History of Coffee: How It Was Discovered
December 13, 2022 | Kurt Parker
Do you know what’s the second most traded commodity worldwide? That’s right! Coffee beans, and it’s second to petroleum in the global market.
No one can imagine before, how these tiny coffee beans can change the entire world. But have you thought of where coffee beans came from? Let’s walk you through the history of coffee.
Where did Coffee Plants Come From?
When you say coffee bean, most people would say it came from Ethiopia, and it is. From there, coffee cultivation spread across Persia and Africa.
It then arrived in Europe in the later parts of the 16th century. Coffee beans were then traded across Europe and Asia. In the late 17th century, it arrived in East Indies and India.
Ethiopian Story About Origin of Coffee
Similar to other plants, coffee originates from a mysterious tale in Ethiopia. Stories tell that it was a goat herder who found these red berries. Kaldi is the name of the goat herder. He noticed that his goats were alert after eating the coffee beans.
After seeing that, he grabs some coffee crops to share with his fellow monks. They consume those red berries and were able to stay alert the entire night.
Because of this discovery, coffee farming grow in Ethiopia. Growing coffee has been one of their main agricultural activities. Coffee’s growing popularity didn’t just stay in Ethiopia, it spread across the globe.
Coffee Houses Sprung in Europe
Drinking coffee spread across Europe as many coffee houses came into existence. They were widespread across Germany and Europe in the late 17th century.
It was Gabriel de Clieu, one of the first planters of coffee seedlings in Europe in 1720. From his plantation rose 18,860 coffee trees. His harvest was distributed in the Caribbean Islands and in Mexico.
In 1852, Brazil has the highest coffee production around the globe. But later on, many countries entered the coffee industry. Some of these coffee plantations are located in Colombia, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, and Vietnam.
In 1999, Colombia became the top 2 largest coffee production in the market.
Coffee Arrived in Europe and Asia
The coffee plantation also arrived in the East. Many coffee houses opened as the popularity of coffee grew in the community in Europe and Asia.
If they want coffee beans, they need to import them from Yemen. But this was costly for them, so Baba Budan of India smuggles coffee fertile beans to India. Indian coffee farmers planted these seeds. Later on, India became one of the known coffee producers at that time.
The Dutch Started Growing Coffee
The Dutch also smuggled coffee beans so they can plant them on their lands. They tried growing it on Hollands, yet it was too cold for the coffee plant.
This attempt of growing a coffee plant failed. Luckily, the Dutch governor has friends in Sri Lanka. The latter gave the Dutch governor new coffee beans for planting.
Even though their first attempt at a coffee plantation failed, the new seeds from Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) were a success. In 1704, they were able to successfully grew coffee in their lands.
Dutch koffie is the term they called their coffee plant. This is also one of the root words of “coffee”. As time goes by, drinking coffee daily became part of their culture.
Coffee Beans Arrived in Venice in 1570
Coffee made its way to Venice in 1570. At first, Pope Clement VIII thought of coffee as a satanic drink. But as his investigation went on, he realized it wasn’t. He then baptized coffee as a Christian beverage.
In 1600s, coffee house opened in various parts of Europe. That includes Germany, Holland, France, Austria, and England. Just like the coffee houses in the Middle East, the coffee houses in Europe serve as social hubs as well. A place stimulating conversation about any topics about politics, environment, or entertainment.
If you want to learn many things, you can buy a cup of coffee and listen to their conversation. One of the famous coffee houses in Europe is Edward lloyd’s coffee house. This coffee business later became a huge insurance company.
First Coffee Club in England
The first coffee house in England opened in Oxford. It was then famously known as the Oxford Coffee Club. This is where people share various ideas about technology, politics, and business.
Instead of going to pubs, English men go to coffee shops to socialize and unwind. The downside of this scenario, many wives were mad since their husbands aren’t going home early since they hang out in coffee houses. It became part of their daily routine to meet their colleagues and friends in coffee houses to talk about different things.
Coffee House in France
Coffee was introduced to France in the 17th century. It was the Turkish Ambassador who introduced coffee to Paris. During the time of Louis the XIV, coffee spread all over France.
Coffee Became Popular in Vienna in 1683
After the Battle of Vienna, the Turks left many coffee beans. The soldiers of Vienna tried coffee and like them. This was the start of coffee’s invasion in Vienna, Austria.
What’s the Etymology of the Coffee Bean?
The term coffee originated from the Dutch “koffie”. The latter was also derived from the Turkish word “kahve” and Arabic term “qahwah”.
“Qahwah” literally refers to a kind of wine in Arabic. But there was a slight dispute about having qahwah as the origin of “coffee” since the former doesn’t refer to a berry or bean. However, this term referred to a dark liquid, which is also the color of coffee.
First Evidence of Coffee Drinking
The knowledge about coffee drinking happened in the late 15th century. The birth of coffee plant and coffee cultivation also happened during this time.
It was Sufi Imam Muhammad Ibn Said Al Dhabhani who was thought to do the first importation of coffee beans from Ethiopia to Yemen. The first exportation of coffee berries from Ethiopia was done by Somali businessmen.
Coffee Drinking in the Middle East
In the Middle East, drinking coffee was done to help people focus on calling their God. It gives them spiritual intoxication that helps them communicate with their God.
The coffee bean was then popularized in Mecca in 1414. It spread across Egypt and North Africa. Coffee houses opened in Syria due to the large demand in society.
Based on some literature, coffee beans made their way to Yemen through the Red Sea. Merchants sailed there to bring their goods to Yemen in the 15th century. These coffee fertile beans arrived in the port of Mocha.
Because of that, Mocha is associated with coffee plants. When you talk about mocha, you’re referring to coffee then.
Coffee Plantations in Yemen
Coffee is grown in Yemen, and growing coffee plant there was a success. Its popularity spread in Persia, Turkey, and Egypt.
Coffee was then considered the “wine of Araby”. Coffee’s growing popularity was fast across Yemen and Middle East.
There were many coffee houses in Yemen after that. These coffee shops are where people share their thoughts on many things. That said, these coffee houses were considered “Schools of the Wise”.
Regulating Coffee Beans in Ethiopia
Because of its origin in the Middle East, coffee beans were banned by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in the 18th century. They consider it as a Muslim drink that causes intoxication among drinkers.
Fortunately, the regulation was lifted in the 19th century. Coffee consumption rises again after that.
If we look into the literature, this fragrant brown liquid was made by brewing roasted beans. The filtered dark-colored liquid is your brewed coffee.
Coffee Drinking in the Islamic world
Part of the coffee history in the Islamic World, it was considered hashish. This was argued since the benefits of coffee are different from that of alcohol side effects.
While this debate continues, the growth of coffee houses in Cairo, Mecca, and Yemen are evident. These coffee houses become centers of communication. People go to coffee shops to socialize and talk about many things. It also served as a hub for Islamic life and culture.
The community is able to socialize and connect with each other in coffee houses. The latter is now seen as a public sphere where society talks and participates in current issues in the country and around the world. That said, coffee drinking has been incorporated into Islamic culture.
The Introduction of Coffee in America
After these bright red berries conquered Africa, Europe, and the Middle East, they went to cross the Atlantic Ocean.
This started when the Mayor of Amsterdam gave Louis XIV a gift of fertile coffee beans. Even though the coffee plantation was unsuccessful in Holland, this plant was protected by Royal Guards in the Royal Botanical Gardens of Paris.
Gabriel Mathieu de Clieu (French Navy Captain) visited Paris with a mission to steal the clippings of King Louie XIV. But it was unclear in the literature whether King Louie ordered de Clieu to plant coffee beans in Martinique.
de Clieu got the clippings and the coffee plant. He then sailed to the Caribbean where the conditions are supportive of the coffee tree.
For three years, de Clieu discreetly grew coffee in Martinique, Guadalupe, and St. Dominique. This became the onset of a large coffee plantation in Central and South America.
America’s Influence on the Coffee Industry
Coffee’s popularity in America started in the 18th century. That happened during the American Revolution and the Boston Tea Party in 1773.
A group of American Indians discreetly went to English ships containing English tea bags. They threw all the English tea into the waters as a sign of rebelling against the English tax imposed on tea.
Because of that, tea was considered unpatriotic. Coffee replaced tea as Americans’ preferred drink. America is one of the leading countries importing coffee. This helped the economy of South and Central America which are coffee planters.
Also, Hawaii also has a large coffee plantation. It was the Brazilians who brought the bright red berries to Hawaii in 1817.
Coffee – A Devil’s Drink?
Paul Chrystal wrote the book “Coffee: A Drink for the Devil”. In the below, let’s walk through on some of the facts mentioned in his book about coffee.
Goat Discovered Coffee
It was thought that Kaldi (a goat herder in Ethiopia) discovered the coffee tree. He shared his discovery with the monks. The latter had an idea of drying the berries to produce the coffee drink.
A Saint Brewed Coffee in Mocha
There’s also an alternative story to coffee’s origin. It was first discovered by Omar, a Sufi mystic from Mocha.
While Omar was exiled from Mocha, he was hungry and came looking for food. He found these bright red berries and chewed them. He found it to be better, so he dried drying it before eating. But he finds it hard and still bitter. Lastly, he boiled the dried berries and found that it has a fragrant aroma. The dark liquid he drank made him alert.
This gave Omar extended energy to be awake for days. He thought of it as a miracle even though he was exiled. After serving his period of exile, he brought home these berries to share with everyone in Mocha.
Coffee leads to social enlightenment
The birth of coffee beans also leads to the rise of coffee houses. The latter served as a place for people to socialize and talk about different things. They talk about politics, media, agriculture, literature, religion, and business.
That said, it lead to a social revolution. Coffee houses served as a hub of knowledge and socialization. Many wives are even complaining since their husbands go home late since they spend hours at coffee houses rather than going home right away.
Coffee was considered Sinful
Coffee was thought to be sinful since it invites people to talk about mistakes. This thought was endorsed by the Meccan Governor Khair Beg. Many scholars, politicians, and religious personalities were against coffee because of that fact. People come together in coffee houses to talk about the failures of the government and church.
Because of that, coffee was decreed as sinful and it forges a revolution. Coffee was banned for 13 years and the ban was lifted in 1524. It was lifted by the Ottoman Turkish Sultan Selim I.
They refer to it as the “devil’s cup”
From Africa to the Middle East, these roasted seeds made their way to Europe. It landed in Venice where it was considered a devil’s cup since it carries Islam with it.
They think coffee was there to replace the wine used in the Eucharist, so they considered that as the “devil’s cup” as well. They say it carries with it the bitterness of Satan. But thank God, Pope Clement VIII intervened. He tasted the black coffee and said that the bitter drink of Satan is delicious. And so, he baptized coffee and made that a Christian drink.
Coffee arrived in England in the mid-17th Century
According to Samuel Pepys, coffee arrived in Oxford in 1650. Jacob, a Jewish man, brought this drink to The Angel. The latter is a parish of St. Peter in the east.
The first coffee house in London was operated by Pasqua Rosee, a Greek businessman. He opened it in 1652. The coffee shop is located in St. Michael’s Alley, which is near Cornhill’s churchyard.
Coffee Houses as the First Internet
Before the internet came to life, the source of updated information is the coffee house. That’s because people gather there to share information and know one another.
Many Englishmen go to coffee houses after work to chat with friends and colleagues. This is where they talk about different current events. It can be about business, politics, sports, or entertainment.
You’d be surprised to know that there were around 3,000 coffee houses sprung up in England in 1675. Many guests and locals go there to get news and updates from various sectors of the community. If you want to know something, you can go to a coffee house and chat with people.
They consider it an aphrodisiac
This “puddle water” drink as the wives refer to coffee was furious about it. Because their husbands would go home late since they will go to the coffee house to chat with friends and colleagues.
On the other side, coffee has an opposite side effect to alcohol. The latter causes erectile dysfunction while the former promotes erection. That’s the reason why coffee was considered as “viagra”.
Women were discouraged to go to coffee houses because of this effect. And that, it stains the decent reputation of women knowing coffee has that effect.
The Coffee Industry in Brazil
Right now, Brazil is the largest coffee producer worldwide. How did that happen?
Francisco de Melo Palheta, a Brazilian Colonel, is the first person to bring coffee clippings to Brazil. He got this from the French governor’s wife. He used his seductive plan to persuade the governor’s wife to give him coffee clippings.
After getting what he needs, he hurriedly went back to Brazil and planted a coffee tree. As time goes by, Brazil’s coffee plantations grew bigger.
The Coffee Industry Today
The trading of coffee in the world market began in the 19th century. Alongside this, modern inventions in making black coffee drinks came to life.
In 1818, the percolator was made by a metalsmith. It found its way to America when James Nason patented this invention in 1865.
In 1864, Jabez Burns created the first modern coffee roaster. He patented this invention and became the Godfather of modern coffee roasted coffee machines.
When importing coffee went up, John Arbuckle created a machine that can quickly weigh, seal, and label coffee beans in small packages. This invention was made in 1871. Because of that, exporting coffee was made faster.
In 1886, Joel Cheek invented the first coffee blender. He named that after the expensive Maxwell House Hotel. The machine was called Maxwell House instant coffee. This is the onset of instant coffee machines today.
In 1901, the first espresso machine was made by Luigi Bezzera. This is the first commercial espresso machine that utilized steam and water in quickly brewing coffee. Luigi saw the need to brew coffee in a faster manner. This led him in creating the coffee machine.
Desiderio Pavoni bought the patent for Luigi’s espresso machine. He tasted the coffee made from his espresso, and it was bitter. He wants to improve the invention, so he bought the patent.
Desiderio found out that the cause of extreme bitterness was the intense pressure and temperature. He found that the right temperature is 195 and the pressure is at 9 Bar. He applied this concept and was successful in making a coffee drink that tastes better.
Forty years later, an Italian inventor Achille Gaggia made an innovation to the invention of Desiderio. He used a piston in extracting the coffee at a higher temperature. With his new coffee machine, he was able to add a crema on top of the black coffee.
Next, drip coffee came to life in 1908. Melitta Bentz used filter paper in brewing coffee. And then, in the 1900s, Nestle found a way of creating instant coffee. This lessens the waste from brewing coffee seedlings.
Nestle’s invention is now the world’s number-one brand of coffee in the global market. The coffee industry skyrocketed when alcoholic drinks were banned in the 1920s.
The Second Generation of Coffee Innovation
Alfred Peet, a Dutch American, is considered the Father of Coffee in Holland. In 1960, he relocated to Berkeley. This is where he shared his knowledge and experience in coffee planting and brewing.
It was during Christmas when he shared his knowledge with his friends and staff about coffee. Afterward, they asked Peet if they can make their own coffee shop in Seattle. Peet approved them and so they started their business.
The coffee shop was named “Starbucks”. Their first business was selling coffee roasters and coffee beans. Later, they decided to sell brewed coffee. Because of this diversification, their business went up.
Howard Schultz, a businessman selling drip coffee makers, approached Starbucks. He joined the latter as their Marketing Director. He was inspired by the coffee houses he saw in Milan and other parts of Europe. He wants to adopt that business model for Starbucks.
Unfortunately, the management didn’t like that idea. Howard was frustrated and quit Starbucks to start his own coffee house. As Howard’s business grew bigger, he bought Starbucks at $3.8 million. After acquiring them, he adapted the Italian way of making coffee drinks.
Fortunately, his business was very successful. Howard had enough money to open more Starbucks in various parts of the United States.
Quick Facts About Coffee and the Coffee Industry
- Around 54 percent of American adults drink coffee daily.
- 2.25 billion coffee cups are consumed globally every day
- Largest coffee producer is Brazil
- Coffee is the second commodity that is mostly traded in the global market
- 100 cups of coffee every day will give you a killing dose
- Coffee drinking reduces the risk of heart attack, Alzheimer’s, and dementia
- The people in New York City consume around 7 cups of coffee
- Coffee is a natural pesticide
- Coffee can attract more bees because of its caffeine
Let’s Wrap Up
Did you have fun learning through all those concepts about the history of coffee? The history is pretty wonderful, right? The origin of this red berry is truly magical.
Many people are thankful for the creation of this black drink as it helps people extend their energy every day. But make sure to moderately drink coffee, okay?
If you have any questions regarding coffee, don’t hesitate to reach out. We are more than happy to help you. For more info about coffee. Check our brewing guides.