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Coffee Origins: The History Of Coffee

Published by: Maria Kelley • Updated: October 19, 2023 • Checked By: Chef Matty Riedel

Coffee is the most consumed beverage in the world. Some people prefer taking it in the morning, others in the afternoon and others in the evening. A cup of coffee is refreshing and gives the body massive energy and other benefits. It’s no wonder coffee machines are available in most offices nowadays.

Although coffee is universally loved, few people know its origin and history. Coffee has been around for hundreds of years, even before the advent of Keurig machines and cafes (believe it or not!) However, over time the way we drink coffee has changed. This article helps you understand the origin of coffee, its brief history, and the evolution of its brewing.

Coffee Origins: The History Of Coffee

Although there are several theories behind coffee origins, one stands out from most sources. Most sources claim that coffee was first used in Ethiopia or Yemen. Ethiopia is cited and backed by more credible sources.

The Ethiopian Story

About 14 centuries ago, Kaldi, a goat herder from Kaffa in the Abyssinian monastery, discovered coffee accidentally. While herding his goats, he realized they were behaving weirdly. They were jumping happily and bleating loudly. Upon investigation, he found they were feeding on some berries from a bushy plant. So he tried eating the berries and experienced similar energizing effects.

coffee origins

The herder returned to the monastery and informed the monks. The monks dismissed him and threw the coffee berries into the fire. They produced a sharp aroma that caught the monks’ attention. They ejected them from the fire and crumpled them. They attempted to preserve them in a container with hot water and ended up with a coffee drink. 

The Ethiopian herder discovered the coffee’s beverage ability and stimulant aspect on the same day. Historians, however, suggest that coffee has been a stimulant for centuries.

The Yemen Account

Unlike Ethiopian myth, Yemen has two tales on the origin of coffee. First, Yemenite Sufi travelled through Ethiopia on spiritual matters when he witnessed very energetic birds. The birds were feeding on coffee berries. So he decided to try the fruits and experienced the same vibrant magnificence.

Second, Sheikh Omar, a doctor priest, discovered coffee in Yemen while in exile. He was almost starving when he encountered some red berries. He found them very bitter to eat and decided to roast them. Upon burning, they hardened and could not be chewed. He attempted to boil them to soften and only ended up with brewed coffee. Also, another story claims that Omar found the berries excellent and decided to make soup with them.

A Brief History Of Coffee

Around the 15th century, Arabs shipped coffee bushes across the Red Sea and domesticated them. Sufi monks were among the first people to brew coffee as a beverage. They used it for religious rituals, especially at night. Its stimulating effect increased its popularity across Saudi Arabia. Even though coffee was considered intoxicating and prohibited in the Quran, many Muslims used it to substitute for alcohol.

The rapid spread of drinking coffee led to the invention of coffeehouses. Coffeehouses became famous meeting points where men converged to listen to music, play chess, converse, discuss politics, and smoke. Religious leaders strived unsuccessfully to ban coffeehouses. They became a household name, and drinking coffee was engraved in the daily routine and regional culture.

Coffee culture gained popularity in Turkey and spread to other regions rapidly thanks to the spread of the Ottoman Empire. As a result, the drink had gained phenomenal ground across Europe by the end of the 17th century. It then spread to the British colonies in America, followed by Africa.

Since the world’s supply of coffee was obtained solely from Saudi Arabia’s Yemeni province, demand led to the propagation of the plant to other regions. As a result, it was introduced in Java, Indonesia, America, and Hawaii by the mid-18th century.

Roasting Of Coffee

By the 20th century, coffee had been introduced in Brazil, a large producer in the western hemisphere. The massive production of coffee led to the development of industrial roasting and grinding of the beans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In addition, vacuum-sealed containers for ground roasts and decaffeination techniques for green berries shaped the beverage’s future in the early 20th century.

Brewing Coffee

Brewing coffee has undergone tremendous invention over the years. In the 17th century, coffee pots were the primary brewing method in coffee shops. The coffee grounds were mixed with water and heated until the boiling point, where the user would filter them via the sharp sprouts via a decoction process. Mr Biggin made the first commercial coffee maker in 1780. The four-part coffee pots were a significant improvement from the previous method. Around the same year, scientists invented metal filters and advanced filter-pot systems.

In the early 19th century, the vacuum brewer was introduced. Maria Fanny’s siphon pot hit the market in 1840. The design was also patented in America, leading to the introduction of the Pyrex brewer. The siphon pot shaped the path for developing other pots like the Italian Moka pot.

The coffee percolator designed by Sir Benjamin Thompson emerged in the early 19th century. In the following years, similar percolators were developed in U.S. and Paris. Today’s percolator was first patented in 1889 by Hanson Goodrich.

The percolator uses steam pressure derived from heating and boiling water. Steam pressure rises through the pot and over to the coffee grounds, where it seeps through, creating a freshly brewed coffee drink. This cycle repeatedly happens, given the pot is exposed to a heat source.

The Modern Coffee Brewing Machines

1. Espresso Machine

The next coffee brewing machine was the Espresso machine that came in 1884. The espresso machine is available in almost all coffee shops today. Like the percolator, the espresso machine uses pressurized steam to make a drink of coffee. However, unlike the modern machine, the original machine produced coffee in bulk, with coffee based on customer demand (a cup at a go). 

The invention underwent modifications, such as increasing the pressure from 2 bars to 8 bars. As a result, it led to smoother and richer espresso coffee.

2. French Press

The French press was first designed in 1852 and underwent massive modifications till 1958 when the first French press machine was developed. It uses the traditional technique of mixing coffee grounds and hot water. It is popular due to its simplicity and old-school technology.

3. Instant Coffee

Instant coffee does not require any brewing machine. It was the first mass-produced in 1910 and rose to popularity during world wars due to its ease of use. After 1950, the production of instant coffee gained traction. 

Instant coffee’s popularity led to increased Robusta coffee production in Africa. In addition, instant coffee was significantly boosted after dry freezing was invented in 1960 to maintain a rich taste.

Bean To Cup Coffee Makers

The bean-to-cup coffee machine has an inbuilt grinder. It allows you to prepare coffee with your favourite roasted beans. There are two main types, bean to cup filter coffee maker and the more popular bean-to-cup espresso machine. While the latter allows you to prepare a wide range of coffee drinks, the former is cheaper, and its coffee has a distinct taste. 

Coffee Origins: Summing Up

Coffee has a rich history, and now with technological advancements, this magic bean is accessible to everyone. Modern methods have changed how coffee is grown, harvested, roasted, packed, and brewed. Coffee machines like this have been pivotal in transforming coffee into a global natural beverage of choice.

Maria Kelley