History of Coffee

Small cup of coffee being brewed and served. Coffee is a delightful beverage with a rich history.

For many, drinking coffee is a daily routine, and the smell of coffee reminds one of waking up and starting their day. This delectable warm beverage is popular all over the world, but its origins aren’t commonly known. There are many legends surrounding the history of coffee that attempt to explain its roots and how it developed. Many of these legends agree that the first coffee bean was discovered in Ethiopia.

According to the National Coffee Association (NCA), the use of coffee beans was discovered by an Ethiopian goat herder during the 11th century once he noticed that, “after eating the berries from a certain tree, his goats became so energetic that they did not want to sleep at night.” This resulted in immense curiosity from the goat herder, who then decided to try the berries for himself. These findings were reported to the local monastery and became incredibly popular among monks throughout the area. This was long before coffee was brewed as a typical morning beverage. As monks ate the fruit itself without separating the bean inside, some would even mix the fruit “with animal fat to create a protein rich snack bar,” as reported by PBS. This fruit was seen to have mystical powers due to how it increased one’s level of energy almost instantly; few drugs were known and experimented with during the 11th century, so the effects of coffee were strange and hard to explain.

Coffee wasn’t roasted and served as a drink until the early 13th century in Arabia. In their article on the History of Coffee, PBS states that the drink “was extremely popular with the Muslim community for its stimulant powers, which proved useful during long prayer sessions.” This caused the expansion of coffee usage across the entire Muslim community. At this point coffee was only grown in Arabia and small parts of Africa. As Mecca became one of the biggest cities along the Arabian peninsula, and a major trading post, coffee continued to spread. Many religious figures often traveled to Mecca, where they would find mass amounts of coffee drinkers and packed coffee houses that were frequented by those who would go to drink, chat, and conduct business. This caused coffee to make its way across Europe beginning in the 17th century, many years after the stimulant had been discovered. Europe is where coffee began to explode and become one of the most popular drinks in the world. Once it was found that coffee could be planted across the globe, “the French began growing coffee in the Caribbean, followed by the Spanish in Central America and the Portuguese in Brazil,” says PBS, and coffee production became increasingly popular.

This warm beverage was also used by many during the beginnings of the American Revolution as “missionaries and travelers, traders and colonists continued to carry coffee seeds to new lands, and coffee trees were planted worldwide,” explains NCA. New Amsterdam, which later became New York, hosted many coffee houses. The amount of coffee drinkers in the 13 colonies increased as the revolution grew. After the Boston Tea Party in 1773, it was seen as patriotic to switch to coffee and avoid benefiting Britain. Once America was established, coffee plantations in South America continued to export mass amounts of coffee to the newly founded country and all across the globe. Coffee houses were frequented by many, and coffee became an incredibly profitable business.

Coffee’s journey was widespread and took many centuries, as the beverage eventually became a part of human culture as it spread around the globe. Portland itself is known for its artisan coffee shops and mass amounts of coffee drinkers. The city is seen as a coffee utopia, and benefits heavily from the coffee industry. This beverage has become a necessary part of the lives of many Americans, and its popularity is not seen to decrease any time soon.

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