Welcome to the world’s most comprehensive Coffee History!
Included are details about all aspects of coffee history from the origins of the coffee plant and first human consumption of coffee to the present day with coffee being the second most traded commodity in the world and the continued rise of the specialty coffee market.
Also included are historic coffee quotes and information about early coffee houses, and some of these historic coffee houses are still in existence today.
History of Coffee Timeline
This Coffee Timeline takes you through all of the milestones along the way in all the different aspects of coffee history including the evolution of coffee makers and espresso machines like the moka pot, and the inventions and innovations in decaffeinated coffee, instant coffee, coffee grinders, coffee roasters, home roasting, coffee brewing, espresso brewing, and coffee companies as well as important coffee legislation.
- Coffee History / Pre-1600
- Coffee History / 1600-1650
- Coffee History / 1650-1700
- Coffee History / 1700-1750
- Coffee History / 1750-1800
- Coffee History / 1800-1850
- Coffee History / 1850-1900
- Coffee History / 1900-1950
- Coffee History / 1950-Present
- The legend of the discovery of coffee relates to Kaldi and his dancing goats.
- The early history of coffee included a 1674 pamphlet from England titled “The Women’s Petition Against Coffee.”
- In the 18th century, English coffeehouses were referred to as “penny universities”
The Discovery of Coffee
Most historians agree that human coffee consumption first took place in the mountainous areas of Ethiopia, then known as Abyssinia, likely among the region’s Oromo people.
However, there is no direct evidence of anyone growing or using coffee before the 1600s, so the earlier dates that follow are based upon indirect evidence.
Kaldi the Goat Herder
A story passed down through time, and which many believe to apocryphal since it did not appear in print until 1671, involves the goat herder named Kaldi who lived in the countryside of the Kaffa region of southwestern Ethiopia in the Horn of Africa.
When Kaldi discovered his goats were suddenly energized after eating some red berries, he then tried the coffee berries himself and found them to have a very stimulating effect.
Soon some local monks were also trying the coffee berries and appreciated the ability to pray and meditate longer after consuming the berries. The use of the coffee berries soon spread among other monasteries and began its trek across the globe.
Significant amounts of coffee are grown in the region today, and many people consider the coffee plants of this area to be the only truly native (indigenous) coffee trees.
The Galla Tribe of Ethiopia
There are also stories of Ethiopia’s Galla tribe who noticed the energy the felt after eating the berries which they ground up along with animal fat.
The coffee was considered a food and was consumed by these Ethiopian tribesmen who crushed up the complete ripe berry including the hulls and the coffee beans, and then mixed it with animal fat and shaped into round food balls that were carried on journeys for nutrition as well as stimulation.
The coffee berries were also placed in cold water and left to soak much like sun tea is made today.
Omar the Arabian Mystic
Yet another traditional legend describes a man named Omar who was an Arabian mystic whose enemies exiled him to the desert. There he would have died of starvation were it not for consuming broth made from coffee berries he found, thus saving his life. In the nearby town of Mocha they interpreted these events of Omar as a religious sign.
Stories of Intrigue, Romance, and Religion
The story of how coffee was first discovered and then spread to all of the major countries on Earth is a fascinating tale that includes romance, politics, religion, intrigue, heroics, deceit, greed, and innovation.
The story of coffee includes many twists and turns – green coffee was smuggled across the ocean, presented to kings, carried along the ancient spice routes on the land and sea, banned by governments and clergies.
Dangerous Liaisons in the Name of Coffee
The plant that started Brazil’s coffee empire was hidden a bouquet of flowers that was a parting gift from the Guiana governor’s wife after her illicit liaison with a Brazilian lieutenant on a mission to resolve a border dispute… and acquire coffee!
Today only oil is a more valuable commodity overall on the world markets as a foreign exchange product between countries, and traded as a commodity on major futures and commodity exchanges including in New York and London.
Coffee is also responsible for hundreds of millions of jobs from the coffee farming and coffee processing to the coffee trading, transportation and coffee marketing.
Many country’s economies are dependent primarily upon coffee, and about seventy countries – all between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer – now grow coffee commercially. The coffee industry overall generates about $60 billion annually.
Yet coffee remains just a humble beverage brewed from a simple bean, a seed really, found at the center of a small berry that grows on a medium-sized bush/tree and blooms once each year producing an annual crop. After harvesting the berries they are processed, dried, roasted, ground and then brewed into coffee or espresso.
Cared for properly from soil to sip the bean reveals a wonderful array of tastes and aromas, each region producing different nuances and origin flavors, and just the right roast enhancing and bringing out the finest qualities of the coffee beans.
History of Maxwell Coffee
- 1886 – Joel Cheek, a former grocer, names the coffee blend called “Maxwell House” after the Nashville, Tennessee hotel where it the popular blend.
- 1926 – A trademark registration is issued for “Maxwell House Good to the Last Drop,” a slogan that has persisted until the present day.
- 1942 – U.S. soldiers in World War II are given Maxwell House coffee as part of their ration kits. A strong demand for coffee in the U.S. leads to a shortage in the United States results in the rationing of coffee to the general public. After the war, coffee prices will continue to increase.
History of Coffee in Colombia
- 1840s – World coffee prices finally bottom out after a period of rapid coffee production growth in Java and Brazil. After this coffee prices rise strongly until the 1890s. During this time the increase in value of coffee as a commodity encouraged many other nations to begin significant coffee production, including Colombia.
- 1903 – After the Thousand Days War, Colombians enjoy a time of peace and coffee becomes a major economic product. The Tolima and Cundinamarca areas are the sites of large haciendas (coffee plantations), and peasants begin growing coffee in the western mountain regions of Caldas and Antioquia. New railroads are built increasing the country’s ability to export coffee.
- 1905 – Colombia exports 500,000 bags of coffee. This number will double by 1915.
- 1914 – The Panama Canal opens to the benefit of Colombia coffee exports. The port of Buenaventura becomes very important.
- 1914 – Colombia’s share of U.S. coffee imports increased from 687,000 bags to 915,000 bags.
- 1960 – The fictional advertising character Juan Valdez is introduced by the Colombian Coffee Federation, an association representing more than one half million Colombian coffee farmers. Juan Valdez is portrayed as a humble coffee farmer picking the coffee beans one at a time while accompanied by his loaded pack mule.
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