‘Back in my day’: A brief history of coffee

While they’re not tea leaves, sometimes diving deep into the origins of your morning coffee can actually tell an interesting tale. Where did you come from? Who was the first person to find out that coffee beans and hot water were best friends?

Okay, maybe it is just us. But we bet you are thinking about it now. So let’s take a quick dive into the origin, the history and evolution of coffee from the early days, right up to your morning mug today.

How was coffee discovered?

While coffee is consumed in basically every country in the world today, the coffee bean was originally native to African nation Ethiopia (which remains a popular source to this day).

Coffee was discovered basically by accident around 850AD, and the world can thank a goat herder named Kaldi. His goats thought these beans were quite delicious, but then they would grow hyperactive and not sleep at night.

Now the next part of the story is loosely told as documentation is hard to come by, but it has been said that Kaldi rushed to a nearby monastery with the beans, as the monks were the most educated people around. Upon arrival, the monks decried these beans as the devil’s work and are said to have cast them into the fireplace. Then, as the beans roasted, the monks raked them out of the ashes, covering them with water to preserve them.

The smell was so good the monks would drink this concoction regularly. But despite this, it would be around 600 years before coffee was mentioned in history books again.

The monks spread the word about the wonders of coffee

Those roasted beans the Ethiopian monks loved so much were too good to be kept a secret, so they shared their knowledge and the beans began to spread. It was a slow boil (pun fully intended) though and it took until the 15th century for coffee to reach the Arabian Peninsula.

This is when the good, old brew first became commercialised, sold in coffee houses called ‘qahveh khaneh’, which became popular places for discussion and highly attractive venues for scholars and thinkers. With the Holy City of Mecca bringing in thousands of tourists each year, it was inevitable that this knowledge would spread.

It spread through Europe through the 17th century but again the clergy denounced its qualities as a temptation from Satan which dulled its impact. But who can resist a quality cup of coffee? As such, it quickly spread through Europe and replaced the typical breakfast drinks of the era – which oddly included beer.

The globalisation of coffee

As coffee reached the New World (later to become the United States) it became clear that limited plantations in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula would not be enough to service the world’s demands. The Dutch were the first to secure seeds, and they had success growing them in Java (which would become Indonesia) which would become a popular nickname for coffee.

The dominos would fall, and coffee would become planted around the world. When it fell into the hands of the Italians, the craft would become perfected – or at least that is what they will tell you. But that is a story for another day

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