and, lo and behold! sleep did not
once come to interrupt his pious exercises all night
"Rejoiced at procuring wakefulness whenever he desired
it, he shared his discovery with other dervishes, who
in their turn became addicted to the sleep-banishing
drink. The example of these holy persons was followed
by doctors of law. But before long it was discovered
that there were stimulating properties in this infusion
used for dispelling sleep, whereupon it began to find
favor with those who had no desire to be kept awake,
until finally the bean
 chanced upon by the goats came into general use
throughout the East.
"I advise you not to yield a blind belief to this
popular tradition, for in reality it is not known by
whom or in what circumstances the properties of coffee
were first discovered. One point only remains
incontestable, and the story of the dervish brings it
out well: it is the property coffee possesses of
keeping the mind active and driving away sleep."
"Coffee, then, really prevents one's sleeping?" asked
"Yes, but not every one feels this singular influence
in the same degree. There are some not affected by it
at all, and others, of a delicate and nervous
temperament, who cannot close their eyes all night long
if they happen to take coffee in the evening."
"And how about taking it in the daytime?"
"In that case the same objection does not present
itself; there is even an advantage in having the mind
fully active, especially if one is engaged in mental
work. But for the most part coffee is a simple
stimulant that favors digestion and excites new vigor.
Long habit makes it for many a drink of prime
"Prepared from the green berry just as it comes from
the country that produces it, the infusion of coffee is
a greenish liquid, odorless and tart, which acts
powerfully on the nerves."
"Is that the way," asked Claire, "that the dervish,
taught by the capering of the goats, took his first cup
 "Probably. Nothing but the ardent desire to combat
sleep could have induced him to continue the dose, for
the drink prepared in this way is very far from being
palatable. The qualities that make us desire coffee,
especially its fragrant aroma, are developed only by
roasting; hence this operation should be performed with
a certain degree of care. If insufficiently roasted,
the coffee-beans remain green inside; then they are
hard to grind in the mill and give a greenish yellow
infusion with no aroma. Roasted too much, they are
reduced to charcoal on the outside; then the infusion
is very dark, bitter-tasting, and without aroma. Coffee
is roasted to a nicety when it gives out an agreeable
odor and has taken on a dark chestnut color.
"Coffee should be ground fine so as to yield its
soluble ingredients readily to the water; and, finally,
the infusion should never be boiled, because then the
aromatic principle is dissipated, being carried away by
the stream. Coffee allowed to boil would soon be
nothing but a bitter liquid bereft of the qualities
that give it its value. The best temperature is the one
that approaches the boiling point but never quite
"The high price of coffee has given rise to many
attempts to substitute cheaper home-grown products for
the precious berry. It has become customary to roast
chicory roots, chick-peas, and acorns, to mix with the
ground coffee. The only resemblance to coffee possessed
by these various substances lies in the burnt odor, the
chestnut color, and the bitter taste, with none of the
coffee's efficacious properties.
 Allured by the hope of gain, the merchant may exalt in
high-sounding terms of praise the virtues of these
cheap substitutes, but you may be sure he never has any
of them served at his own table."
"They say," Marie remarked, "that coffee sold already
ground is sometimes mixed with one of those worthless
powders you speak of."
"That is only too true. This fraud can be avoided by
buying the coffee-beans either already roasted or
green, and in the latter case roasting them oneself."