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The History of Coffee: From Discovery to Modern Day

If you like a cup of coffee to start off your morning each day, you are in good company. In fact, you are in the company of over 2 billion other people worldwide who take part in the same ritual. That said, you’ve probably not given much thought to how that coffee made it into your cup. Where was it discovered and when? How was it first consumed? Let’s discuss the history of coffee.

The history of coffee is veiled in mystery, with no one actually knowing exactly when it was discovered or how. However, there are commonly accepted ideas around how people discovered what is now the second most valuable commodity in the entire world.  

Let's discuss the history of coffee.

The Discovery: Ethiopia

The most commonly accepted legend of coffee’s beginnings is that it was discovered on the Ethiopian peninsula in a very undeliberate way. In fact, it was discovered totally by accident and not by a human. This is where the history of coffee begins.

This legend states that coffee was discovered by Kaldi, a goat herder, whose goats had a burst of unprecedented energy after consuming a red fruit from the coffee shrub. After discovering the shrub, Kaldi tried the same substance and reacted similarly. Then, monks consumed the same thing and were alert and awake the whole night through. So began the beginning of coffee.

Early Uses

Coffee was not immediately consumed in its current state. In fact, the first-time coffee was intentionally consumed, it looked absolutely nothing like the cup we all enjoy every morning. Prior to coffee being used in its current form today, it took on many other preparations. When unprocessed, it takes on the properties of a fruit that resembles a cherry. When ripe, it is red in color and the actual coffee bean is at the center of the that red coffee fruit.

In the early days of coffee, that red fruit was added to a mixture that contained animal fat, creating a kind of bar used for snacking that was rich in protein.

There was also a substance that resembled wine. It was similar to a drink that was created using cacao before chocolate was discovered.

Sometime around 1000 A.D, a drink was finally made using the coffee bean. This coffee, though, included the actual beans and the hull. So, it was not the drink that we are familiar with today, though we were clearly on the path to creating a beverage from the coffee bean. The drink we think of today didn’t come into the picture until the 13th century when people first learned and mastered how to roast coffee beans.

13th Century: Arabian Peninsula

That most modern version of the coffee drink we know today was first roasted in Arabia during the 13th century. It was incredibly popular, particularly within the Muslim culture and community and was revered for its ability to keep people awake and stimulated. It was often used as a stimulant for prayer sessions that were particularly long.

Legends have it that there were no coffee plants, not one, that existed outside of Africa or Arabia until the 1600’s. The coffee drink being consumed in Arabia was largely kept a secret for a long time. It was then in the 1600’s that an Indian pilgrim left Mecca carrying beans. Those beans created a competitive market in Europe and led to the start of the coffee market.  

17th Century: Europe

By the 17th century, coffee had been introduced to Europe and it served to revolutionize it. It wasn’t just an enjoyable beverage. It represented so much more than that. It was a massive economic opportunity. It also transformed Europe in the way of social gatherings. Coffee houses would be used to discuss what was happening in the world, from local gossip to world affairs and politics.

The first coffee estate that was European-owned was created in Sri Lanka in 1616. The next was Ceylon, followed by Java which was in 1696. The growth of coffee spread like wildflower, starting with the French who begin growing it in the Caribbean. Then the Spanish started and finally the Portuguese in Brazil.  Coffee houses were finally created first in Italy and then later in France.

18th Century: Coffee in America

In America, the history of coffee really began with the Boston Tea Party which didn’t take place until 1773. The catalyst for switching from tea to coffee was almost considered patriotic and so nearly everyone did it.

19th Century

By the 1800’s, coffee had become a commodity that the entire world was enjoying. Given its popularity, people started for looking for ways they could profit from creating and selling it.

By the pound, and in bags, then became the way for coffee to be sold. In American, it was first sold to cowboys, which proved very successful. Next, it was later sold to gold miners who were working in California. 

The 1960’s

Specialty coffee started to become more popular in the 1960’s. The market has only continued to grow in popularity, with more customization and specialization being created on what seems like every day. This is when many of the now popular coffee houses started doing business.

Now, you can get a simple cup of black coffee or a very intricate, detailed coffee drink. There are almost limitless choices.


The estimation on today’s coffee consumption is that there are 2.25 billion coffee drinks consumed every single day in the world. For many, coffee is a daily ritual that has simply become part of a daily routine.

The drink is not all that is consumed. There are now recipes that include coffee for baked goods and even ice cream. Better yet, you can even find protein powder for coffee.

Through the history of coffee, we now even include ice cream in coffee.

Effects of Coffee

Today, recent studies suggest that coffee can have some properties that prevent some chronic diseases. In fact, studies suggest that for those who consume coffee in moderate quantities, there is very little health risk and there is even some evidence to suggest benefit to overall health. This is good news for anyone who has a moderate coffee addiction. 


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