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The History of Coffee

Have you ever wondered about the history of coffee? Coffee is one of those drinks that we often take for granted, but it’s only when you stop and think that it actually hits you: why on earth would anyone ever think to drink it in the first place? After all, for the most part, coffee is an acquired taste, and it needs careful brewing to really bring out the best flavors. So, where did our love of coffee come from? And, even more intriguingly – how does this all relate to goats? (Yes, you read that right).

history of coffee

Coffee and Goats – An Ancient Legend

While we don’t know for certain quite where coffee had its origins, the best lead we have comes from an Ethiopian legend, where it is believed that the first coffee consumption can actually be thanks to a goat herder on the Ethiopian Plateau. Now, goats – by their nature – are incredibly excitable animals. However, the tale goes that after his goats ate coffee beans, the goat herder discovered they became significantly more active at night.

So, curious as to the beans’ properties, he gave some to a local monastery – which made the connection between coffee beans and alertness. Of course, in the modern day, we know this is the result of the caffeine contained within the coffee beans themselves.

The Arrival of Coffee in Arabia

If the legend is to be believed – and it certainly seems plausible – it remains true that global consumption of coffee was still a long way off. In fact, knowledge of coffee wouldn’t arrive in Arabia until hundreds of years later, and the first Arabian coffee was only grown in the 15th century in Yemen. Later, coffee growers began to slowly pop up in Egypt, Syria, Turkey and Persia by the 16th century. Still, even then, the progression of slow.

While the spread of coffee outside of Arabia was relatively slow, its growth within the Arabian peninsula was quite extraordinary! Indeed, public coffee houses, known as qaveh khaneh, were rapidly established across the countries, and these became a hub for social activities among many Arabian cultures.

In fact, the Arabian people developed such a love for coffee that they often began making pilgrimages across the region with the sole intent of trying the so-called “wine of Araby.” And, over the years, word of the seemingly magical properties began to spread.

Reaching Europe

By the 17th century, coffee had become a well-established part of Arabian life, but it was only now that it started to trickle into European culture. However, while the Arabian people adored it, there was much greater suspicion of the drink among Europeans, who referred to it as a “bitter invention of Satan.” In fact, coffee was even condemned in Venice, although Pope Clement VIII eventually tried the beverage and gave papal approval for the drink.

Slowly, European cultures began to open up to the concept of coffee, and the idea of public coffee houses again began to spread, though somewhat slower. With time, however, the drink began to take off, and Europeans gradually switched from wine and beer as breakfast beverages to coffee – something that’s still common today.

Perceptions in America

By the late 17th century, much of the world had already fallen in love with coffee’s charm. However, this wasn’t the case in America. Ironically, the Americans were actually some of the last nationalities to make the switch to coffee, and until the Boston Tea Party of 1773, tea typically remained the nation’s favorite. However, following this landmark event, tea rapidly began losing favor to coffee, and Thomas Jefferson even referred to coffee as “the favorite drink of the civilized world.”

After this change, coffee consumption in America became widely more popular – and luckily, an import of a single coffee seedling in 1714 to Martinique had already established coffee on the continent. This single seedling thrived in its new home, despite an attempt at sabotage during its long journey, and would eventually become the ancestor of all early coffee plants in Central and Southern America and the Caribbean.

No wonder, then, that its popularity began to grow so rapidly after such an announcement – and America is now one of the world’s largest coffee consumers. Nowadays, coffee is second only to water in terms of American consumption statistics, making it the most popular non-water beverage on the market.

Modern Coffee Growth and Consumption

In the modern day, despite coffee originating from Ethiopia (and the negative perception of coffee in the Americas until the late 18th century), Brazil is now the largest grower of coffee globally. The annual coffee consumption totals approximately one billion kilograms of coffee beans or one million tonnes. Even more significantly, the coffee market appears to grow globally by around 2.5% per year, indicating that our love for coffee is not slowing down any time soon!

Final Thoughts

We absolutely love coffee, and it’s clear that coffee has been enjoyed for hundreds of years by people as well – and potentially even further back. However, while the ancient history of coffee is limited to just a few legends, it’s safe to say that modern coffee consumption is something we’ve got to a fine art. And now, you can enjoy delicious coffee from the comfort of your own home in a matter of minutes. What’s not to love?