Coffee history at length

Coffee is something many of us enjoy and some people feel they couldn’t live without it. The temptation is nearly always there with more and more Starbucks sites appearing all over the world. Many of us may not realise, but the story behind coffee is a very interesting one and in this article, I will explore just that, the history behind coffee.

There is a legend behind how coffee was first discovered. The legend claims that there was an Arabian named Kaldi who had discovered his goats dancing around a mysterious shrub with dark green leaves and red cherries.

It was soon discovered that it was the red cherries that was having the strange reaction in the goats. Kaldi tried these red cherries himself and soon learned of their powerful stimulating effect. Later monks used this stimulant to help them stay awake during long periods of prayer. According to the legend this is the story of how coffee was born. It’s a nice story, but on this occasion it’s merely a myth.

(Coffee History. (n.d.). Retrieved August 27, 2008, from

The true story is that coffee was discovered sometime in the 9th century in the highlands of Ethiopia. It then spread across Egypt and Yemen. Then by the 15th century coffee found its way to Armenia, Persia, Turkey and also the northern parts of Africa. It was from the Muslim world that coffee found its way to Italy and then eventually to the rest of Europe, Indonesia and the Americas.

(Coffee. (n.d.). Retrieved August 27, 2008, from

The word Coffee itself was first used in 1598 and it comes from the Italian word caffe. This originates from the Turkish word kahve and before that the Arabic word qahwa. The rough translation of the Arabic word is wine of the bean. The strict and traditional religion of Islam prohibits the use of alcohol as a beverage; therefore coffee is seen as an alternative to wine.

(History of coffee. (n.d.). Retrieved August 27, 2008, from

The Muslim world

In the works of Persian physician Razi, there is a reference about coffee in the 10th century. More detailed information on the preparation of this beverage from roasting coffee berries occurred several centuries later. Coffee was popular with Sufis due to its ability to drive away sleep.

Coffee was discovered in Ethiopia and then traveled to Yemen and the first coffee house appeared in Istanbul in 1471. Coffee was not always well received as in 1511, for a short time it was forbidden, due to its stimulating effects. The popularity of the beverage led to the bans being overturned in 1524.

The problems were not over as in there were further bans in Egypt and Ethiopia before coffee became the everyday drink it is today. Ethiopians slowly began to embrace the drink and consumption increased rapidly between 1880 and 1886.


Coffee first appeared in Italy, where it was first imported to. Coffee arrived in Italy, along with a range of African goods, due to the trade between Italy and Muslims in North Africa. Again there were appeals to ban coffee in 1600, but despite this, the drink was accepted. In 1645 the first European coffee house appeared in Italy.


Coffee became available in England in the 16th century, due to the efforts of the British East India Company and also the Dutch East India Company. Expansion then occurred and in 1675, there were over 3,000 coffee houses in England.


The major spread of coffee to Paris occurred in 1669, when Ambassador from Sultan Mehmed IV arrived bringing with him large quantities of coffee beans. They provided coffee for their French and European guests and also donated some to the royal court. From July 1669 to May 1670 the Ambassador was able to establish the custom of drinking coffee with the Parisians.


Austria discovered coffee after defeating the Turks in the Battle of Vienna. They then established the first coffee house in 1683. The typical Viennese coffee comes mixed with hot foamed milk and a glass of water and is known as the ‘Melange’.


The Dutch began production of coffee at their forts in Malabar, India. In 1699, the Dutch took some Batavia in Java, what is now known as Indonesia. Within only a few years the Dutch colonies mentioned became the main suppliers of coffee to Europe.


Chevalier Gabriel Mathiew de Clieu was the man responsible for bringing coffee to the Americas. He brought sprouts from the Noble Tree to Martinique in Haiti in 1720. In 50 years there were 18,680 coffee trees allowing distribution of coffee amongst the Caribbean.

(history of coffee. (n.d.). Retrieved August 28, 2008, from

Coffee timeline:

850, is when the legend of Kaldi occurred, which is mentioned at the beginning of this article.

1100, is the date of the first trees being cultivated on the Arabian Peninsula. This is also the date when coffee is first roasted.

1475, the world’s first coffee shop opens in Constantinople. This is closely followed by two more in 1554.

1600, is when coffee first enters Europe via the port of Venice, then the first European coffee house opens in Italy in 1654.

1607, in Jamestown, Virginia coffee finds its way to the New World thanks to Captain John Smith.

1652, this is when the first coffee house open in London, England. They are known as “penny universities” with a penny being charged for admission and the cup of coffee.

In 1688 Edward Lloyd’s coffee house opens, which later becomes Lloyd’s of London, which is now the world’s best known insurance company. Around this time in England the concept of “TIPS” is first introduced with those putting money in the jar getting prompt service and better seating. It’s interesting that in those days TIPS were used when arriving, whereas now TIPS are paid at the time of leaving.

1672, is the opening of the first Parisian cafe, which is dedicated to serving coffee.

In 1713, King Louis XIV is presented with a coffee true. It’s also widely assumed that sugar was first used as an additive in his court.

In 1683 the first coffee house open in Vienna.

Austria 1690, the Dutch were the first country to cultivate coffee commercially.

In 1721 the first coffee house opens in Berlin, Germany.

By 1723 coffee has reached the Americas and by 1777, 1,920 million coffee plants are cultivated on the island of Martinique.

1727, the world’s biggest coffee producer gets its start after seedlings are smuggled out of Paris.

In 1750, Cafe Greco opens in Rome, Italy and by 1763 coffee shops in Venice are up to 2,000.

1822, marks the first sight of an Espresso machine as a prototype is created in France.

1900, in Germany afternoon coffee has become popular.

1905, the first Espresso machine is finally manufactured in Italy In 1908 the World’s first drip coffeemaker is invented 1933, the very first automatic Espresso machine is developed

1938, the Nestle company comes up with the idea of instant coffee.

1945, the Espresso machine is perfected with a piston to create high pressure extraction, which results in the production of a thick layer of crema.

1991, marks the forming of a Canadian network of Espresso service providers. In the end it becomes the fastest growing network of private and independent super automatic machines providers across all of Canada.

In 1995, coffee has become the most popular beverage, with over 400 billion cups consumed every year, as a world commodity it’s ranked second only to oil.

(Timeline. (n.d.). Retrieved August 27, 2008, from

Coffee is an important export commodity for a lot of countries. In fact in 2004, coffee was the top agricultural export for 12 countries. Coffee was the world’s seventh largest legal agricultural export by value in 2005. Coffee has a little controversy around it regarding the impact on the environment. There is also major disputes over coffee and its impact on several medical conditions and it is debatable whether coffee has a positive or negative effect.

(Coffee. (n.d.). Retrieved August 28, 2008, from

According to data from 1999, the top five coffee producing countries are Brazil, Colombia, Indonesia, Mexico and Guatemala.

Brazil has a coffee harvesting time from March to October, harvesting just over 27 million 60 KG bags. They also exported just over 23 million 60 KG bags of coffee.

Colombia has an initial coffee harvesting time from October to February and then from April to June. They harvest a little above 9 million 60 KG bags and export nearly 10 million 60 KG bags of coffee.

Indonesia is next harvesting nearly 8 million 60 KG bags and exporting about 5 million 60 KG bags. Their harvesting time is unknown.

Mexico harvests coffee at both high and low altitudes. November to January is the time for harvesting at the high altitudes and August to November at low altitudes. They harvest just over 6 million 60 KG bags of coffee and export 4.3 million of those 60 KG bags.

In Guatemala the harvesting period if from October to January and they harvest 4.5 million 60 KG bags, while exporting a similar amount. The data listed is for one year. The latest information states that the biggest producers of coffee are Brazil and Vietnam.

(Coffee Origins. (n.d.). Retrieved August 27, 2008, from

There are two main types of coffee beans these are Arabica and Robusta and both these types or species thrive in equatorial regions. Robusta usually is grown in Western and Central Africa, Malaysia, Brazil and India.

Arabica is seen as stronger despite having a lower yield and less caffeine and it grows at higher altitudes somewhere between 1000 and 2000 metres. In total Arabica accounts for about 70% of world production. In flavour Arabica is delicately acidic has a refined aroma and a caramel aftertaste. Commonly Arabica is grown in Central and South America, India, Eastern Africa and Papua New Guinea.

Many of the cheaper blends of coffee contain a higher amount of Robusta in comparison with Arabica. While the high quality espresso blends use a small quality of the very best Robusta beans providing body and character.

(Types of coffee. (n.d.). Retrieved August 27, 2008, from

Coffee production

In 1727, the first coffee plantation in Brazil arrived as a result of seeds being smuggled from French Guiana. Throughout the majority of the 19th and early 20th centuries, the biggest producer of coffee was Brazil and was virtually monopolising the industry.

Things began to change with a policy of maintaining high prices, which created opportunities for Colombia, Guatemala, Indonesia and Vietnam. As previously mentioned the origins of coffee started in Ethiopia, however the country only produced a small amount of coffee for export until the Twentieth Century. Much of the coffee came from north east and not from the south.

It wasn’t until 1907, that commercial production began in Ethiopia after the founding of the inland port of Gambela. From Gambela 100,000 kilograms of coffee was exported in 1908, while the period in 1927-8, there was over 4 million kilograms passing through the port. Coffee exports rapidly increased via Addis Ababa Djibouti Railway. By 1936, 9 million kilograms were exported in this way.

Another country with a rich coffee history is Australia. Today they are only a minor producer, but their history goes back to 1880, when 500 acres of land was developed between New South Wales and Cooktown. Nowadays there are several producers of Arabica coffee that use a mechanical harvesting system that was invented in 1981.

(history of coffee. (n.d.). Retrieved August 28, 2008, from

Modern coffee:

Our coffee now comes in many forms and we all have a particular type of coffee that we especially enjoy. When in a hurry we love to grab an espresso, this is a short black or to be more precise, a 30 ml shot of full bodied dark coffee. Of course the espresso comes in many forms and two more are Espresso Lungo and Espresso Americano. The Lungo is the same as a regular Espresso, but with the addition of adding 30 or 60 ml of hot water. This makes for a longer drink. The Americano is often referred to as a Long Black and is a standard Espresso on top of hot water.

Latte’s have become a very popular drink and consists of a standard Espresso with hot milk and is usually served in a glass.

Another popular way to have coffee is in the form of a Cappuccino, which consists of a standard Espresso with foamed milk poured into it and lightly dusted with chocolate or coco powder.

A Macchiato is a standard Espresso with just a dash of milk.

A Ristretto is half a shot of Espresso, which is about 15 ml.

Doppio is a double Espresso.

Espresso Corretto is a standard Espresso, with a little spirit added such as brandy.

Espresso Romano is a standard Espresso, but a slice of lemon peel is served on the side of the cup.

Espresso con Panna is a regular Espresso, which is topped with whipped cream and the option of chocolate powder.

A Flat White coffee is a regular Espresso served with hot milk, but no foam.

Mocha is a shot of Espresso combined with hot chocolate and hot milk, usually this drink is served in a glass.

Finally Cafe Freddo is the same as a regular Espresso, but it’s served chilled.

(Coffee drink types. (n.d.). Retrieved August 27, 2008, from


Starbucks opened its first location in 1971 in Seattle, Washington. Originally the concept was to sell high quality coffee beans and equipment. Initially the store opened at 2000 Western Avenue from 1971-76, but the store then moved to Pike Place. This first historic Starbucks store remains open to this day.

The Starbucks name comes from the classic novel Moby Dick. The idea to sell coffee and Espresso drink was first considered in 1983, when entrepreneur Howard Schultz joined the company. Schultz wanted the company to sell the drinks alongside the beans, but at the time it was rejected by the owners because they thought it would distract from the primary business of selling coffee beans. The owners also thought coffee was something to be enjoyed in the home.

Determined not to be outdone, Schultz opened chain of coffee bars known as II Giornale in 1985. In 1987 Starbucks was sold to II Giornale and Schultz re-branded the outlets as Starbucks. Also in 1987, Starbucks quickly began to expand with locations opening in Vancouver and Chicago.

The first Starbucks outside of North America was in Tokyo, Japan in 1996. In 1998, Starbucks entered the UK market.

In 1992, Starbucks was floated on the stock exchange and at that time there were 165 Starbucks outlets.

In 1999, Starbucks had a failed restaurant concept. They opened a range of restaurants called Circadia in the San Francisco Bay area, but it wasn’t successful and they were all converted to Starbucks cafes.

Starbucks expanded further in April 2003 with the purchase of Seattle’s Best Coffee and Torrefazione Italia. These acquisitions bring Starbucks locations worldwide to over 6,400.

It’s worth noting that as of November 2005, there are more Starbucks locations in London than in Manhattan; Making Starbucks a truly global brand.

Starbucks continued their expansion in 2006, with the acquisition of Diedrich Coffee and this purchase includes the Coffee People chain.

By the summer of 2007, these had all been converted to Starbucks locations. The chairman of Starbucks, Howard Schulz is making sure that the growth of the company doesn’t move away from the company’s goal of acting like a small company.

In early 2008, Starbucks are keen to stay away from some potential new products to keep the company fully focused on all things coffee.

In Seattle, Starbucks started selling an 8 oz of brewed coffee for $1 and offering free refills on all brewed coffee. This offer was limited to the Seattle area and the scheme was cancelled in March, 2008.

As of May 2008, Starbucks launched a rewards system. There are perks and rewards offered for registered users, such as 2 hours of free WIFI and free coffee refills. This is a fresh and innovative approach by Starbucks, which plans to create and strengthen customer loyalty.

(Starbucks. (n.d.). Retrieved August 28, 2008, from