The origin of coffee: On the trail of our favorite drink

Written by: Carina P.



Time to read 6 min

Morning, lunch, evening – whenever you enjoy a cup of coffee, you are not alone. Coffee is not just a drink, but an integral part of our everyday life and our culture. But how did this actually come about? Where did the journey of our favorite drink begin?

Join me on an exciting expedition through time and across continents and discover the origin of coffee. From the mysterious highlands of Ethiopia to the bustling streets of major cities around the world, find out how this bean drink captured the hearts and cups of millions.

The discovery of coffee

The history of coffee goes back many centuries. From the origins of coffee to its global distribution and the emergence of an extensive coffee culture, there is a lot to explore.

The origin of coffee goes back to a legend: About 1,200 years ago, an Ethiopian goatherd named Kaldi noticed that his goats were more excited and alert after eating certain red berries. Curious, Kaldi also tried the fruit and felt the invigorating effect. This discovery led to the birth of coffee. However, not as we know it today, because back then the coffee cherries were simply brewed in hot water.

The journey to Arabia

After Kaldi's discovery, the coffee bean quickly spread throughout the Arab world. People began roasting and grinding coffee beans to make a drink that gave them energy. By the 15th century, coffee had become established as a drink throughout the Middle East.

By the way: The origin of the word “coffee” probably lies in the Arabic term “qahwa”, which was previously used for wine or wine-like drinks. As coffee gained popularity in the Arab world, this term was applied to the new drink.

The first coffee houses opened in what is now Istanbul in the 16th century, but at that time coffee was often controversial. During the reign of Murad IV, the consumption of coffee was even forbidden. Coffee houses were closed and coffee drinkers were punished. Nevertheless, the coffee culture continued to spread – lucky you!

Coffee is conquering the world

It didn't take long for coffee to find its way to Europe. The first coffee houses were opened in the 17th century. Venice was followed by London, Vienna and Paris. Coffeehouses quickly became places for intellectual discussions, artists and gatherings. In England they were also called “penny universities” because you could get access to knowledge and culture for the price of a cup of coffee.

The first coffee house opened in Germany in 1763. Coffee culture spread throughout Europe and paved the way for the emergence of modern cafés as we know and love them.

The cultivation and harvesting of coffee

Growing coffee is an art in itself. Coffee plants need the right climatic conditions, the right amount of rain and sunlight to thrive. Most coffee plants grow in the so-called “coffee belt” around the equator, where the conditions are optimal.

Harvesting coffee is also laborious work. The ripe coffee cherries are picked by hand or harvested by machine. Then the cherries are peeled to reveal the beans. The beans are then dried and sorted before being roasted.

Variety of flavors and the art of preparation

One of the most fascinating aspects of coffee culture is undoubtedly the endless variety of coffee types and preparation methods. From mild Arabica beans to strong Robusta beans , from different blends to different roast levels - each coffee growing region produces unique aromas and flavor profiles. The origin of coffee is the key to its distinctive taste.

Roasting is the crucial step that turns green coffee beans into the fragrant, brown elixir we love. During the roasting process, the aromas, acidity and body of the coffee develop. From light roasts with lively, fruity notes to dark roasts with strong, chocolatey flavors - the variety of roasts is impressive.

The preparation method also plays a crucial role in developing the full flavor potential of the coffee. French Press , Pour Over , AeroPress or Cold Brew – which do you choose?

Coffee enjoyment around the globe

Coffee is a worldwide phenomenon and every country has its own way of making our favorite drink. You can now find out how people in countries enjoy their coffee:

  • Brazil : Brazil is the largest coffee producer in the world and has a diverse coffee culture. Coffee is not only an export product, but also an important part of everyday life. From the bustling street cafes in big cities to the remote farms in the highlands, coffee in Brazil is valued not only for its taste, but also as a symbol of togetherness.

  • Ethiopia : Ethiopia is the original home of coffee. Here the coffee ceremony becomes a social event where the whole family comes together. The coffee culture is deeply rooted and the flavors range from floral to fruity.

  • Italy : In Italy , espresso is king. It is served in small, strong portions and forms the basis for popular drinks such as cappuccino and latte. Coffee is an important part of Italian culture.

  • Turkey : Mocha, also known as Turkish coffee, has a tradition in Turkey. It is served in small cups and has a unique preparation method.

  • USA : There is a growing enthusiasm for artisan roasted coffee and alternative preparation methods in the USA. Here, coffee is viewed not just as a drink, but as a lifestyle statement.

  • Japan : A significant coffee culture has also been established in Japan, with a growing number of coffee lovers and specialized cafés.

Change and progress in the coffee market

The world of coffee has changed a lot over time. Originally, coffee was traded in a similar way to grains and other agricultural products. Over time, quality and cultivation certificates emerged that regulated the production and distribution of coffee.

The economic impact of coffee culture is of great importance worldwide. Coffee production represents a significant source of income, particularly in developing countries. Fair trade and sustainable coffee cultivation are efforts that aim to improve working conditions and minimize the industry's ecological footprint. In recent years, the demand for sustainably grown and fairly traded coffee has increased significantly, which has had a positive impact on the living conditions of coffee farmers worldwide. You have probably already seen the certificates on the coffee packaging.

The meaning of coffee today

Coffee has a firm place in today's world. It's more than just a drink - it connects people from different backgrounds and cultures. Coffee is the universal language of encounter and offers a moment of deceleration in our hectic world.

Whether at a cozy meeting in a café, a relaxed cup at home or a quick to-go cup on the way to work - coffee accompanies us every step of the way. You too?

The coffee world of tomorrow: innovations and challenges

Coffee culture never stands still. New trends such as nitro coffee, coffee cocktails and cold brew are on the rise and enrich the range. At the same time, people are increasingly committed to more sustainable and ethical coffee production.

The impact of climate change on coffee cultivation is of growing concern. Researchers are working tirelessly to develop new coffee varieties that are more resistant to disease and adverse weather conditions. The future of coffee will undoubtedly be shaped by innovation and commitment from the global coffee community.

The journey to the origins of coffee shows us that this drink is more than just a cup of caffeine. It is a cultural heritage, an art form and a window into the fascinating world of growing, harvesting and roasting. Next time you enjoy your cup of coffee, think about how far this bean beverage traveled to get to you!

Frequently asked questions about the origin of coffee (FAQ)

Where does coffee originally come from?

The origin of coffee lies in Ethiopia, more precisely in the Kaffa region in the southwest of the country.

Who discovered coffee?

Legend has it that an Ethiopian shepherd named Kaldi discovered coffee when he noticed his goats becoming very alert after eating coffee cherries.

When was coffee first consumed as a drink?

The first records of the preparation of coffee as a drink date back to the 9th century in Ethiopia, where the coffee cherries were simply brewed in hot water.

How did coffee spread from Ethiopia to the world?

Coffee spread through trade to the Arab world, where coffee beans were first roasted and made into a drink. From there, coffee spread to the Middle East and North Africa.

When did coffee reach Europe?

Coffee reached Europe in the 17th century. The first European coffee house opened in Venice, followed by London, Vienna and Paris.

How does the origin of coffee influence its taste?

The origin of the coffee has a significant influence on its taste. The growing region, climate, soil and altitude are some of the factors that shape the aroma and taste of a coffee.