coffee origins coffee origins

The History of coffee: from its origins to today

By Lavazza Team | 2/3 minutes

No one knows precisely when coffee was discovered and what exactly led to its consumption, though it is possible to find hundreds of legends concerning coffee origins. The history of coffee is certainly a fascinating and epic one, since it traces the itineraries that its famous and renowned beans have crossed through the centuries across the globe. At times smuggled or stolen from royalties and nobles, coffee is one of the products that would have irreversibly changed the global economy.

Day after day, millions of people around the world rely on it, considering that 2.25 billion cups of coffee are consumed each day worldwide. Nowadays Brazil is the greatest producer of coffee in the world, about almost a third of the whole production takes place there.

coffee plantation

The origins: who discovered coffee

Where does coffee come from? There’s an ancient Ethiopian Legend dating back to in 700 A.D., which narrates that coffee grown worldwide is to be traced back to the ancient coffee forests on the Abyssinian plateau. According to the myth, it was a goat herder named Kaldi who first discovered the potential of its renowned beans.

Kaldi would have discovered coffee after noticing his goats had become incredibly energetic and sleepless after eating the strange red berries deriving from a certain tree. Kaldi reported the discovery of the “dancing goats” to the abbot of a local monastery, who actually made a drink out of them, finding out soon after how it would keep him alert through the evening prayers. The abbot immediately shared his brand new findings with his fellow monks at the monastery and the energising effect of those berries began to spread, reaching the Middle East and the Arabian Peninsula at first. Quickly thereafter, it began its journey throughout across the globe.

Another version of the legends claims that Kaldi shared these beans with a monk who at first disapproved their use and threw them into the fire. Surprisingly, the result was a wonderful and pleasing aroma leading to the first roasted coffee of all times. Shortly after, the beans were grounded and boiled to produce a beverage which had to be pretty similar to what nowadays we know as coffee.

Whether the story of Kaldi is to be considered true or not, one thing is assured: coffee originally comes from "Ethiopia" . Another thing we are sure about is his next step, since coffee made its way towards North-East, overpassing the Red sea and reaching Yemen in the 15th century, docking at the port of Mokha. There an Islamic Scholar and Sufi mystic found out that boiling those seeds growing wild in the nearby hills in a pot of water would have turned it to a muddy brown shade. Every time he could taste this brew, his spirit lifted awakening his senses and strengthening his concentration in worship, study and meditation through the night. Here are the premises for the spread of the beverage among the Yemeni people, who started cultivating coffee in their mountain and valley terraces, sharing it with pilgrims and traders who would have brought it throughout Asia and Europe.

coffee beans

Best historical facts about coffee

Among the several coffee history facts, we decided to pick a few curious ones and present them in the following paragraph:

Coffee fostered the Age of Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution – Before coffee was widely introduced into European civilisation and culture during in the 18th Century, the primary beverage of choice – for how strange it may seem – even for breakfast, was beer, since the water supply of that time was too polluted to drink. Therefore, people were often experiencing a constant state of inebriation. At the same time, the brand new "coffeehouses" became the place where men used to meet and discuss the events of the day, to debate and even trade.

Beethoven was a real bartender’s nightmare – Ludwig van Beethoven was extremely picky in matters of coffee. Each time he intended to enjoy a cup, he insisted on consuming a coffee made with exactly 60 beans.

Attempts to ban coffee have occurred multiple times in history – Back in 1511, the religious authorities in La Mecca believed it encouraged radical thinking and outlawed the beverage. Afterwards, Italian clergymen of the 16th-Century tried to ban coffee as it was considered satanic, despite Pope Clement VII who was really fond of it. That is why he finally lifted the ban. During the 18th Century it was the Swedish government that prohibited its consumption, since they thought it could unleash a sort of rebellious sentiment.

The most expensive coffee ever purchased: $4,535 per pound – This happened in 2019, when a special micro-lot of unroasted Panama Green Coffee was sold for $10,000 per kilo at an auction. The company has not revealed the coffee variety or processing methods involved, but has claimed the micro-lot was to be considered its prototype coffee series.

coffee history

Traditions in different parts of the world

Since many people from all over the world can hardly survive without their cup of coffee in the morning, it can be served in thousands of different ways depending on where you are ordering it from. Here are some of the most curious and peculiar coffee traditions from around the world.

Starting with Europe, we will discover that in Italy, the homeland of espresso, it is possible to taste an Espresso Romano, namely a single shot served with a fresh peel of lemon right on the rim of the cup. Heading to Spain, originally coming from Valencia, Café Bombón, also known as "candy coffee", is made in a transparent glass from which you can admire its delightful black and white layers made with sweetened condensed milk and brew of espresso on the top. Another, the Greek Frappé could definitely represent another great option. As symbol of the post-war Greek coffee culture, consists in an easy-to-make instant ice coffee served in a tall glass topped by foam. All you need for brewing it is instant coffee, sugar, milk, water and ice cubes.

What about combining coffee and alcohol? In Germany one can order a Pharisäer, shot drink made from strong coffee, rum and whipped cream, generally served in a mug or a glass, while Irish Coffee is famous all over the world since 1943, when it was created by accident, becoming a well-known Christmas drink that can actually be consumed all year round, consisting of hot coffee, Irish whiskey, sugar and some whipped cream.

Latin America can actually provide several different varieties when it comes to serving coffee. Café de Olla, brewed with dark roasted ground coffee, raw sugar, cinnamon and other spices, is really popular in Mexico, where it is served in a cup with an orange peel. Being an icon of the Cuban cultural lifestyle, coffee is highly appreciated over there. A Café Cubano is a tasty espresso shot including a thick layer of sweetened cream. While visiting Colombia, you can instead taste a delightful Café con leche, a quick and easy version of coffee with milk prepared with freshly ground coffee beans and heated milk. Lastly, Café Lagrima is considered an art in Argentinian cafes and turns out to be perfect for those who prefer less strong coffee, since it consists of an espresso cup filled with milk and stained with a drop of coffee.

The Moroccan Nous Nous is to be considered as another delight: meaning "half and half” and served in small glasses with a drop of sugar that makes it sweeter, it combines a strong brewed espresso and a glass of heated frothy milk. Türk Kahvesi, also referred to as Turkish coffee, is a unique method of preparing unfiltered coffee in which the beans are simmered in a pot before being served with sugar, if needed. One interesting thing about it is the superstitious tradition behind it. They say that the grounds left after tasting it can be used for fortune telling.

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