Story of Coffee
Ethiopia is considered to be the birthplace of coffee. It is home to the famous “Kaldi”, the goat herder who supposedly first discovered coffee’s ‘caffeinated’ qualities.
Coffee was first grown in Ethiopia before being exported to Yemen, just across the Red Sea from it. Yemen in turn transported coffee plants all over the world.
There are two main species of coffee plants in the world: Coffea arabica (Arabica) and Coffea canephora (Robusta). Arabica is distinctly higher quality than robusta but has a lower yield and less resistant to diseases. The bulk of speciality coffee is arabica.
There are two primary varietals within arabica: typica and bourbon. The coffee that were taken to Java (an island of Indonesia) are said to be ancestors of what we know today as typica. Those that ended up on Ile Bourbon (a French island known today as Ile de la Reunion) are the ancestors of bourbon.
There seems to be evidence of coffee drinking as early as in the late 1400s in Constantinople and the Middle East. But coffee drinking wouldn’t spread to Europe till the 1600s where it was consumed more for medicinal purposes than for pleasure. The first coffee house opened in Venice in 1645 followed by one in London in 1652. The London coffee houses became locations for business, political and cultural exchanges.
A key moment in the spread and growth of coffee drinking was ironically brought about by tea. The Boston Tea Party in 1773 was brought about by the American colonists protest against British oppression; merchant ships in Boston Harbour were attacked and chests of tea thrown overboard as a rejection against the British Empire. This important historic event also marked the remake of coffee as a patriotic drink in the USA and was where the drink was made into an affordable and staple drink for homes around the world. In Europe, the espresso bar boom that took place in many cities in the 1950s-60s became a cultural phenomenon.
The first wave of coffee drinking began in the 1800s when global coffee consumption exploded, driven by speed, convenience and caffeine. Growing antipathy toward low quality coffee gave birth to the second wave of coffee, led by companies such as Starbucks and Peet’s Coffee & Tea in the 1960s-70s. The third wave of coffee, defined by the focus on the coffee bean as an artisanal food product with unique qualities, the improvements made in education, growing, roasting and brewing coffee has given coffee drinkers a new and deeper understanding and appreciation for this dark brew.