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History of Coffee

by Leyou Jiang

Many of us in the modern age need coffee to survive the day. The caffeine it provides allows you to do everyday things more efficiently and allows you to wake up faster. So who do we have to thank for this miracle drink?


Origins of Coffee:

Well, it turns out, coffee originates from Ethiopia in Africa. There isn’t an exact historically accurate origin of how people found out about coffee, but there are stories of how it was discovered. According to the most popular origin story, in 700 AD, a man named Kaldi was herding his goats and found out something strange. His goats suddenly started dancing and acting crazy. Through investigating, Kaldi found out that the origin of the odd behavior was red berries that he found growing on a trove of small trees. After finding this out, he brought the fruit to a monk. The monk was elated to find something that could help him stay awake during the night as he prayed.


There is another story, however, that the monk disapproved of the fruit and threw it in a fire. The result? Well, the berries ended up burning up and creating an aroma of roasted coffee.


Coffee’s First Destination

The drink spread to the north towards Yemen, across the Red Sea in the 1500s. The drink found its way to the port city of Mocha in the southern part of Yemen. Due to the popularity of coffee, the name “Mocha” became synonymous with coffee. The people of Yemen ended up planting the trees themselves, and coffee shops started to show up all over the Middleeast. These coffee shops were places of gatherings for many, and were even referred to as “Schools of the Wise”.


It was known to the people of Arabia as the “wine of Araby”. In fact, the word “coffee” comes from the Arabic word “qahwah” which literally meant wine. 

The Forbidden Drink

In the early 1500s, many courts started to ban coffee and forbid it due to the stimulating effect. Such courts included courts in Mecca, Egypt, and even Ethiopia. 


However, through the passage of these laws, riots broke out throughout the area, and they soon lifted all the bans.

The Fall of the Coffee Monopoly


Yemen and the areas around it had total control of coffee beans and their growth of them. The authorities of Yemen made lots of money through the sale of coffee beans. However, their monopoly would soon fall apart shortly after the 1600s. 


Baba Budan, a Sufi saint from India went on a pilgrimage to Mecca and smuggled some coffee beans before going back to India. These beans that Baba Budan brought back allowed for the mass cultivation of coffee beans in Southern India. In fact, they are still producing coffee plants in the same place.

Coffee’s Arrival in Europe

In the late 1600s, the Dutch had smuggled fertile coffee beans from Yemen to Holland. They tried to grow the beans but found out that the environment and climate were not suited for beans. 


However, the people of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) gave fertile beans to the Dutch governor in Indonesia. They started to grow these beans, and soon after, coffee beans from Indonesia were a staple drink in Holland. Now the term “Java” is also synonymous with coffee, because of the Java region in Indonesia. 


The drink also arrived at the footsteps of Rome. The drink boomed in popularity all over Europe and got the attention of the Pope. Pope Clement VIII decided that the reason why the drink was so popular is that it was satanic. However, under more inspection, the Pope decided that it was a perfectly fine drink, and declared it a Christian beverage. The drink became super popular among the high-class and royalty throughout Europe. 

Coffee in the Americas

Coffee was transported to the Americas with the help of European colonists. The Coffee industry in Brazil boomed as the climate was perfect for coffee beans. To this day, Brazil remains the largest producer of Coffee beans. 


During the Revolutionary war of the 13 colonies, tea was deemed an unpatriotic drink due to the popularity of tea in England. Coffee soon replaced the role of the staple drink in America and ever since the United States remains the largest importer of coffee.

Modern Coffee

In the 1800s, the first coffee makers were developed. A man in New York named Jabez Burns invented the first coffee roaster that did not require fire. He issued a patent on the machine and became the grandfather of all modern coffee roasting machines.


Now in this day in age, coffee remains one of the world’s most popular drinks. In 2016, the coffee industry was worth around $20 billion and is one of the biggest commercial products in the world.






“Coffee second only to oil? Is coffee really the second largest commodity? Mark Pendergrast investigates and finds some startling results..” The Free Library. 2009 Lockwood Trade Journal Co., Inc. 18 Mar. 2022 https://www.thefreelibrary.com/Coffee+second+only+to+oil%3f+Is+coffee+really+the+second+largest…-a0198849799





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