BrewRatio Icon

Bean Origin: It was said that centuries back, on the Ethiopian plateau, a goat herder named Kaldi first discovered the wonderful coffee beans. Kaldi noticed that after eating the berries, his goats became extremely energetic.

Kaldi revealed this finding to the abbot of the local monastery.  The abbot experimented by making a drink with the berries and found that it kept him alert through the long prayer hours. The abbot in turn shared his discovery with the other monks at the monastery, and little by little, this knowledge of the energizing coffee began to spread.

The beans henceforth started its journey from the east and reached the Arabian Peninsula – this is the embarkation of a quest which would bring these beans across the globe.

Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia

The Arabian Peninsula

By the 15th century, coffee was being grown in the Yemeni district of Arabia and by the 16th century it was known in Persia, Egypt, Syria, and Turkey.

During those days, coffee was enjoyed and savoured in the many public coffee houses — called qahveh khaneh — which began to appear in cities across the Near East. People frequented these unparalleled coffee houses for all kinds of social activity.  The coffee houses became to be known as “Schools of the Wise” eventually, since they formed an important centre for the exchange of information by people who patronised these places.

With thousands of pilgrims visiting the holy city of Mecca each year from all over the world, knowledge of this “wine of Araby” commenced to spread.

Coffee Comes to Europe

European travellers to the Near East brought back stories of an unusual dark black beverage. By the 17th century, coffee had made its way to Europe and was becoming popular across the continent.

Some people reacted to this new beverage with suspicion or trepidation, calling it the “bitter invention of Satan.” The local clergy condemned coffee when it came to Venice in 1615. The controversy was so considerable that Pope Clement VIII was asked to intervene. He decided to taste the beverage for himself – on the contrary, he found the drink to be exceptional that he gave it papal approval.

Coffee dwellings soon became centres of social activity and communication in the major cities of England, Austria, France, Germany and Holland. In England “penny universities” sprang up, so called because for the price of a penny, one could purchase a cup of coffee and engage in stimulating conversation.


The New World

In the mid-1600’s, coffee was brought to New Amsterdam, later called New York by the British.

Although started to make its debut, during this time, tea is still the favoured drink in the New World until 1773.  This was when the colonists revolted against a heavy tax on tea imposed by King George III. The revolt, known as the Boston Tea Party, would shift the American drinking preference to coffee.

Plantations Around the World

As demand for coffee continued to expand, there was fierce competition to cultivate coffee outside of Arabia.

The Dutch finally got seedlings in the latter half of the 17th century.  Although there were failed attempts to plant them in India, but they reaped successful results with their efforts in Batavia, on the island of Java in what is now Indonesia.

The plants thrived and soon the Dutch had a productive and growing trade in coffee. They then expanded the cultivation of coffee trees to the islands of Sumatra and Celebes.


Coming to the Americas

In 1714, the Mayor of Amsterdam presented a gift of a young coffee plant to King Louis XIV of France. The King ordered it to be planted in the Royal Botanical Garden in Paris. In 1723, a young naval officer, Gabriel de Clieu obtained a seedling from the King’s plant. Despite a challenging voyage — complete with horrendous weather, a saboteur who tried to destroy the seedling, and a pirate attack — he managed to transport it safely to Martinique.

Once planted, the seedling thrived, with an eventual outcome of 18 million coffee trees on the island of Martinique in the next 50 years.

The famed Brazilian coffee owes its existence to Francisco de Mello Palheta, who was sent by the emperor to French Guiana to get coffee seedlings. The French were not willing to share, but the French Governor’s wife, captivated by his good looks, gave him a large bouquet of flowers before he left— buried inside were enough coffee seeds to begin what is today a billion-dollar industry.

From then on, missionaries and travellers, traders and colonists continued to carry coffee seeds to new lands, and coffee trees were planted worldwide, thus increasing the coffee influence and trend all over the globe. And by the end of the 18th century, coffee had become one of the world’s most profitable export crops after crude oil.