A History of Coffee

While it is one of the world’s most popular drinks, little is really known about the origins of coffee, although there are plenty of stories.

It is thought that the first types of coffee were grown in Ethiopia. There is a legend that states a goat herder known as Kaldi first figured out what the coffee bean could do. He apparently gave the beans to his goats who were then unable to sleep. He went to the local monastery and told the abbot what had happened, and it was the abbot who decided to make the beans into a drink. As he shared this discovery, the story spread, and the demand for the beans grew.

The main cultivation of coffee and the development of the trade started on the Arabian Peninsula. It was being grown in Yemen by the 15th century, and 100 years later it had spread across Egypt, Syria, Persia and Turkey.

As well as becoming a favourite drink in the home, coffee houses sprang up all across the Middle East. These became very social places, where music was played, and dramatic performances were staged too.

Coffee reached Europe by the 17th century, but it was greeted with suspicion. In Venice, it was condemned by the local religious leaders, and even the Pope was asked to weigh in on the debate. He tried it and liked it, so was in favour. The trend of coffee houses continued, and they appeared in most of the larger cities in France, England, Germany and Holland.

Coffee took over as the most popular drink to have with breakfast; it used to be beer or wine. People noticed how alert this would make them during the day, and this only served to boost the popularity of the drink. It just took around 40 years for there to be more than 300 coffee houses in London.

It was around the same time that coffee was taken over to America. However, for a long time, the settlers there preferred tea. Taxes on tea, unfortunately, led to the Boston Tea Party revolt, and from then on the preference was for coffee.

Once the demand grew, so did the need for coffee plantations in other parts of the world. It was at the end of the 17th century that the Dutch obtained seedlings, and while they failed to grow them in India, they were successful in Indonesia.