The history of coffee is filled with legend, intrigue, innovation, and interesting bits of trivia.
While researching coffee brands for my spouse and me to try in our quest to find one that is environmentally friendly, socially responsible, tastes good, and reasonably priced, I found myself pondering coffee in general and broadening my research. This, in turn, led to a series of posts about coffee, of which this is the first.
- Coffee beans are the seeds of coffee cherries which grow on trees that can reach 30 feet in height and live for 60 to 70 years.
- It takes approximately 2,000 coffee cherries, the harvest of one tree, to produce one to two pounds of roasted coffee.
- Some people believe the word “coffee” is derived from Kaffa, a region in Ethiopia, others that it comes from the Arabic qawah or Turkish kahve.
- Coffee is the 2nd most traded commodity on earth, oil is the first.
- Hawaii is the only U.S. state that grows coffee.
- The retail value of the U.S. coffee market is estimated at $30-32 billion dollars of which specialty coffees make up about 50% of the dollar value.
- Coffee was the first food to be freeze-dried.
- Arabica, Java, and Mocha coffee varieties are named after their ports of origin.
- Light roast coffee contains more caffeine than dark roast.
- Coffee contains antioxidants which help prevent cell damage.
- A sack of coffee weighs about 132 pounds and contains over 600,000 beans.
- Possibly the first use of a webcam was in 1991 when Cambridge University researchers rigged one to monitor the coffee pot level in a distant break room.
Coffee History – A Few Highlights
The coffee tree is said to have originated in Ethiopia and eventually spread around the globe forming a “bean belt” roughly bounded by the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, 23.5° latitude north and south of the equator respectively.
- 0850 – Legend has it that Kaldi, an Ethiopian goat herder, noticed his goats become lively after eating red berries from a certain type of tree. He tries them himself with a similar effect.
- 1100 – Arab traders transport coffee from Ethiopia across the Red Sea to Yemen and cultivate it on plantations for the first time.
- 1475 – Coffeehouses open in Constantinople and become known for their political debates, thus initiating the tradition of coffeehouses as gathering places for animated discussions.
- 1570 – Coffee drinking arrives in Venice and begins spreading across Europe.
- 1668 – Edward Lloyd opens the first London coffee house which eventually morphs into the insurance company Lloyd’s of London.
- 1718 – The Dutch begin the spread of coffee growing in Central and South American by planting trees at Surinam colony in northern South America.
- 1723 – French naval officer, Gabriel Mathieu de Clieu, plants a coffee tree cutting on the island of Martinique in the Caribbean.
- 1817 – During King Kamehameha’s reign, coffee cultivation is brought to Hawaii from Brazil by Don Francisco de Paula Marin.
- 1864 – New York inventor, Jabez Burns, patents the first coffee roaster that did not need to be moved away from the fire to retrieve the beans.
- 1903 – Ludwig Roselius and Karl Wimmer discover a way to remove caffeine from coffee beans.
- 1908 – German housewife, Melitta Bentz patents the first paper coffee filter.
- 1972 – The first automatic-drip coffee maker for home use, Mr. Coffee®, is introduced by Ohio businessmen Vincent Marotta Sr. and Samuel Glazer.
- 1987 – Howard Schultz buys Starbucks and embarks on an expansion program to build a Starbucks on every corner.
- 1998 – Keurig patents the K-Cup, a capsule containing one serving of ground coffee and a filter, which fits in their single-serve coffee brewing machine.
- 2012 – Brazil is the world’s leading coffee producer, followed by Vietnam, Indonesia, Colombia, and Ethiopia.