Origin and History of Coffee: How was this popular drink born?

It is curious that the origin and history of coffee is one of the subjects that gathers the most diverse theories. It seems that the different historians cannot agree, and their own research competes with the legends generated around the emergence of this popular infusion.

Origin and History of Coffee

Today, coffee is hot on the heels of oil as the second most traded commodity in the world. Around 400 billion cups of coffee are consumed every year. In addition, about 125 million people work cultivating coffee, and 100 million bags of coffee are produced each year.

The first recorded coffee shop was born in the city of Paris in the year 1672. However, it took a long time and countless amount of events and coincidences since this infusion was discovered until it was marketed as a drink in a shop.

Therefore, in this article, we propose to explore in depth all the facts and theories that are known to this day about the origin and history of coffee.

Coffee History and Origins

Although the theories about the origin and history of coffee are many and varied, all of them share a common element: they place Ethiopia as the country of origin of coffee, in the African continent.

The most popular version of the origin of coffee tells the legend of a shepherd named Kaldi who observed the effect that a plant with reddish fruits had on his flock of sheep. The shepherd was astonished to find that the sheep became more active and had more energy when they consumed this plant. Of course, this plant was what we know today as the coffee plant.

Seeing the energetic power of these fruits, the shepherd decided to collect some and take them to a monastery, where the monks tasted them. However, they found the bitter taste so unpleasant that they chose to throw the remaining beans into the coals to burn. Then the magic happened: the attractive smell of the burnt coffee beans gave them the idea of preparing an infusion with them. This is how they came up with the first coffee drink similar to the one we know today.

However, this story about the origin and history of coffee may not be true. It is believed that African tribes were coffee drinkers since ancient times.

The Legend of Kaldi

In turn, historians point to the origin of coffee in the first coffee trees in the mountains of Ethiopia, from where they passed to Yemen. This theory, more truthful than the creative anecdote of Pastor Kaldi, explains that slaves were transported from Sudan to Yemen through the port of Mocha. These slaves ate the fruits of coffee and the beginnings of their expansion could be found there.

Mocha, besides being today the name of a type of coffee, was also the main port on the sea route to Mecca. Mecca was the most visited place in the world at that time, which also explains the expansion of coffee consumption.

However, the Arabs had a strict protectionist policy regarding coffee: they did not allow its exportation so that it would not be possible to grow it anywhere else. In spite of the many attempts to contradict this regulation, it was the Dutch in 1616 who managed to take the beans and began to cultivate them.

However, none of these theories about the origin and history of coffee are easy to prove. The most accurate information is limited to confirming that it was cultivated in Yemen before the XV century and it is possible to venture its cultivation much earlier in time.

In its beginnings, the consumption of coffee was highly promoted in Yemen, since the aim was to popularize this plant and avoid the consumption of “Kat”, a bush of very strong effects, whose leaves were chewed as a stimulant.

Thus, the first “coffee shops”, as we would call them today, were opened in Yemen. This type of establishment spread very quickly throughout the Arab world and soon went from being places of meeting, entertainment and music to becoming centers of political discussion. For this reason, coffee shops were banned.

However, as these types of establishments continued to appear, contrary to the norm, it was decided to allow their existence but charge their high taxes.

Thanks to the Dutch who managed to export coffee to Amsterdam, its consumption expanded not only to the European continent but also to the Asian continent. Thus, they introduced coffee in what today is known as Indonesia, a country that today is the fourth most important exporter of coffee globally.

It was the Europeans, in turn, who brought coffee to Latin America through their colonies.

Don’t forget to read this article if you want to know all the types of coffee that exist in the world, the different plants, and the very varied ways of preparing it.

History of Coffee in Colombia

As with all topics related to coffee, this is another one that also holds an aura of mystery: it is not known for sure how coffee arrived in Colombia. However, it is important to make a brief history of the arrival of coffee in this country.

One possibility is that the Jesuits brought coffee beans to New Granada in 1730. The Jesuit José Gumilla wrote a book published in 1730 that tells of the existence of coffee plantations in the mission of Santa Teresa de Tabajé, near the Meta River on the Orinoco.

On the other hand, there are also records of the presence of coffee crops in some regions of the country such as Santander and Boyacá in the year 1787.

Nevertheless, in spite of the early development of coffee in Colombia, Colombian coffee as a product to be commercialized at a global level was consolidated only after the second half of the XIX century.

It was then that the international market began to become attractive for the great Colombian coffee producers. The United States at the head, with Germany and France as the most important in Europe, confirmed the beginning of the list of the major consuming countries of Colombian coffee.

Although Colombian coffee is one of the most recognized worldwide, it is worth asking why it deserves this award. Colombia is not a pioneer in producing or exporting coffee, nor is it the largest coffee-producing country in the world. On the contrary, this title is held by Brazil.

However, Colombia has a series of reasons that make its coffee stand out from the rest of the world.

These are some of the secrets of Colombian coffee:

  • Only arabica coffee is grown in Colombia, which is the most valued for its smell and strong flavor
  • The tropical climate and high mountains provide the ideal conditions for growing coffee in Colombia.
  • The coffee grown in Colombia tends to be harvested by hand, which increases the quality of the beans. In Brazil, on the other hand, harvesting tends to be automatic.

Below we will review some of the main Colombian coffee brands:

  • Juan Valdez
  • Tinamú Coffee
  • Valle Santo by Santoro Coffee
  • Los Comuneros
  • Giro Coffee
  • Umbra
  • Mokatán Coffee
  • Alto Coffee
  • Fedar Coffee

History of coffee in Mexico

Along with avocado, Mexico’s coffee is a prominent and very commonly traded product. Almost half of Mexico’s agricultural exports are due to coffee, comprising a significant percentage of Mexico’s total exports to the world.

Europe, Canada and the United States are the main consumers of Mexican coffee, which is produced mainly in the southern and central zone.

Mexican coffee has a particularity that lies in its most popular form of preparation. The well-known “café de olla” is drunk especially in very cold regions and small towns. This type of coffee owes its name to the container where it is prepared: a clay pot.

Next we will review some of the main Mexican coffee brands:

  • Punta del Cielo
  • Alche
  • Garat Coffee
  • Capeltic
  • Ensueño Mixteco
  • Cupella Coffee
  • Nice coffee

Cafeterias of the world

Thus, the phenomenon of coffee shops, which in the 19th and 20th centuries were revolutionary in Europe and led to the meetings of famous artists, politicians and public figures, can now be seen on every corner.

Famous coffee establishments such as Café Gijón in Madrid, Café Novelty in Salamanca, Café Tortoni in Buenos Aires, Café Casa Municipal in Prague, Café New York in Budapest and Café Le Procope in Paris have become cradles of culture and the strong aroma of coffee.

Today, the coffee shop business is so widespread that it’s hard to stop thinking about chains like Starbucks, which sell franchises all over the world and are in the business of selling the coffee experience.

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