The Ultimate Guide To the History Coffee
Introduction: Discovery of the Magic Bean
Coffee is considered to be one of the most valuable commodities in the world and for many, the consumption of coffee is a ritual of daily life. Understanding the history of coffee can be difficult due to the numerous theories and mystery surrounding its origins.
You will likely find that many sources suggest that coffee was discovered many years ago in Ethiopia and this is likely to be true, however, the exact century in which it was discovered varies.
Coffee has evolved over many years and it can now be found in countries all over the world. In fact, there are thought to be over 120 different flavors of coffee each of which are established by the way in which the beans are grown, processed, and then roasted.
It is thought that coffee was first discovered approximately 1000 years ago with many sources claiming that it was discovered during the 13th century and others implying that it was discovered during the 15th century.
Following its discovery in Ethiopia some time ago, coffee was introduced to Europe during the 16th century and has since gained huge popularity in Italy.
Coffee is known as the magic bean and flourishes from an evergreen which when left to grow can reach impressive heights.
Over time it develops bunches of white flowers that produce seeds. When these seeds have ripened they then become what we now know as coffee beans.
The Origins of the word ”Coffee”
So where did the word ”coffee” originate from. There are many theories surrounding the origins of this title. Of course, we refer to this bean as ”coffee” in English but in other languages, it has earned different titles.
In the Dutch language, it is known as ”koffie”, while the Turkish refer to it as ”kahveh”.
There are two main conflicting suggestions surrounding the origins of this word, while some would suggest it is related to the geographical location of Kaffa where it was discovered, there are other beliefs that this title was earned from the title of an Arabic drink.
The first theory suggests that coffee gained its title because of the location in which it was discovered. As such, it is thought that coffee was discovered in the Kaffa Highlands, a region situated in the South West of Ethiopia.
However, other theories are dismissive of this suggestion, instead claiming that the word ”coffee” in fact originates from an ancient Arabic drink. It is believed that this drink had connotations of power and energy with effects that are similar on the body to that of coffee.
History of Coffee
Out of Africa: Ethiopian Beginnings
Coffee plays a huge role in Ethiopian culture. The origins of coffee date back centuries following its discovery in the forests of Ethiopia. It is believed that an Ethiopian farmer once discovered his goats acting peculiarly.
It appeared that his goats had much more energy than normal and because of this, they were not sleeping during the night. They began acting this way after consuming berries from the coffee plant.
To understand whether this was the cause of the unusual behavior, the farmer named Kaldi tried the berries himself to see whether he would react in a similar manner. After doing so, and the display of similar behavior, it became apparent that the coffee tree was the cause.
Upon his discovery, Kaldi then shared this fruit and his newfound knowledge with monks who also experienced the same energetic reaction after consumption. Originally, the leaves of the coffee shrub were boiled and were thought to possess medicinal properties.
Despite the speculation surrounding the discovery of coffee, Ethiopia is deemed to be the birthplace of these beans. With Ethiopia being the birthplace of these infamous coffee beans it is because of this theory that Kaldi is now referred to as ‘The Ethiopian Coffee Legend”.
While there is reason to believe that this theory can in fact be true, some historians suggested that coffee was actually being consumed long before this with suggestions that the beans had been used as an energy stimulant.
While coffee was primarily consumed as a food, over time it became associated with a beverage, so instead of eating the beans it was drunk as wine or roasted to create a warmer beverage.
Botanical evidence suggests that Arabica coffee (also known as mountain coffee) originates from the South West of Ethiopia and from here it then gained popularity in Yemen and many other countries all across the world.
While it can still be found growing in the mountains and highlands of Ethiopia it has become popular in many other regions and since the time of its discovery, it has been produced in a variety of intense flavors and aromas.
On to the Middle East
Although the original domesticated coffee plant originated in Ethiopia it has since been largely consumed by those of Islamic faith as part of religious practices.
Coffee was being grown in Arabia by the 15th century, awareness of coffee then developed in Syria, Egypt, Turkey, and Persia in the 16th century.
To begin with, coffee was consumed by those using it as a stimulant and as such they wanted it to give them more energy so that they were able to stay awake for the duration of longer prayer sessions.
During this time, coffee was only consumed in Arabia as they were not yet aware of it in the other regions, but as the years progressed the popularity of coffee also developed, and soon coffee houses began to appear with coffee became a form of socialization encouraging drinkers to engage in conversation with others.
Now coffee is seen as a sign of hospitality and generosity in the Middle East and it is often seen as a way after reconciling following a feud.
The majority of Arabic countries implement the following methods when brewing their coffee. It is typically roasted lightly or heavily before being brewed with cinnamon or cardamom (depending on personal taste) before being served in a Dalla.
Europe and Asia
Coffee was introduced to Europe and Asia in the 16th century with much controversy surrounding how it arrived here.
During this time, many referred to coffee as a ‘dark black beverage’ which instilled fear into many.
Any countries that wanted to try coffee beans were expected to purchase them from Yemen and as such the authorities worked to ensure that this expectation was adhered to.
When coffee eventually arrived in Venice, the Pope inspected and drank the beverage before giving it his approval, and as such this helped to ease the fears although much controversy remained.
Soon coffee houses were established and coffee became the center of social interaction, eventually becoming known as the ‘breakfast beverage’.
Just like many other continents, coffee was introduced to Asia as a result of a crime. Baba Budan smuggled coffee beans when on a pilgrimage to Mecca. He did so by stopping in Yemeni and collecting 6 coffee beans before setting off on his quest of taking it back to India.
As it did in most other areas in the world, the popularity of coffee continued to grow. In fact, Asia has now been titled as the number 1 worldwide consumer of coffee, even exceeding consumption levels in Europe and the United States.
Crossing the Atlantic: The Americas
Now that coffee has gained its coffee in most other parts of the world it was only a matter of time before it conquered the Atlantic and made its way to America.
Although coffee wasn’t introduced to America until the 18th century, it soon changed the coffee culture of America forever.
It began following the Boston Tea Party where King George imposed a tax on tea and because of this many began to rebel against the decision.
Following this, coffee soon became the favored drink amongst civilians and now America has established itself as one of the biggest importers of coffee.
Coffee in Modern Times
It is said that coffee is responsible for a social revolution.
Not only was it consumed in the home as a popular warm beverage but it also led to the establishment of coffee houses which encouraged civilians to interact with their fellow coffee drinkers somewhat helping to form relationships.
Since its discovery, coffee has gained a reputation as one of the most popular beverages in the world with around 400 billion cups consumed annually.
Over time, a range of specialty coffees have been created which has led to the establishment of many coffee shops with Starbucks being one of the most popular.
New coffee shops are opening daily, mimicking the newly discovered flavors and coffee variations to keep up with the latest trends.
The Introduction of Coffee Houses
The first coffee houses appeared in the Middle East during the 15th Century. They provided a place for people to drink their coffee and following their first appearance, after the introduction of coffee to many other areas of the world, coffee houses appeared in these places shortly after.
Coffee was primarily attractive to civilians because of its flavor and the energy that it provided, however, it then gave people a reason to meet with others.
There were apparent differences between coffee houses and pubs. While many viewed the pubs as a way of escaping daily life, coffee houses were instead seen as places that encouraged coffee drinkers to engage in conversation and debate real life issues.
Although coffee houses had existed in the Middle East for many years, they didn’t appear in London for some time later. However, coffee houses were especially popular in London during the 17th and 18th centuries.
Deemed to be social houses, customers were required to pay an admission to enter the houses and purchase a cup of coffee.
There was controversy surrounding the establishment of coffee houses in different places around the world. For those that still objectified the existence of coffee, opposition towards the coffee houses developed leading to several attempts to ban coffee and close the houses.
Towards the end of the 18th century, the popularity of coffeehouses began to decline, and as such this led to the ‘Starbucks Revolution’. The success of Starbucks has meant that what was once an ordinary product has now developed into something which is seen as much more luxurious.
The coffee houses that we recognize today are very different from those that were originally established many years ago. Modern coffee houses no longer depend on manual brewing methods, instead, they are equipped with automatic machines that complete the task for them.
They have also ventured into selling much more than coffee with the offerings of many other exciting beverages too.
5 Attempts to ban coffee
During its first few years of discovery, after its rise in popularity, there were several attempts in different countries to ban coffee. Despite being made illegal in some countries during the 16th century, currently, coffee is not illegal in any countries around the world.
The following countries attempted to ban coffee:
In Mecca during 1511, the governor banned coffee due to the belief that it encouraged radical thinking.
As coffee was known as a development in socialization, many people began to gather in groups and as such, the governor believed that too many people were hanging out and as a result, it ignited the fear that it may unite his opposition.
Coffee also gained a negative reputation in Java as it was often used during lengthy prayer sessions as a stimulant that helped people stay awake for the duration.
Many conservative Muslim groups also objected to the growth of coffee houses because they believed that it was intoxicated.
Along with the government believing that coffee was used for sedation, the combination of these views and those put forward by conservative Muslim groups led to the coffee houses being closed down.
Although coffee is now extremely popular in Italy with the cappuccino being one of the most famous options there were once attempts to ban it.
Upon its arrival in the 16th century, there were calls for coffee to be banned due to suggestions that it was satanic.
In response to these claims, pope Clement VIII himself tasted the coffee.
After doing so he approved of coffee even suggesting that it should become baptized.
Following the pope’s blessing coffee houses soon began appearing throughout Italy and Europe in quick succession.
The first coffee houses were established in Constantinople in 1475 with a total of three coffee houses being established by the 1500s. Despite gaining popularity as meeting places, the sultanate Murad IV implied that these coffee houses had become places for mutinous soldiers to meet.
He forbade coffee and then banned it in 1633 demanding that the coffee houses should be torn down too. He also introduced many penalties, one of which was a beating. During this time, if anyone was caught with a coffee they were then punished.
Despite such severe punishments being put in place for those who were caught with a coffee in their possession, coffee houses reopened during the later parts of the 16th century.
Coffee was first introduced to Sweden in 1674, however, unlike most other countries, it took some time for the popularity of coffee to grow in Sweden.
When it did, it became particularly popular amongst those of a wealthy status. From the 1700s onwards, the popularity of coffee continued to increase.
However, concerns arose amongst government officials who implied that coffeehouses were being used as a base to plan revolts, and because of this, King Frederick issued an official order regarding the misuse of coffee drinking before introducing taxes on coffee consumption.
Civilians were expected to comply and failure to pay taxes for the consumption of coffee resulted in the confiscation of their cups and dishes.
It was in 1756 when a complete ban was imposed on the consumption of coffee. Despite the government’s best attempts to ban coffee, they soon realized that it wasn’t going to be successful and as a result, all restrictions were lifted.
Not everyone was impressed by the increased demand for coffee. In fact, Frederick the Great believed that coffee was affecting the country’s consumption of beer and was disgusted by the increased consumption of coffee and the expenses that were incurred as a result.
Suggesting that coffee was inferior to beer, he suggested that beer was the preferred morning beverage. He hoped that a royal statement would stop civilians from choosing to drink coffee over beer.
However, despite his efforts, he was unsuccessful in banning coffee and the response from the public led him to abandon this policy.
Despite these attempts to ban coffee by the government and high authority figures in different parts of the world, they weren’t successful in the long run.
Although some were shut down for some time following objections from certain groups and figures, the response received from the public soon showed that the attempt to ban coffee and coffee house establishments wasn’t going to be successful in the long run.
As such, the majority of imposed bans were soon lifted and coffee houses that had been closed reopened shortly after and began operating again.
Coffee Around the World: An overview
As mentioned previously, coffee is now consumed almost everywhere in the world, there are even days that are now recognized as ‘International Coffee Day’ and it is a beloved drink that is enjoyed by many.
Over time, particular cafes have now established themselves as go-to destinations to enjoy this tasty beverage. Many individuals have their preferred way of consuming this beverage with some enjoying standard variations and others preferring to be more adventurous by indulging in more intense tastes.
Many countries are renowned as being dominant producers of coffee.
There are noticeable differences in regards to the rituals surrounding the way in which coffee is prepared and also ingredients that are used. In the Middle East, ingredients such as cardamom or cinnamon are used to brew the coffee although this is less likely so in other countries around the world.
Although this may sound rather unusual, in Finland coffee is poured over chunks of cheese curd and while this may not appeal to you as the preferred way to enjoy the beverage, in Finland it is favored by many.
In Australia, civilians tend to enjoy their coffee in smaller quantities. The most commonly sought after coffee is a flat white which is simply composed of steamed milk and a shot of espresso.
Sharing a rather similar taste to a latte, a flat white provides a perfect option for those who enjoy consuming their daily coffee in smaller servings.
In Greece, coffee tends to be enjoyed at a colder temperature. Although a frappe is particularly popular in Greece it is a beverage which is now enjoyed by many all around the world. A frappe simply consists of a shot of coffee, ice, and milk foam.
While Italians favor a cappuccino, they also enjoy a coffee called an espresso Romano, which is simply an Italian twist of a standard espresso. As such, it is a smaller coffee that is served alongside slices of lemon to bring out all of the flavors.
In Mexico, coffee is often served with a cinnamon stick and unrefined cane sugar as the combination of both ingredients are thought to bring out the flavors of the coffee.
Irish coffee consists of hot coffee, Irish whiskey, and sugar. Before serving it is then often topped with thick cream to enhance the flavor.
Coffee is also enjoyed in different variations in many other places in the world. Despite originating from the same plant, there are noticeable differences in the ways that coffee is served.
While some countries enjoy coffee as a hot delicacy, other countries have ventured into ‘ice coffees’ and are also experimenting with different flavors.
Although coffee is now often consumed in many cafes all over the world, it can also be insightful to visit one of the many coffee plantations, for example, those in Costa Rica that have a sustainable background.
Visiting such locations will allow you to partake in tours of the coffee farms to gather a clearer understanding in regards to how coffee is harvested and the process that unfolds when roasting the coffee beans.
Finca Rosa Blanca, situated in Costa Rica is a popular option, the grounds of which are dedicated to sustainable coffee farming.
While exploring different parts of the world, you may also wish to venture into the coffee houses or independent coffee retailers. Regardless of where you are situated, there is a way for you to access your daily coffee intake.
Starbucks is recognized as one of the most popular coffee chains in the world. Marketed as a supplier of luxury and specialty coffee, essentially, Starbucks offers a luxury that is affordable for the majority.
With over 31,200 stores operating around the world, Starbucks is known as one of the largest coffee houses established. Starbucks is the most popular in the USA where there are around 14,758 stores.
However, there are also many stores in the United States, Turkey, Indonesia, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Columbia, and many more. Because of its reputation and constantly growing popularity, Starbucks has led the way for many other coffee retailers around the world.
While those of independent status in different parts of the world continue to flourish, there are many bigger branded names too. As such, these retailers set the trends by exploring with different ingredients and flavors to create some exciting coffees.
Coffee Today: Where is it all grown?
Coffee is now grown in more than 70 countries around the world including South and Central America, Asia, and Africa. Despite being grown in so many countries, only four of them are responsible for producing 70 percent of the world’s coffee.
Brazil is known as the largest exporter of coffee, however, a large proportion of coffee is also produced in Vietnam, Columbia, and Indonesia. In 2019, Brazil produced over 3,500,000 metric tonnes of coffee.
The world’s largest regional producers of coffee are Latin America, Asia, Oceania, and Africa. In regards to the type of coffee, 60-80% of the coffee produced in the world is from Arabica plants while Robusta accounts for 20-40%.
There are several factors that can influence how well coffee grows. Your coffee is likely to thrive when provided with good growing conditions. You must be cautious of the weather ensuring that the coffee plant is protected from sunlight and rainfall.
The best growing conditions for coffee are during the rainier seasons as they are easier to plant. The quality of the soil and also the altitude that the plant grows at can affect the final taste.
The coffee beans grow between the Tropics of Cancer and the Tropics of Capricorn. Depending on the coffee plant, the time taken for the beans to mature can differ. The Arabica plant tends to grow faster taking a maximum of 9 months to mature.
However, the Robusta plant takes slightly longer than this taking approximately 11 months to reach maturity.
Labeled as the biggest producer of coffee in the world, the economy of Brazil has benefited hugely. Coffee production has played a crucial role in its economy. There are many coffee plantations in Brazil with an estimated total of 300,000 of which are spread across their expanse landscape.
Growing both Arabica and Robusta beans, they produce coffee in huge quantities.
Columbia is branded as the best-known coffee producer in the world and as such, it comes second to Brazil for the volume of coffee that is produced annually. Most of the coffee in Columbia is grown on small family farms where they take great care in ensuring that the beans grow to the highest quality.
For this reason, many prefer the taste of Columbian grown coffee beans as the care taken during the growing process is reflected in the taste.
Although coffee wasn’t introduced to Vietnam until the mid 19th century, their coffee industry has grown pretty quickly. During the 1900s the production of coffee beans grew in quick succession and now Vietnam is closely following Brazil and Columbia as one of the largest coffee bean producers.
Their smaller plantations do particularly well in growing Robusta coffee beans, hence why they are known as the top producer of these types of coffee beans in particular.
As expected, the country that is believed to have discovered coffee beans, Ethiopia is still a well-known producer. In fact, it is one of their primary sources of harvesting.
Ethiopian coffee beans are renowned for their fuller and bolder flavor. While Ethiopia is recognized as the fifth largest producer of coffee beans in the world, in Africa, it is the largest producer of coffee.
In Costa Rica, coffee beans tend to be grown on smaller farms, typically in wetter conditions. Coffee beans that have been produced in Costa Rica are recognized as having a medium body with sharp acidity and as a result, the perfect taste balance is produced.
They mainly focus on the production of Arabicas and their consistent attention to quality throughout the process of growing their coffee beans has given them an excellent reputation for producing fine coffee.
Indonesia is made up of many large islands and is recognized as the third-largest producer of Robusta coffee, although the country produces both Robusta and Arabica coffee beans in generous quantities.
The majority of coffee beans are grown on independent farms and Indonesia is now particularly well known for fine specialty coffee.
The climate and process adopted for growing these coffee beans account for excellent quality and taste and as such, these coffee beans are much more likely to retail at higher prices than those from other countries.
Kenyan coffee is favored by many because of its sharp, fruity, and rich taste. It is particularly well-liked in the USA and Europe and the farmers are praised for their focus on quality throughout all stages of growth and production.
Typically grown by small farmers, their coffee beans are closely monitored throughout the process.
There are of course many other countries that grow and produce coffee beans, some of which are included in the following list. While some countries produce coffee beans in huge quantities, others produce them on a slightly smaller scale.
There are also some countries that place a particular focus on the production of one type of coffee bean and their climate is going to be very influential in regards to how well the coffee beans flourish.
- Mexico – known as one of the largest coffee producers in the world with a particular emphasis on the production of organic coffee. The majority of their coffee production is composed of Arabica beans and a small amount of Robusta beans.
- Jamaica – known for producing Arabica coffee in the steep Blue Mountains. The climate in Jamaica is great for growing coffee beans with a sweeter taste. The majority of coffee in Jamaica is grown by smaller, independent farmers.
- Honduras – labeled as the fifth largest producer of coffee, Honduras produces and exports millions of bags of coffee annually. Their coffee is known for its sweet and intense flavor.
- India – out of all Asian countries, India is recognized as the third largest producer of coffee and is also one of the world’s largest exporters. Similarly to many other countries, the majority of coffee plants are grown in smaller farms.
- Guatemala – the production of coffee has been hugely beneficial to the country’s economy and it is favored by many for its sweet and fruity taste.
- Peru – In Peru, there is a predominant focus on the production of Arabica coffee beans that are typically handpicked and they are recognized for having a pleasant but understated taste.
- Thailand – In Thailand there are divisions in the areas in which the different types of coffee beans are grown. The South focuses on the growth and production of Robusta coffee beans and the North grows and produces Arabica Coffee beans.
- The Philippines – Thanks to the climate and soil conditions in the Philippines, they can grow four varieties of coffee beans; thus includes the most popular options of robusta and arabica but also Liberca and Excelsa.
- China – The popularity of coffee in China is definitely on the increase and as such their production of coffee beans is growing to coincide with this. China currently produces around 138,000 metric tons of coffee although this is expected to increase in the future.
- Uganda – Uganda is recognized as the 8th largest producer of coffee in the world. As such, coffee beans are one of the richest exports and their climate means that they typically grow and produce Robusta coffee beans.
- America– Despite being one of the biggest consumers of coffee, Hawaii and California are the only states that can grow coffee beans.
Coffee must be grown in optimal conditions for it to reach its greatest potential, hence why it is typically grown in countries that have a tropical climate. Exposure to frost can be damaged but coffee plants must be planted in areas with ample sunlight and lots of water in healthy quantities.
Too much sun and water can have harmful effects on the growth of a coffee shrub. Cool temperatures are also preferable. Because the temperatures in Brazil and South East Asia are warmer, you will find that robusta trees are often planted in these regions.
However, Arabica beans aren’t as receptive to these conditions, instead favoring the cooler conditions of the mountains.
Summary: A Coffee a Day
While it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact origins and history of coffee there is no denying that it has become a staple of daily life for many. You will often hear people commenting on how they are unable to progress with their day without their morning coffee fix.
Unleashing more energy that allows us to embark on our daily tasks with enthusiasm, the caffeine inside coffee can be somewhat addictive and so it is important to ensure that coffee is consumed in moderation.
Although most consume around 1 cup of coffee a day, it is safe to drink smaller cups of coffee throughout the day. While it may taste delicious, it is important to ensure that you don’t go crazy with your coffee consumption.
Over the years, coffee has attracted a lot of criticism from those who deem it to be a trigger of social issues. While many attempts to ban the consumption of coffee were put into place, few were successfully executed with most proposed bans being withdrawn a short time after.
Since then, the popularity of this beverage has continued to develop and it is now found in most countries around the world.
On the whole, coffee is seen as a beverage that attracts those from different backgrounds and lifestyles to interact with others. Since the establishment of the coffee houses many years ago, they have defined social gatherings by encouraging people to engage in conversations and debates with others over their beverage.
While these coffee houses have undergone a significant transformation during recent times, they still attract many coffee lovers daily.
The most recognized coffee house in recent times is likely to be Starbucks, the chain store which took over the traditional coffee houses and as such have transformed the views of coffee marketing as a much more luxurious and specialty item.
The flavors of coffee are also evolving with many coffee houses and cafes inventing the latest trends with the creation of different flavors that their competitors are sure to soon follow.
The practices of growing and brewing coffee tend to differ between cultures. While some countries serve their coffee with some fairly unusual accompaniments, other countries are known for their signature iced coffee and frappes.
Many coffee houses now adopt a modern take on how they serve their coffee too with automated methods surpassing the need for preparing and brewing the coffee manually.