History of Coffee - Origin, Types, and Facts

Dec 01 , 2022

Levista India

History of Coffee - Origin, Types, and Facts

Introduction

Not everyone is a fan of coffee. But for those who are, they know what a cup of coffee can do to them and how it can instantly uplift their mood in just a few minutes after the caffeine hits. Brewing hot coffee in the early morning hours is more than just a habit. It’s been a tradition deeply rooted in different cultures across the world. 

Coffee has been subject to a long history of debate. While we have been made to believe that coffee is harmful to our health for almost half our lives, a lot of research and studies in recent years have proved these facts wrong. Coffee actually comes with a lot of benefits, including reducing the risk of certain cancers and boosting heart health, among many others.

Along with water and tea (obviously), coffee is one of the three most consumed beverages worldwide and is among the most profitable global commodities. So what made coffee gain such popularity and place in the world trade? Let’s dig more into the history of coffee to understand this better.

The History of Coffee- How did it become so popular?

Coffee has quite a fascinating story. The history of how the little bean was smuggled out of repressive countries, stolen from royalty, and used to transform entire countries and economies is simply amazing! It's incredible how one tiny bean cultivated on tiny trees in Ethiopia might rise to become the second-largest traded commodity in the world today.

So, how did it all start? One of the many stories surrounding the discovery of coffee is that of Kaldi, an Arab goatherd who was puzzled by his flock's strange behaviour. Kaldi found his goats dancing, and this was definitely not normal. When he looked into this, he found out that his goats were eating red berries, which was the reason behind the peculiar behaviour of the goats. 

Kaldi’s discovery of this magical fruit was a magnificent, enticing aroma that eventually evolved into the first roasted coffee in history. Soon after, the beans were ground and boiled to create the coffee we know today.

Now that we know coffee originated in Ethiopia, it’s time to travel to the north, where coffee was traded to Yemen through the Red Sea in the 15th century. Yemen became a leading producer of coffee. It later spread to Egypt, Persia, and Turkey, where it was referred to as the "wine of Araby".  

Regardless of coffee's true origin, its stimulant properties undoubtedly contributed to its popularity. Despite the fact that Islamic authorities declared the drink to be intoxicating and thus forbidden by the Qur'an, many Muslims were drawn to the beverage as an alternative to alcohol. Coffee consumption quickly spread among Arabs and their neighbours, establishing a new social and cultural institution known as the coffeehouse. These coffeehouses were also called “Schools of the Wise” and were the epicentre of all social activity. As coffee houses popped up all over Arabia, the drink became a tad too popular.

Into the West

In 1570, coffee made it to Venice, soon gaining popularity. There are countless instances of its acceptance or denial as a religious, political, and medicinal remedy in history. However, despite all the debate, coffee houses started to appear in England, Austria, France, Germany, and Holland in the 1600s. 

Much like the coffee shops of Arabia, these establishments developed into social hubs where people could have engaging conversations and political debates. In England, these coffeehouses were nicknamed “penny universities”.

Up until the end of the 17th century, Yemen provided practically all of the world's limited coffee supply. However, as the beverage gained popularity, the plant's growth spread quickly to Java and other Indonesian islands in the 17th century.

Coffee comes to Asia

The Arabian countries were the gatekeepers of coffee. If a country wanted coffee beans, it had to purchase them from Yemen. There was no other option. The government preferred it that way and took all necessary precautions to prevent anyone from stealing viable beans and planting the trees on their own. 

However, a saint from India who was on a pilgrimage to Mecca in 1670 had other plans. Long story short, In the 17th century, Baba Budan, a Muslim saint from Chikmagalur, smuggled seven coffee beans from present-day Yemen. Later, those coffee beans were cultivated in Chikmagalur and started to grow there. Even today, the southern parts of India have a large scale of coffee plantations and coffee farming happening in the country. 

Although numerous natural calamities destroyed Indonesia's initial attempts at growing coffee, fresh seedlings were planted in 1704, and soon, Indonesian coffee became a mainstay. Eventually, the coffee plant also spread to Sumatra and Celebes, greatly enhancing Indonesia's ability to produce coffee.

Finally, coffee’s journey to America

After sweeping Europe, Africa, and other Asian nations off their feet with its aromatic and lovely taste, coffee was all set to move even further west to conquer every country bordering the Atlantic Ocean. 

By the 20th century, the Western Hemisphere—particularly Brazil—had the highest production of coffee. Within three years, Guadalupe, Martinique, and St. Dominique all had coffee plantations. These plants soon spread throughout the rest of the Caribbean as well as Central and South America.

And finally, by the 19th century, coffee became a global commodity that was shipped and consumed everywhere.

Types of Coffee

A true coffee connoisseur not only enjoys a perfect brew but also loves to know their beans.

There are totally four types of coffee beans- Arabica, Robusta, Liberica, and Excelsa. Each type differs highly in taste, texture, and other characteristics. However, the most common out of these four are Arabica and Robusta. 

Let’s learn more about the four types in detail.

Arabica

Arabica is the most popular and widely produced coffee bean variety. It is the higher quality coffee bean out of all four and makes up over 60% of the world’s coffee production. And yes, the name ‘Arabica’ would’ve come from the popularity of the coffee bean in 7th century Arabia. 

Arabica requires a cool subtropical temperature and grows more widely than Robusta. However, it is also more fragile and pest-prone. This makes Arabica production a very challenging one. Arabica must be grown at higher elevations (2,000–6,500 feet), needs a lot of rainfall, and has rather specific shadow demands. Leading Arabica coffee producers include Asia, Arabia, eastern Africa, and Latin America.

Since this is a high-quality coffee bean and goes through a lot of care and maintenance during its production, it also has high demand and value in the coffee market. Most gourmet coffee brands use Arabica beans for their smooth and complex flavour and aroma. 

Robusta

Robusta coffee is often the bean of choice for low-cost commercial coffee brands since it is easier to grow, contains twice as much caffeine as Arabica, and is less expensive. 

Compared to other bean kinds, robusta beans are bigger and rounder. These plants often grow much larger in size and can grow at lower altitudes (from sea level to 2,000 feet) does best in a hot climate with sporadic rainfall. Brazil, Southeast Asia, Western and Central Africa, and Brazil are the leading producers of Robusta coffee.

Robusta bean is also believed to have a faint chocolate flavour to it and is mostly preferred for delicious coffee drinks with milk and sugar (perhaps an Iced Americano?). 

Liberica

Liberica, which gets its name from the fact that it is a native of Liberia in central and western Africa, is valued for its strong floral aroma and bold, smokey flavour. They are bigger than the other beans and are known to be the only ones in the world with an irregular shape.

These beans tolerate hot, humid weather and grow well at low altitudes. Liberica now accounts for around 2% of the world's coffee production and is primarily grown in Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. While some coffee lovers tend to prefer Liberica beans for their nutty and strong flavour, most people don’t approve of this.

Excelsa

Excelsa

The Excelsa bean has a very different flavour from the Liberica coffee bean, despite recently being included in the Liberica family.

Excelsa beans are elongated ovals that resemble Liberica beans and are exclusively grown in Southeast Asia. At moderate altitudes, these beans are grown on huge 20–30 foot coffee plants. The taste of Excelsa beans is quite distinctive. They mix characteristics of light roasts with tastes that are more similar to dark roasts. They also have a milder aroma and caffeine. 

Did you know these facts about coffee?

Though coffee has become a staple in our everyday lives, not many people know much about the beverage. Check out these cool facts on coffee to blow your mind and get you thinking!

  • Hawaii is the only American state that grows coffee!

The whole of America gets its coffee from just one state- Hawaii. Crazy, right?! And they have been producing coffee before they even became a state! Hawaii's high altitudes, tropical climate and rich soil make it the perfect place to cultivate and grow coffee. 

  • At one time, you would’ve received a death sentence for consuming coffee

Yes, you read that right! In the 17th century Ottoman Empire, it was believed that coffee had psychedelic powers. The monarch of this era banned its use in public as he thought it to be a form of drug. 

  • The oldest cat in the world drank a little too much coffee

Creme Puff, a 38-year-old cat who holds the "Oldest Cat Ever" Guinness World Record, sipped on coffee every morning for her whole life! But beware, don’t feed your cats coffee and expect them to live a few more years as coffee can turn out to be a very toxic chemical for cats and dogs. On that note, we’re yet to discover the mystery behind Creme Puff.

  • ‘Mokha’ or ‘Mocha’ is a port in Yemen where coffee first arrived

Now we know where the word mocha coffee comes from! After coffee was discovered in Ethiopia, it was traded to Yemen where coffee first landed in a port city called Mocha. As a result of the rising popularity of coffee and the shipment of coffee from the port city, Mocha came to be associated with coffee and other coffee-related drinks today.

  • Wait, what did people drink every morning before coffee?

Brace yourself, this can come as a shock! Before coffee became popular in the United States, all adults and children preferred cider or beer as their staple morning drink. Beer in the place of coffee, every morning. Even for children. There’s no way we’re going back to that!

  • Prefer hot coffee? Don’t forget to add cream!

If you like your coffee hot and warm, we’ve got an amazing hack for you! You can now keep your coffee warm for a longer time by adding some cream to it. Doing so can keep your cup of coffee 20% warmer. Yes, it works. You can try it yourself and let us know in the comments below!

Conclusion

So, this was all you had to know about coffee. The beverage has rich cultural roots and comes with a glorious history. So the next time you make yourself a cup of coffee, you will know much more about it than just its regular flavours. You can also try and experiment with many other types of coffee that you probably weren’t aware of earlier. 

We hope this blog helped you learn a whole lot about the history of coffee, along with some really cool and interesting facts about the beverage. Finally, don’t forget to check out Levista’s wide range of premium instant and filter coffee for the perfect brew!