A Brief History of Coffee

Second only to oil, coffee is the second most traded commodity globally. It’s estimated that 2.25 billion cups of coffee are consumed each day worldwide! Today is National Coffee Day, so we thought it was time to share a brief history of coffee and how it became a global phenomenon!

History of Coffee

Ethiopian Legend

An Ethiopian legend says that a goat herder noticed his goats would become exceptionally jittery and alert after eating berries from a particular bush. Apparently, he reported this to an abbot of the local monastery who then made a drink with the berries and discovered that it kept him alert during the long hours of evening prayer. Caffeine has been helping late-night cram sessions every since. Other African tribes mixed coffee beans with fats to create the first energy supplements.

Cultivating Coffee

The Arab world was the first to truly cultivate and trade coffee. In Arabia (Egypt, Persia, Syria, and Turkey), coffee houses were once known as qahveh khaneh. They were an important center for the exchange of information. A place where traders, intellectuals, and patrons of the arts would gather to talk. So the coffee houses were often referred to as ‘Schools of the Wise.’ The word “coffee” originally came from the Arabic word qahhwat al-bun or “wine of the bean.” That phrase morphed into qahwah, which became kahveh in Turkey and eventually became koffie in Dutch and caffe in Italy.

The historic effects of coffee are so influential in Turkey that the Turkish word for breakfast, kahvalti, translates to “before coffee” and the word for brown, kahverengi, is also derived from kahveh.

Arabian Traders

Coffee is known as “the wine of Araby” because Arabian traders monopolized the coffee market. In fact, the Arabs traders imposed a ban on the export of fertile coffee beans, and it wasn’t until 1616 that the Dutch brought live coffee plants back to the Netherlands to be grown in greenhouses. The Dutch also grew coffee in India and in 1699 took some plants to Batavia in Java (hence Java beans!), in what is now Indonesia. Within a few years, the Dutch colonies had become the main suppliers of coffee to Europe.

Venetian Coffee

When coffee arrived in Venice in 1615, the local clergy condemned it as the “bitter invention of Satan.” Pope Clement VIII himself was requested to intervene in the coffee controversy. But after tasting it, the Pope gave coffee the stamp of Papal approval. The first European coffeehouse opened in Venice in 1683 and dozens sprang up after. The most famous coffee house in Venice, Caffe Florian in Piazza San Marco, opened in 1720 and is still open for business today.

Coffee Travels Around The World

In 1714, the Dutch presented Louis XIV of France with a coffee sapling from their plantations on Java. In 1723, a French mariner named Gabriel du Clieu took a sapling from French King’s garden to the Caribbean island of Martinique. From here, the coffee plant spread to other islands and eventually worked its way into Central and South America. Today, Brazil is the number one producer of coffee in the world, accounting for 35% of global coffee production.

In 1730, the British began cultivating coffee in Jamaica. Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee is now one of the most expensive beans on the market.

Modern Day Coffee

Today, most coffee is produced in the “Bean Belt,” roughly bounded by the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. This includes huge swaths of Central and South America and Africa too. According to the International Coffee Organization, “Coffee is crucial to the economies and politics of many developing countries; for many of the world’s Least Developed Countries, exports of coffee account for more than 50 percent of their foreign exchange earnings.”

Guinness World Record

2010 World’s Largest Cup of Coffee!

So now that you know the history of coffee, did you know GourmetGiftBaskets.com held the world record for the largest cup of coffee ever made? We created a specially constructed coffee mug in 2010 that held 2,010 gallons of fresh coffee. That’s the equivalent of 32,160 cups! How’s that for a morning pick-me-up?

Coffee Gift Baskets

If you have not guessed, here at GourmetGiftBaskets.com, we love our coffee and gift baskets! So much so we created a selection of coffee gift baskets. Our gift baskets make great corporate or personal gifts for friends, family, and co-workers!



© Featured Photo by ElinaManninen from Getty Images, Blog Photo by GourmetGiftbaskets.com