History of Coffee: Origin, Discovery & Some Exciting Facts

Coffee history and origin story

Coffee history and origin stories

Irrespective of your geographical location, the popularity of coffee beverages keeps encircling people every minute. Since “there is no smoke without fire”, coffee most definitely has a pleasant origin story and history behind it. Here, we bring you the history, discovery, and some exciting facts about the world’s most famous breakfast drink – coffee.

History of Coffee

Coffee sprang up in the good olden days. But where exactly did it happen? It turns out that, the beautiful continent of Africa has greatness in it. Coffee’s discovery happened in Ethiopia around 700 AD. It then traveled at the speed of light to reach the outskirts of the globe.

Popular Origin Stories

Coffee discovery is packed with amazing stories that defy common imagination. Looking far back into the AD (Anna Domini) era, one wouldn’t have expected such a discovery to happen just like that.

But once again, history has proved us wrong. It doesn’t take only a scientifically advanced society to discover a revolutionary substance such as coffee. Many tales surround the initial discovery of the drink. They are discussed below:

Kaldi and His Goats

In the story, it states that,  back in 700 AD or probably the 9th century, an Ethiopian herdsman by name Kaldi,  chanced upon his goats displaying their dancing skills. At night time, the goats would not sleep. This kind of unusual animal behavior blew the herdsman’s mind away.

As Kaldi sought further answers to explain the mystery, he realized that the goats were feeding on red berries. At that point, the herdsman knew that history was about to capture his name. Kaldi hypothesized that the berries may have had some kind of active substance in them that influenced the turbo-charged behavior of the goats.

Kaldi visits a Monk

After making such a good observation, the herdsman didn’t keep the discovery to himself. He allegedly narrated his experience to a religious monk. Around that time, the religiously devout man of God was badly in need of something that could make him active and sleepless at night.

He wanted to stay awake overnight and say his prayers. Based on Kaldi’s description of the goats’ reaction to the fruit intake, the monk decided to test it for himself by eating some of the beans. And bingo! He got the sleep-defeating drug he was looking for. Coffee had been discovered in the weirdest possible circumstance. Soon afterward, people began to grind and boil the beans, giving rise to the widespread popularity of coffee.

Contrary Claims

Other stories narrate completely different facts about the matter. For instance, one story suggested that, after the monk had tasted the fruit, he wasn’t impressed with the results, so he kept them on fire. The strong aroma of the roasted beans led other monks to do more experiments, and coffee eventually became a popular drink.

One legend also says that a Moroccan Muslim by name Ghothul Akbar Nooruddin Abu al-Hasan al-Shadhi discovered coffee while in Ethiopia. He saw a group of birds fly actively anytime they fed on the crop. His Eureka moment of discovery happened when he ate the bean and realized their effect.

Again, in another account, it traces coffee’s discovery to one Muslim by name Omar; he was banished from Mocha to live in Ousab. When he became hungry, Omar ate the bean from a shrub, but realized that the beans tasted bitter. So he roasted the beans to see if it could give him a good taste. But the beans rather became hard. To soften them, Omar then boiled the beans and drank the liquid. After drinking the coffee, his hunger died down and he became energetic. Following his discovery, Omar was called back to Mocha. They made him a saint.

Even though the authenticity of Kaldi’s story and others cannot be ascertained, it’s undisputable to state that coffee proudly originated from Ethiopia (then known as Abyssinia).

Some Exciting Facts About Coffee

These exciting facts about coffee truly do justice to the amazing history behind coffee:

Coffee’s Etymology is Debatable

It’s known that coffee came into English usage in 1582 from a Dutch word koffie”, which also traced its origin to “qahwah” (an Arab word whose interpretation means “no hunger”). In other words, “quwwah” ( an Arabic word meaning power or energy), shares meaning with coffee. “Quwwah” also sounds similar to the term that the Turks first used to call coffee – “Kahveh”. Then, there is the ancient Ethiopian kingdom of “Kaffa”. That name has also been linked to coffee.

Well, it appears the real etymology of coffee stems from a number of sources, much like its legendary accounts.

The Arabian Peninsula was a Coffee Farm

The first known cultivation of the coffee plant took place at the Arabian Peninsula. The plant was widely grown in Yemen and the surrounding Arabia towns around the 15th century. By the 16th century, it had spread to Turkey, Persia, Syria, and Egypt.

Thus Arabia holds the honor of being the place where roasted coffee started springing up on a large scale. This practice took hold of Muslims in the place around the 13th century. The coffee’s stimulating properties allowed them to pray without ceasing.

Europeans Tasted Coffee in the 17th century

Prior to the 1600s, coffee plants were predominantly found in Arabia and Africa. Legend has it that a Sufi saint by name Baba Budan was the one who introduced coffee beans to the Indian subcontinent in the 1670s.

Soon, Europeans traveled Near East and brought home news about the coffee beverages. By the 17th century, Europeans had tasted their first coffee. The beans became very popular in major European cities, beginning in Italy.

European powers took to planting the crop abroad because their environment could not sustain its cultivation. For example, the Dutch established a coffee plantation and estate in Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) in the early 1600s. There were also coffee plantations in Java, Indonesia.

As for the French, they followed suit in the Caribbean. And so did Spain, across Central and South America.

Upon its introduction in continental Europe, the popularity was met with evil suspicions and banning, as coffee became associated with the devil. In 1615, Venice clergymen condemned the drink. Finally, Pope Clement VIII drank coffee and quickly approved it.

Coffee houses began to spring up in Europe, with people thronging in to spend pennies on coffee and engage in conversations. The traditional breakfast of beer & wine was quickly replaced by coffee. Coffee drinkers were more alert, and energetic to perform their duties.

America got  Coffee in mid 1600

The British exported coffee to New York City (then known as New Amsterdam) around the mid-1600s. In 1773, in the Boston Tea Party’s aftermath, Americans patronized coffee more than tea. Many of them felt that prioritizing coffee over tea would send a message to the British that they could do without tea. For many people, it symbolized the colonies’ patriotism and commitment in the fight for independence. Moreover, the British had imposed exorbitant taxes on tea in the American colonies.

Historians believe that Civil War soldiers – both Union and Confederate soldiers – indulged in coffee drinking as a means to give them an upper hand on the field of battle.

Coffee was banned in Mecca

Coffee’s association with the Arabs has been well established. The coffee houses were even called “schools of the wise”. Several scholars and opinionated individuals would troop into those houses to drink coffee, something they even termed as the “wine of Araby”.

But in 1511, the drink got banned by one Meccan governor Khair Beg. His fear was that coffee drinking could bring people together to hold discussions and oppose him. In the coming decades, similar bans were seen in Cairo and Ethiopia.

Luckily, those bans did not last for too long, and coffee was reinstated as the preferred drink across the region.

Coffee is Very Valuable Today

After petroleum (oil), coffee takes a firm position as the second most valuable legal commodity in the global trade. It has been estimated that, on each day, the world consumes over  2 billion cups of the popular beverage.

New York residents love coffee so much, to an extent that, their consumption rate is 7 times greater than other American cities. There is a reason why Starbucks remains ubiquitous coffee maker in America, as well across the world. Manhattan, New York for example has a very large number of Starbucks, almost on every block.

Quick Facts about Coffee in the Modern Era

Coffee history and origin story

Coffee history and origin story

  • America’s 25th President Theodore Roosevelt is believed to have taken a gallon of coffee every day.
  • The first coffee house to open in England occurred in 1651. It was at Oxford. Out of the Oxford Coffee Club, the famous think tank and scientific organization, the Royal Society, came to being. Coffee houses were so famous in England that they earned the name “Penny Universities”. All one needed was a few pennies and he or she could be exposed to a whole lot of ideas while sipping a cup of coffee.
  • America, on the other hand, saw its first coffee house in 1689 in Boston, Massachusetts.
  • Ethiopia, the widely accepted place that gave birth to coffee, sits high in terms of the leading coffee-producing nations in the world. The East African country ranks in the top ten global coffee producers.
  • The South American economic powerhouse, Brazil, sits atop the global coffee production, according to the International Coffee Organization. Brazil’s affair with coffee started around the 18th century. After the French consistently refused to share coffee seeds with other parts of the continent. Francisco de Mello Palheta successfully smuggled a few coffee seeds from French Guiana into Brazil. Kind courtesy of Francisco’s daring act, Brazil currently rakes in billions of US Dollars annually from coffee exports.
  • Other leading coffee producing countries in the world are Vietnam, Indonesia, Uganda, Honduras, and India.
  • The coffee table gained wide usage in many homes across the world in the early parts of the 20th century.
  • The espresso machines that we have come to so much love was the invention of Italian barista Achille Gaggia in the 1940s. As for the decaffeinated coffee, the credit of invention (in 1903) goes to Ludwig Roselius, a prosperous coffee merchant from Germany.

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