Have you ever wondered where your coffee comes from? Not the brand, roaster, or even farmer, but how coffee got from a nameless plant to the worldwide phenomenon it is today? Even if you haven’t really thought about it before, there’s a chance that you might be a little curious about the history of coffee.
If so, you’re in the right place! From a strange plant with red berries to one of the most widely consumed drinks in the world, coffee has gone on a dramatic journey through the ages to reach where it is now. Even today, the coffee industry is constantly changing and growing to include new ideas, tastes, and techniques.
This article will explore coffee history, from its estimated place of origin to the shape of the coffee world today! (For bonus points, read through this list with your own cup of coffee, or better yet, one of High Brew’s specialty Cold Brews!)
How Was Coffee Discovered?
Just like a good birthday present and the debated existence of Bigfoot, the origin of coffee is surrounded by mystery! Partly, this is because coffee has existed for thousands of years, and the further back we go, the harder it is to nail down an official origin of coffee.
There are plenty of myths, legends, and theories about where coffee got its start, but in general, there are two popular ideas . What we do know for sure, however, is that the coffee plant has its origins in Ethiopia, which leads us to the first of two theories.
The Goat Herder’s Discovery
Arguably the most famous story concerning the origin of coffee is the story of Kaldi, the goat herder. As the legend goes, Kaldi was a goat herder on the Ethiopian plateau who noticed something strange about the berries his goats were eating. After watching his goats eating the berries, Kaldi noticed that those same goats wouldn’t go to sleep at night, seemingly because they were bursting with energy!
Kaldi then took this discovery to a local monastery, where the monks unlocked the secret of making coffee, changing the course of history forever. Though there’s no specific time period associated with this legend, some estimate it to have happened around 850 A.D.
The other prevalent theory about coffee puts t’s origin even further back in history. According to some scientists and historians, there is evidence of coffee berries being used for food and as an energy source well before evidence of coffee beans being used for brewing coffee. Even though this theory is slightly less whimsical and entertaining than the story of Kaldi, it likely has some truth in it! However, coffee’s origin isn’t the only part of coffee history worth exploring.
Tracking Coffee Through The Ages
Everything we know about the early history of coffee comes from the surviving written accounts of the times. Through stories, treatises, essays, and more, historians have pieced together a good amount of coffee’s history!
Who “Invented” Coffee?
Unfortunately, we don’t know the inventor of the drink, though the first known writing about coffee dates back to a Persian physician in the mid 800s. His writing describes coffee in the form of a drink, though he describes it as medicine rather than a beverage to enjoy. As a result, all we can do is speculate about the true inventor of our favorite drink.
Coffee as we know it didn’t show up until much later when the process of roasting coffee became a reality. Accounts dating back to the early 15th century tell us about the earliest coffee plantations in Yemen. These plantations are thought to be the first places in the world that roasted and ground coffee beans. Likely, the coffee plant was brought over from Ethiopia and quickly became popular throughout the Middle East, leading to its eventual worldwide spread.
The Path To World Domination
Turkish coffee today is a decadent delicacy, which should come as no surprise. In the 16th century, the Ottoman Empire (which later became Turkey) swept through the Arabian peninsula, taking coffee with them. In fact, the first documented coffee house opened in Constantinople (now known as Istanbul)!
After roughly another century, coffee made its way towards the rest of Europe, though not without some difficulty. 17th century Muslim merchants brought coffee to Europe, and after seeing its popularity, advisors to the Pope urged him to ban the beverage, calling it “the devil’s drink.” The Pope at the time, Pope Clement VIII, tasted the so-called drink of the devil and is quoted as saying:
“This devil’s drink is delicious. We should cheat the devil by baptizing it!”
With this declaration, Pope Clement VIII saved the future of coffee and set it on its course through history!
The New World
North America got its first taste of coffee in the early 18th century, and as American history progressed, coffee consumption worldwide began to grow. Even though coffee production was still limited to the Eastern world (for now), drinking coffee became the thing to do in America. By the late 19th century, coffee was global.
Well removed from the Ethiopian plateau, coffee production is now a massive industry across the globe. With powerhouses like Brazil, Columbia, Tanzania, and Indonesia producing billions of pounds of coffee per year, coffee is cultivated at an unprecedented rate. Coffee shops are now so common that it would be strange not to see one in every city!
The popularity of coffee has also bred tons of innovation, as new coffee drinks and methods constantly appear! From instant coffee to cold brew, the world of coffee is now as big as it’s ever been, and it’s all thanks to a few tiny red berries in Ethiopia a long time ago.
Modern Coffee At Its Best
High Brew hopes to continue the tradition of coffee with our own unique cold brews! Our specialty cold brews come ready to drink in a can, and in all sorts of flavors! Try our Nitro Cold Brew today for a bubbly surprise, or even crack open one of our revolutionary self-heating cans!