Skip to content

A Quick Cup of Coffee History

Coffee is one of the most valuable commodities traded around the world. It is a beverage that has been consumed and cherished for ages both locally and globally. As we have mentioned before, countless families around the world rely on the cultivation of coffee for their livelihood even today. Could you imagine going a whole day without your cup of coffee?

green coffee

Now, have you ever wondered how coffee became the popular drink it is today and how it has made its way into so many different cultures? We'll explore this with a quick cup of coffee history. The next time you're at the cafe with your friends, you can impress with these tasty coffee history tidbits.

A Surprising Start

Picture it, Ethiopia in 850AD, a goatherd named Kaldi is tending his herd on the mountainous slopes of eastern Africa. He noticed how energetic his goats became after consuming the berries of a particular tree. They even had a hard time sleeping at night.

Kaldi shared his finding with the abbot of the local monastery. The abbot decided to try making a drink with the berries and discovered the drink kept him alert during the long evening prayers. The abbot shared the other monks and not long after, the knowledge spread across to the Arabian Peninsula.

Eastern Adventure

Throughout the Arabian Peninsula, around 1100AD, Arab traders traveled from Ethiopia back to their homeland--now known as Yemen--with coffee in hand. Coffee cultivation and trade began on the Arabian Peninsula. The coffee beans were boiled in water to create a deliciously refreshing beverage which eventually became the modern version of roasted coffee.

By the 16th century, coffee had reached Persia, Syria, and Turkey. Not long after, coffee houses in the Near East emerged as hubs for all sorts of social activity and exchange of information. With thousands of people coming from all around the world to visit Mecca, the awareness of coffee continued to spread.

On to Europe

European travelers to the Near East returned with stories of the unusual new beverage which was met with a good amount of suspicion and fear. In Venice, Italy, the clergy condemned the drink, asking Pope Clement VIII to intervene. Before making a decision, the Pope tasted the coffee and found it to be extremely satisfying, consequently giving it his approval.

Just as in the Middle East, coffee houses began popping up in major cities in England, Austria, France, Germany, and Holland. These coffee houses became centers of activity. In fact, several businesses grew out of them. In no time, coffee had replaced beer and wine as the typical breakfast drink.

The New World

In the mid-17th century, the British brought coffee to what was, at the time, New Amsterdam. We know it as New York. Coffee houses appeared rapidly though tea was the preferred drink until 1773 and the Boston Tea Party. Due to the heavy tax imposed on tea by King George III, coffee became the drink of choice for a new country.

The Spread

With the continued and growing demand for coffee, competition became fierce with the desire to cultivate coffee outside of Arabia. The Dutch attempted and failed to plant coffee in India. However, they succeded in Indonesia. The coffee plants thrived and the Dutch gained a foothold in the coffee trade. They actively transported and cultivated coffee plants commercially. Decades later, coffee migrated to Latin America when the French brought a sample of a coffee plant to Martinique, a Caribbean island. This is considered to be the parent of all the coffee trees growing through the Caribbean, as well as South and Central America.

Missionaries, travelers, traders, and colonists continued to help move coffee around the globe by carrying coffee seeds to new places which resulted in the cultivation of coffee trees worldwide. By the end of the 18th century, coffee became one of the world's most profitable and sought after commodities. Though coffee was discovered unexpectedly, its influence has reached around the world.

Head over to our Gourmet Coffee Shop and travel the world one coffee at a time.


Updated 06/04/2020

Originally posted 07/19/2016

Previous article Mix Things Up with Tea