The History of Coffee

The History of Coffee

The United States alone consumes just about 66 billion cups of coffee per year - that is incredible.  And just in case you need some perspective as to how incredible that number truly is, 66 billion cups would be enough to top off an Olympic swimming pool . . . 6,245 times. What’s more is that the US doesn’t even land in the top 20 as far as coffee drinking nations go. That title is currently held by Finland, with the US coming in at number 26.

So, how exactly have we gotten to this point, where the average American drinks 3.1 cups a day and Starbucks stretch from sea to shining sea and beyond? Well, you’d have to take a look way back to the 11th century and halfway around the globe to find that answer.

The Origins of Coffee

Origins of Coffee

What we do know about the origin of coffee is that its earliest use can be traced back to the jungles of Ethiopia, and though we can’t be so sure of whom it was discovered by, legend has it that the effects of the magic bean were discovered by a goat herder who went by the name of Kaldi.

Or perhaps Kaldi’s goats deserve the credit, as the story goes that Kaldi only discovered coffee, as we know it, after his goats had ingested the berries of the plant. These berries filled Kaldi’s goats with so much energy that they refused to sleep through the night.

After sharing this discovery with the monks of a local monastery, a brew of the berries was concocted, and thus, coffee as we know it was born! Well, not quite as we know it today, but the effects of the drink were apparent, and so the word began to make its way eastward through the Arabian Peninsula.

Coffee Finds Europe


Europe hadn’t been blessed with coffee’s presence for quite some time after it was first discovered in Ethiopia, which is an absolute shame being that they missed out on several hundred years worth of the stuff. But, after finding its way across Yemen and Istanbul in the 13th & 14th century, Europe had gotten their first taste when the drink touched down in Venice in the early 1600’s.

Venetian traders introduced the beverage to the region through exchange with those farther to the east. The drink had gained such recognition, that in 1645, the very first coffeehouse opened its doors to the people of Italy.

France had quickly become the next stop on the magic bean’s world tour, demanding the opening of even more coffeehouses to fulfill the ever-increasing desire of those looking to get their hands on a cup. The beverage had spread westward like wildfire, quickly making its way to the Far East coasts of Europe. London, Germany, and parts of England were all able to get a taste.

England was a bit behind on the coffee trend since, as you could probably guess, they were much more of a tea-drinking nation. Both the monetary and social economy largely depended on the tea drinking community. That’s not to say that that coffee didn’t have a place in English society, but even today, Tea remains the drink of choice.

Coffee in America

Coffee in America

As far as we know, coffee first arrived in what would soon be the United States sometime in the 1660’s. Introduced to colonies by its mother country of England, New York was the first colony was the first colony to be initiated into the coffee drinking world.

At this point in history, coffee was a little bit closer to how we know it today. It was no longer just the leaves of the plant being brewed in hot water, but it was now actually commonplace to roast the beans and flavor with sugar, cinnamon or honey. While still under the British rule in 1696, the very first “American” coffeehouse, “The King’s Arms” opened up shop.

So, if Britain was a nation that preferred bags to beans, why did America not follow suit? Well, I suppose you could say it was all a gesture of patriotism. America was full of tea drinkers, for the most part, until 1773, after the Boston Tea Party. Americans no longer wanted to pay what was seen as unfair taxation on tea, and so, after the tea was dumped into the Boston Harbor, the drink was largely boycotted, and coffee became the new standard almost overnight.

How Did We Get Here?

The question remains, how exactly did we go from “The King’s Arms” to Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts? To be honest, the concept of the coffeehouse has not changed all that much over the last several hundred years. A 17th-century traveler, Jean Chardin of France, gave his own account of the Persian coffeehouse environment, and it’s actually strikingly similar to what we are currently familiar with.


Customers struck up conversations of business and politics, and board games such as chess and checkers were all very common. Coffeehouses actually earned themselves the title of “Penny Universities” as they catered to writers, poets, philosophers, lawyers and beyond.

The game of coffeehouses never significantly changed, the only things that really changed are the players. Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts replaced small shops and cafes during the 1900’s as the United States exploded with industry. Today there are over 13,000 Starbucks domestically in the US and over 25,000 locations worldwide.

The Future of Coffee

As the marketplace for coffee continues to heat up, the future of coffee only appears to get brighter. As more countries open up to the tasty commodity, the market will only continue to boom. Enormous countries such as China and India haven’t even really begun to indulge in the beverage to the extent that the western world has.

In fact, the global coffee market is expected to grow nearly 25% over the course of the next five years, according to those who know the drink best, the International Coffee Organization.