Nowadays coffee is part of most people lives, being the drink that gets us going every day. Statistics show that more than one half of Americans over 18 years old drink coffee every day, whether we talk about espresso, cappuccino, latte or iced coffee. The average consumption of coffee in the US is around 3.2 cups daily per person. But how did this all started? What are the origins of coffee and how it came to be something we can’t start our day without?
First, let’s start with the basics: what is coffee made of? As you know, coffee is made out of coffee beans, which aren’t actually beans, but seeds of the coffee plant (also known as coffee). The best-known varieties of coffee are Arabica (~60% of the coffee produced worldwide) and Robusta (~40%).
Discovery of the coffee tree
Although nobody really knows the precise moment in history when coffee was first discovered, produced and enjoyed, there are several theories or even legends. One of the most widely accepted theories about the origins of coffee is the one that says it comes from Ethiopia, being discovered somewhere around the 11th Century.
When we say the discovery, we don’t mean that people from Ethiopia started brewing coffee as we know it today, but mostly discovered the coffee plant and used it as a medicine.
The first evidence of coffee drinking
The earliest evidence suggesting either knowledge of the coffee tree or maybe even coffee drinking comes from the 15th century, in Sufi monasteries from Yemen. Given this land’s fertile soil and climate, the coffee tree had the ideal condition for harvesting, and so Yemeni trades started to import coffee beans from Ethiopia, bring them back to their country and cultivate the beans.
One legend says that a monk from Yemen while traveling to Ethiopia, noticed that birds there had an unusual vitality. He then ate the same berries that the birds where eating and as a result the experienced the same rise in vitality and energy.
Coffee makes its way to Europe
Coffee was first introduced in Europe around the 16th century, being brought by European travelers and traders from the Near East. There is evidence of coffee introduction in more places around Europe, like Malta (brought by Turkish Muslims imprisoned by the Knights of St John) or Venice (brought by the trading routes between the Republic of Venice and Egyptian traders).
Coffee comes to The New World
Coffee reached North America in the mid-1600’s, the first coffeehouse in New Amsterdam (now known as New York) being opened in 1696 under the “The King’s Arms” name.
Coffee had quite a slow start in North America, where tea was around for more years and was the preferred drink of the Americans. That remained the case until the year of 1773 when a revolt started against a heavy tax on tea imports. That revolt, known as the Boston Tea Party, changed forever the drinking habits of the North Americans when large numbers of Americans switched from tea to coffee because drinking tea was now considered as an unpatriotic act.
As we can see, coffee has a long history behind, and most probably a long future ahead. In 2017, in the United States there were about 24,000 coffee shops across the country, with the expectations of this number to grow to more than 50,000 coffee shops in the following years.