How did we come to love this refreshing little bean? The coffee bean has a remarkable journey to what it is today. It has been coveted by nations, created livelihoods, and changed entire countries and its people.
We’ll trace coffee from its humble beginnings in Ethiopia to how it evolved into a global beverage farmed in over 70 countries and consumed in every country on the planet.
The First Cup of Coffee
Ethiopian legends speak of the discovery of the first coffee bean and its energizing effect. According to legend written in 1671, coffee was discovered by the 9th-century Ethiopian goat-herder Kaldi. While in Kaffa with his goats Kaldi found some of his herd had grazed the red cherry of the coffee plant. They had more energy than the rest of his animals and couldn’t sleep at night.
Sounds familiar if we drink too much or too late in the day.
He carried the berries to the next monastery to have the effects explained to him. They were tossed into the fire and called a devilish temptation. But the distinctive and wonderful scent of roasted coffee rising from the fire soon captivated the monks. The monks decided to grind the beans and mix them with water. They were surprised and delighted to discover that the beverage provided them with the same energy and vigor as Kaldi and his goats, allowing them to attend evening mass awake and attentive.
These monks shared their discoveries with other monks and monasteries, and thus the coffee journey started!
Whether or not the Kaldi narrative is true, one thing is certain: coffee originated in Ethiopia.
The Arabian Peninsula
Coffee made its way to Yemen and quickly spread across the Arabian Peninsula. Coffee cultivation reached Yemen and for the next 300 years, it was consumed according to the Ethiopian recipe.
Yemen’s climate and good soil provided optimal growing conditions for abundant coffee harvests. It was given the name Qahweh in Yemen,which was derived from a romantic term for wine.
Demir Pasha, the Ottoman Governor of Yemen, who had grown to enjoy the drink while stationed in that country, introduced coffee to Istanbul in 1555 under the reign of Sultan Suleiman.
In the Ottoman palace, a revolutionary method of drinking coffee was developed: the beans were cooked over an open fire, coarsely ground, and then slowly heated with water over charcoal ash. Coffee’s fame went even further as a result of its revolutionary brewing process and aroma.
Coffee quickly went from the palace to elegant mansions, and then from grand mansions to ordinary people’s houses. The beverage immediately became popular among Istanbul residents. Green coffee beans were bought and roasted on pans at home.
After that, the beans were pounded in mortars and brewed in “cezve” coffeepots.
Coffee’s Growing Popularity
The Arabs maintained their coffee monopoly by boiling, roasting, or baking the beans before leaving the region to assure that they would not sprout if planted.
So, how did coffee, which is currently grown in over 70 nations, escape the Arab exclusivity? Sufi Baba Budan was the first to transport green or unroasted coffee beans out of their homeland, breaking the Arab hold on them. For this act of smugglery, he is honored by both Muslim and Hindu religions and is frequently represented with seven green coffee beans strapped to his chest, while some variants of the narrative claim he hid them in his beard. Sufi took these beans and planted them in his own country of India, namely in the city of Mysore.
Turkish Coffee quickly spread throughout Europe and eventually the entire world, thanks to the efforts of merchants and visitors passing through Istanbul.
Coffee Comes to Europe
Venetian merchants who had been acquainted with the drink in Istanbul brought it back to Venice in 1615, giving Europeans their first taste of coffee. Lemonade vendors first sold the beverage on the street, but the first coffeehouse was established in Italy in 1645. It was brought to the rich Venetians by merchants who arrived there, and they relished it. As imports rose, prices dropped and availability expanded.
The Dutch established the first European-owned coffee estate in Sri Lanka in 1616, followed by Ceylon in 1696, and finally Java in 1696. Coffee was first grown in the Caribbean by the French, then in Central America by the Spanish, and finally in Brazil by the Portuguese. The Turkish Ambassador to Paris introduced coffee to France in the 17th century, notably in 1669. The Royal Court swooned for it during his time with Louis the XIV, and Paris was quickly engulfed by it.
The Dutch introduced coffee to most of Asia, and they led the way in terms of exports and cultivation in India, Indonesia, and Japan. A Spanish monk is credited for bringing coffee to the Philippines, where it flourished until a spell of coffee rust, along with an insect infestation, devastated much of the plantations in the late 1880s. Following this significant drop in production, the Philippine coffee industry was absorbed by Brazil, the world’s largest coffee producer.
Coffee shops sprang up all over Europe, first in Italy and then in France, where they reached a new level of popularity. It is now customary for Parisians to enjoy a cup of coffee and a baguette or croissant at one of the city’s numerous coffee houses.
When a surplus of coffee was left behind a hop was opened by a military officer, who popularized the practice of adding milk and sugar to the new beverage.
The Americas and Coffee
In 1715 the Amsterdam mayor presented King Louis V of France a new coffee plant. He ordered it for planting at Royal Botanicultural Gardens in Paris. In 1723 the young Marine officer Gabriel de Clieu acquired the seed of the King’s plant. He sailed to Martinique and planted the seedlings. Coffee thrived and has now spread to over 18 million coffee plantations around Martiniques.
The small beans were touching every nation across the Atlantic Ocean after conquering Africa and the Indian Ocean states and spreading over Europe.
Sir Nicholas Lawes, the English Governor of Jamaica, imported coffee trees to the island in 1730. Coffee farming began to grow deep into the Blue Mountains – an extraordinary growing region – in a short period of time.
Coffee plants arrived in the New World in the early 18th century, but the drink didn’t become widely popular in the United States until the Boston Tea Party of 1773 when switching from tea to coffee became a patriotic duty.
How America Shaped The Coffee Industry
The Boston Tea Party and the American Revolution ushered in America’s coffee adventure in the 18th century. 1773 was the year. Coffee had become a global commodity by the late 1800s, and entrepreneurs began exploring new ways to profit from the popular beverage.
In 1864, Pittsburgh brothers John and Charles Arbuckle bought Jabez Burns’ newly patented self-emptying coffee bean roaster. The Arbuckle brothers started selling pre-roasted coffee by the pound in paper bags. They christened their coffee “Ariosa” and sold it to cowboys in the American West with tremendous success.
It wasn’t long before James Folger followed in his footsteps and began selling coffee to California’s gold miners. This paved the way for a number of other well-known coffee companies, such as Maxwell House and Hills Brothers.
Since then, the United States has been the biggest coffee importer, purchasing significantly more coffee than any other country. Many countries in South and Central America have benefited economically from their nationwide reliance on beans. Not only does America import coffee, but it also produces a little amount of it. The United States is the world’s largest population of coffee drinking nation.
California has a rich coffee history, but only as an importer, not as a producer.
The advent of the railroads connected the country’s interior to tropical goods moving north from Latin America and east from Asia, while the Gold Rush cemented San Francisco’s control of Pacific trade routes.
Sugar, bananas, and cheap coffee from Brazil and the Caribbean were available in New Orleans, while high-quality beans from Hawaii, Java, and western Latin America could be found in San Francisco.
Fun Fact: The California State Archives has a lovely collection of trademarks attesting to the state’s many importers and roasters.
Latin American Coffee Industry
Latin America cultivates more coffee than any other region. Although instant coffee will continue to be a dominant force in Latin American coffee, consumers are adopting new way to prepare their coffee, particularly having an expanding appetite for fresh coffee. Coffee pods are popular not only with established brands but also with newer manufacturers.
Most of the area, led by Brazil, should experience a major increase in coffee production.
Francisco de Melo Palheta, was a Brazilian colonel dispatched to Guyana in 1727 to settle a conflict between the Dutch and the French. His goal was to obtain a young coffee plant or coffee seeds and return it to Brazil at any cost. He returned to Brazil with coffee cuttings and established the world’s largest coffee empire.
Brazil’s coffee output began to flourish in 1822 and became the world’s greatest producer of coffee in 1852, a position held to this day.
Fun Fact: Coffee from Brazil was brought to Kenya and Tanzania in 1893.
Brazil is ahead of its competition on a worldwide scale of coffee producing countries. Coffee farmers in Brazil produce more coffee than Vietnam, Colombia, Indonesia, and Ethiopia combined. Brazil grows the majority of the world’s Arabica beans.
Colombia is Latin America’s second-largest producer of coffee. Because of the high elevation coffee estates, its coffee production differs from that of Brazil. This coffee boasts a rich caramel-like sweetness and medium acidity. For people who enjoy sweet coffee, Columbia is one of the best options.
Colombia’s status as a competitive powerhouse is thanks to its mild Arabica roast. Colombia has experienced a significant increase in production in recent years, nearly doubling its annual coffee output between 2012 and 2015. As a result, the country has consolidated its position as Latin America’s second-largest coffee producer. Consumption has increased year after year, despite being low in comparison to production. In the 2019/20 marketing year output was expected to be around two million bags or about 15% of total production. Colombians prefer roasted ground coffee to soluble coffee, with roasted ground coffee accounting for roughly three-quarters of total consumption.
Peru is third in South American coffee output and reputation behind Brazil and Colombia. Peruvian has been a coffee favorite for a long time. Coffee grown in the nation has a mild acidity and a light body with a distinct flavor of vanilla-nut sweetness. Typica and Caturra are two common coffee varietals that have a nice blend of crisp acidity and mild sweetness in a wonderful medium body.
Some would say Peru produces low-quality coffee and is flooding the market. To compete with the low-quality coffee on the market, other producers of high-quality Arabica coffee are obliged to cut their coffee prices.
Types of Coffee Beans
The four main coffee bean types are Arabica, Robusta, Excelsa, and Liberica. Each has a differnt taste profile.
Arabica beans are the most regularly produced variety and are regarded as higher grade beans. They are one of the most popular and well-known types of coffee beans. Arabica coffee beans account for more than 60% of all coffee beans produced worldwide.
Robusta is the second most popular coffee bean. These are usually single-origin coffees roasted by small-batch roasters in tiny batches. The greatest Robusta coffee beans will include overtones of chocolate and rum in their flavor profile, but they aren’t always easy to come by.
Liberica is becoming more difficult to come by in the coffee market these days, but it has a significant history in the world of coffee. Liberica beans are larger and more uneven than other coffee beans, and they’re the only ones in the world with such an uneven shape. Liberica coffee has a distinct aroma with flowery and fruity undertones, as well as a full body and smoky flavor; some who have tried it say it is unlike any other coffee they have ever tasted, with many claiming it does not even taste like coffee, claiming it tastes too “woody.”
Although it has lately been classified as a Liberica coffee bean, the Excelsa bean has a very different flavor profile than the Liberica bean. Excelsa has a tarter, fruitier flavor and is noted for combining characteristics of both light and dark roast coffees to create a distinct profile that is highly sought after by coffee connoisseurs.
Flavors Around the World!
Brazil: Some Brazilian beans, particularly those that are pulped natural or “Brazil natural,” have a distinct “peanutty” flavor and a thick body, making them popular in espresso mixes. Chocolate and spice are common flavors, and the coffees tend to stay in the mouth longer than coffees from other South American countries, leaving a less clean aftertaste.
Central America: We can expect cup characteristics from this region to contain varying amounts of smooth, sugar-browning sweet taste that is sometimes soft like chocolate or buttery like flaky pastry crust.
Kenya: Kenyan coffees are big, strong, and juicy thanks to their variety, processing, and the fact that the majority of the coffee is cultivated without shade. These components combine to give Kenyan coffees a mouthwatering savory-sweet flavor that alternates between tomato-like acidity and black-currant tartness.
Ethiopia: Thousands of coffee kinds grow here, most of them wild and/or uncatalogued, therefore the flavor range has the potential to be much wider. Ethiopian coffees that have been naturally processed often have a viscous texture and a richly sweet berry flavor, usually blueberry or strawberry. Washed coffees include jasmine or lemongrass notes and are lighter and drier on the palate than unwashed coffees.
Indonesia: Sumatran coffees from Indonesia, in particular, respond well to dark roasting, resulting in smoky and roasted tastes in the cup. Others will have a delicious and herbaceous mushroom-like depth, as well as a long, enduring finish that tastes like very dark or unsweetened chocolate.
Although coffee originated in Ethiopia, it has never truly taken hold in the region. True, coffee currently accounts for roughly 25% of total exports, but it was not widely grown in the original home of the world’s third most popular beverage until the previous century. Coffee is now one of the world’s most popular commodities, and the global coffee business employs roughly 10% of the world’s population.