A Guide To The History of Coffee (And 15 Interesting Facts) ☕

By Adam •  Updated: 10/01/21 •  27 min read

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The popularity of drinking coffee has only boomed since its inception. We like it a latte.

Coffee is not only the perfect warm beverage to enjoy but also a means of social interaction. We drink coffee at home, in cafes, and with family or friends. We meet work associates and build relationships all whilst enjoying a boiling hot, creamy cup of coffee together.

Coffee has become a cultural crux that we have all come to rely on.

Many people (definitely us) cannot function without a steaming cup of Joe in the morning.

History of Coffee

Coffee is a hot beverage staple that has taken over the food and drink industry. Whether it be a latte, cappuccino, lungo, espresso, flat white, Americano, macchiato, or black, we all have our own ways of enjoying a cup of coffee. We are sure that you have enjoyed a cup of coffee in your lifetime, but have you ever thought about the history of coffee or where it comes from?

Well, it is better latte than never to find out!

Luckily, we are here with our guide to the history of coffee, to answer all of your questions. So grab a chair and a hot cappuccino, and let’s get started.

The History of Coffee

A Guide To The History of Coffee

The origin of coffee

You may call yourself a coffee aficionado, but have you ever uncovered where coffee comes from? You may think that you know, and everyone says well, of course, it comes from the coffee bean!

But beans, do not just sprout from nowhere.

Coffee beans grow inside a coffee plant called the coffea. This is a species of shrubs and small trees native to tropical and warmer climates.

These plants grow little cherries, and inside of these are tiny seeds, which are coffee beans. These can be roasted and blended into the beautiful coffee that we enjoy day to day. As coffee beans come from cherry in a tree, they are actually fruit.

Next time someone asks you if you have had your five a day, you can wink and assure them you’ve had so much more!

Where did coffee originate?

As we said, coffee is best grown in warm climates and tropical locations as the coffee bean require lots of rain, rich soil, and sunshine in order to thrive.

This is why coffee is typically grown in places such as Central and South America, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

South America is one of the world’s biggest exporters of coffee beans. Brazil, Colombia, and Peru are some of the most vital exporters and producers of coffee worldwide. Colombian and Peruvian coffee blends are often the most popular flavors for coffee shops and businesses that we all love.

The original location of coffee is somewhat up for debate, many countries argue that they were the pioneers of the coffee industry and the first innovators in the trade.

There are a few varying stories pertaining to the export of coffee and how it came to be. Let’s first think about the origin of the coffee industry, and discover how we create coffee from a lowly little plant.

Coffee history

Coffee History

There are many contradictory origin stories about the coffee bean. The most widely accepted coffee heritage tale goes back to ancient coffee forests in Ethiopia. It was here that the small, red coffee cherry was found, and one of our favorite exports was born!

Coffee beans are extracted from the cherries, which come off the coffee plant. This is a type of shrub or bush from the genus of plants called the coffea. From these small cherries, coffee beans can be harvested.

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The majority of coffee is harvested from a region called The Coffee Belt. This is the area that surrounds the Equator, passing through Central and South America, Africa, and Asia.

These areas provide the best conditions for growing coffee and the hot climate in the Coffee Belt allows the coffee plant to flourish. This is why this area is best suited for the export of coffee beans and has become synonymous with the trade.

There are so many different types of coffee beans and plants that all grow in different environments, at different elevations, and with different soils.

The most common types of coffee plants are the Arabica and the Robusta coffee plants. These grow in hundreds of varieties all across the globe for a number of flavors and blends.

However, they do have some of their own distinctive characteristics.

Arabica coffee beans are known as the most high-quality, best-flavored coffee beans in the world. Arabica coffee beans are normally of finer quality, stronger, more balanced flavor, and artisan blends for the best cups of coffee available.

Arabica coffee beans are generally grown at higher elevations and take far longer to cultivate so that the flavors can fully develop.

These types of coffee plants are much harder to care for and will take a lot more time and energy to keep them in the best condition.

On the other end of the spectrum is the Robusta coffee plant. These types of coffee beans contain a lot more caffeine than Arabica plants and are far easier to harvest.

They really do defend their name with their hardy and robust nature. Unlike the Arabica plant, this type of coffee is far more disease-resistant and can be produced much quicker.

The Robusta coffee plant produces a stronger, more bitter flavor than the Arabica, and it is for these reasons that the Robusta is much cheaper to purchase than the Arabica.

If you are interested in learning more about coffee beans and their origins, then check out our Best Coffee Beans article, which lists some of the greatest coffee beans in the world, and where they come from.

Coffee plants have to be harvested carefully, and you must wait for the cherries to turn from green to red.

Once the cherries on the coffee plant become red, they are ready to be harvested, and the beans are removed in order to give us the product that we want.

Coffee beans are then roasted to create their beautiful flavor, and bring out their taste and aromatic scent. Roasting a coffee bean transforms it from its traditional green color into the aromatic and beautifully brown beans we have come to know today.

Did you know that coffee beans are roasted in machines that can reach up to 550 degrees Fahrenheit!

The beans are constantly kept moving in order to keep them from burning, and are roasted until they reach a temperature of roughly 400 degrees Fahrenheit until they turn brown and start producing oil on the surface.

It is during this process that we can have lightly roasted, medium, and dark or fully roasted beans. This is where the terms light roast and dark roast come from when it comes to choosing a blend in your favorite coffee house.


Espresso Coffee History 

Back in 1884, Angelo Moriondo, from Turin, patented an early version of an “instantaneous” coffee maker which controlled the supply of steam and water separately through the coffee and is known to be one of the first examples of what later became the espresso machine.

However, it wasn’t until several decades later, in 1901, that Luigi Bezzera, from Milan, devised and patented several improvements which would then see the design bought by Desiderio Pavoni, who eventually began to produce the machine industrially. 

In Italy, the emergence of the espresso and the many bars that began to serve it was largely associated with urbanization, and these bars became a place where people would socialize in a “stand at a bar” culture.

Espresso soon became popular in the English-speaking world too, amongst the working-class Italian diaspora, as well as in the form of cappuccino and latte in the US (later popularized by Starbucks), and soon among the British youth, who felt more welcome in coffee shops than in pubs.

As coffee culture began to spread like wildfire, specialty coffee, developed in the 1980s, saw the espresso increasingly marketed as an upmarket beverage. 

How was coffee discovered?

The legend has it that a lowly goat herder named Kaldi from the rich forests of Ethiopia discovered the coffee berry.

He had started to notice his goats behaving strangely, and eating the peculiar new berries. They were experiencing great excitement and energy after consuming the fruit of the coffee bush, and seemed to buzz with animation and did not want to go to sleep.

Kaldi then told the local monastery of his discovery, who suggested that they crush the berries to make a drink to keep people alert and energized.

Knowledge of this powerful beverage began to spread and moved east towards the Arabian peninsula, who then began to trade it around the world or so the story goes.

Historians are yet to settle the debate as to whether Kaldi was the original inventor of coffee, but it is generally accepted that coffee beans were discovered first in Ethiopia.

Although there is some evidence and speculation of tribes and villagers boiling coffee cherries dating back to before the ninth century, most historians credit the fifteenth century as the origin of our love of coffee.

It is written that from Ethiopia, coffee spread its wings, or shall we say beans across the sea and towards Arabia and Yemen. It was here that it was imported to the port of Mocha- which has since lent its name to a type of coffee drink.

It is said that Yemeni traders were delighted by the energetic properties that the coffee fruit produced, and traveled between Ethiopia and Yemen to bring the plants back to their native land.

In Yemen, Sufis used the hot beverage as a means of gaining extra concentration and spiritual intoxication to help them pray and chant the name of God. They used it to keep themselves alert when praying and announcing their devotions during the night.

In many regions, coffee had now become a way of ensnaring your senses and provided much of the energy people needed for prayer and work.

The newest trend

By the 17th century, coffee had arrived in Europe via the Middle East and was becoming vastly popular for its divine taste, scent, and capabilities.

Coffee was first served as a luxury to Royals or people of high society from the Arabian peninsula and it only grew from there.

Its movement across the globe and quickly growing popularity led some religious authorities to condemn the coffee as evil, a sin, or a creation of Satan.

Despite this, coffee was beginning to become a staple of social activity and was being consumed in coffee houses across all largely populated areas of England, France, Austria, Germany, and Holland.

Coffee then grew to replace the favored drinks of the time, as it made people more energized, stimulated, and ready to start the working day instead of the usual beers or wine that Europeans had come to know.

By the middle of the 17th century in England, there were over 300 coffee houses in England alone.

Its popularity only continued to grow across nations and towards the New World in America. European countries now exported the coffee cherries across the world to their colonized countries, which led it to America.

It was in America that the coffee bean really found its home.

The New World provided vast regions with tropical climates perfectly cultivated for the growth of coffee plantations. It may surprise you that coffee was not always the favored drink in America, and it was not always as deeply rooted in our culture as it is now.

When coffee made its way to the New World during the 17th century, at the time, tea was still the hot beverage of choice and popularized by the colonists from Europe.

This is why, as traditions and mentalities change from the ways of the English, Americans began to find their own favorite drink on their way to independence.

Did you know that coffee was part of the American Revolution?

Did you know that during the 1770s in the New World, you could make a political statement just by drinking coffee?

When the British Isles began taxing the exports of teas and large numbers of imported goods, the colonies protested.

The Tea Act of 1773 has been widely viewed as one of the final straws in the relationship between the Americas and Britain.

Tea exports were dumped into the ocean, and coffee quickly became the favorite beverage out of anger.

Americans revolted against the British’s tyranny over the export of tea and instead took to drinking and selling coffee.

Thomas Jefferson himself even noted that coffee is ‘the favorite drink of the civilized world’, and it became a staple of the American revolution and way of life.

Following this political statement, coffee became the beverage of choice and its demand only flourished more!

Coffee cultivation only expanded more, and coffee trees were planted in more and more places across the globe.

By the 18th century, coffee had really become a household name and was one of the world’s most profitable commodities and exports.

By 1864, two Pittsburgh native brothers called John and Charles Arbuckle started selling pre-roasted coffee by the pound and began invigorating tired cowboys in the West.

Similarly, other merchants began selling coffee to gold miners on the West Coast to keep them going in long working days.

Since then, coffee has become the working person’s drink, with its ability to wake up, invigorate and empower the consumer, giving them the energy they need.

During the late 18th century, instant coffee was beginning to be introduced to America during the Civil War.

This instant-style coffee was given to soldiers to keep them going.

The first method of soluble, instant coffee powder was pioneered by Japanese-American inventor Satori Kato in 1901 and patented in 1903.

Following this, American inventor George Constant Louis Washington produced his own instant coffee brand and began commercializing it by 1910.

In the early 19th century, instant coffee had been reworked and was now widely available for the U.S. military as part of their soldier’s rations.

Following the 19th century, and the Second World War, instant coffee and coffee machines then became introduced to the market and grew even more widely popular.

Coffee American Revolution

A modern day love affair

After the Second World War, the coffee revolution continued to grow. With the invention of the commercial espresso machine in 1884 and the first commercial coffee machine in 1947, our love affair with coffee only grew stronger.

The inventor, Angelo Moriondo from Italy created an espresso machine, but it could not be widely available.

Copycat inventions were then made with some alterations and only boomed in popularity.

Europeans have always loved to espresso themselves with coffee. Italy alone is one of the biggest importers of coffee to this day.

Italy’s coffee culture is most definitely evolved from its pioneering of the espresso machines that work to extract all of the essences of the coffee grinds.

Italians had been processing coffee through the method of espresso since the early 1900s, and the trend was beginning to rise within the United States.

With his new invention, Achilles Gaggia created the first commercial modern coffee machine that could be used in the coffee house in which he worked.

These machines quickly became beloved as they could produce over 100 cups of coffee a day in a fast and reliable manner.

This was far quicker than coffee had ever been served before, and was finally able to keep up with the growing demand.

Did you know that Espresso actually means ‘fast’ or ‘quick’ in Italian? This is exactly how coffee is produced, by pressing boiling water through the coffee grounds to create a smooth velvety liquid mixed with water and coffee beans in a fast manner.

As times would change, the espresso machine would become more compact, capable, and able to produce more and more cups of coffee for consumers.

These machines were introduced to bars, cafes, and diners throughout 1940, the 50s, and 60s, expanding from Italy all across Europe, America, and the world.

How do we make our modern coffee?

The espresso machine allows for the quick production of a concentrated, flavorful, and delicious cup of coffee.

It is without a doubt that the invention of the espresso machine changed the way we would consume coffee forever.

These new machines allowed the production of so many coffees much faster than before, without changing or tarnishing the flavor.

The espresso machine is now found in nearly every coffee house in the world, with its quick operation and delicious results.

With a quick, steamy shot of espresso, baristas can steam and froth milk to make coffee concoctions enjoyed by all.

Coffee Machines

In addition, we drink coffee at home, whether it is with our automatic espresso and coffee machines, or with instant or filter coffees.

The best thing about our home coffee machines is that they can be operated with just the touch of a button, and deliver a professional tasting cup of coffee right at home.

Instant Coffee

Many people prefer to use instant coffee as it is cheap and easy to make in seconds.

With instant coffee, you simply add a few spoons of your favorite coffee into the mug, add a little hot water and a splash of milk and you are good to go!

French Press

We even use cafetieres and filters to make our own coffees. A cafetiere is the traditional name for a french press coffee maker.

This works by mixing hot water with ground coffee, where you press down to the bottom of the cafetiere to press the coffee.

This method gets all of the flavors out of the ground coffee beans, for the fullest-flavored cup of coffee.

With its stainless steel filter, the contraption presses all of the aroma and taste from the coffee and allows all the natural oils to come through for a full-bodied coffee!

Drip Coffee

Drip coffee is a method of coffee brewing that involves hot water being poured over ground coffee beans in a filter.

This is a simple process and an easy-to-use method of making the perfect cup of coffee. With drip coffee, you have to use high-quality beans and filtered water for a great tasting flavor.

The process involves grinding the beans up to a fine consistency, whilst you bring your filtered water to a boil. Then, we use a paper filter and insert it into our coffee pot, before wetting it slightly to saturate it.

We pour some water into the pot and add our coffee grounds to the filter.

Then, we cover the coffee grounds with some more water and pour slowly to let the coffee drip through the filter.

Try looking at our Guide to Brewing Coffee for more details on how to make the best brew!

There are so many ways for us to enjoy our favorite beverage, and everyone has their own means of drinking coffee.

We espresso ourselves in many different ways, but one thing is for sure; our love of coffee is not going away anytime soon.

Drinking Coffee

Where did our love of coffee start?

As you have learned, coffee began to boom in demand and admiration as soon as it hit the Arabian peninsula during the 16th century.

This Muslim region had been restricted by the religion’s prohibition of alcohol, which gave coffee an edge that could not be ignored.

Coffee became a substitute stimulant instead of wines and beers, and so the name for Arabian coffee was kahve- ‘wine of Arabia’.

Coffee was quickly praised and desired for its stirring and energetic effect.

People began to thrive off the caffeine and utilize the coffee bean for staying alert and aware. In this sense, it should come as no surprise that coffee became so popular that the coffee house was born.

Nowadays we drink coffee almost every day or meet up with friends and family in coffee houses, so the notion has basically remained the same.

Where did coffee houses come from?

The origin of the coffee house is interesting, to say the least. Places that served coffee quickly became areas of idea and political conversation.

People would pay for a cup of coffee, smoke hookah, and engage in provocative debates over intellectual, social issues, or politics.

It also became custom to serve coffee as an act of welcome kindness and hospitality as someone entered your home.

In Europe, coffeehouses gained the name ‘penny universities’, as one could pay a penny- or the price of a cup of coffee and in return engage in informative conversations about the world.

This is replicated in the Middle East’ ‘schools of the wise’ where the same concept took place.

People would also visit coffee houses to engage in discussions, spread news, and play music or games.

To this day, coffeehouses are seen as places of social interaction, we meet friends or family for catch-ups or to check in on each other.

We go on first dates to coffee houses to get to know one another.

People have book readings or display their art in local coffee places, and they still remain places of intellect, relaxation, conversation and communication.

In the modern-day, the popularity of the coffee house can be widely credited to the success of the Starbucks company.

Before then, normal bars, cafes, and restaurants served coffee without a second thought to the craft.

Starbucks pioneered the delicate and dedicated craft of barista coffee that is tailored to each individual consumer.

Types of coffee

Nowadays, we have such a vast range of coffee types to choose from.

Have you ever sat down in your favorite coffee house and wondered what all the items on the menu mean?

They have espresso, double espresso, americano, black coffee, breve, doppio, cortado, cappuccino, galao, lungo, macchiato, mocha, latte, flat white, Irish, ristretto, affogato, cafe au lait and so many other varieties that it is so hard choose.

Even if you do decide to pick one, have you ever thought: I have no idea how this is going to turn out…Well now is your chance to do your studying.

We have all of the types of coffee that you can think of and what they mean.

  • Latte – espresso and steamed milk
  • Cappuccino – espresso, steamed milk and foam
  • Espresso – shot of 1 oz espresso
  • Doppio – 2 oz espresso shot
  • Lungo – long pulled espresso
  • Ristretto – short pulled espresso
  • Cortago – 1 oz espresso and 1 oz steamed milk
  • Flat White – espresso and steamed milk (more espresso than latte)
  • Americano – espresso and hot water
  • Black – just coffee
  • Macchiato – espresso shot and foam
  • Mocha – espresso shot, chocolate and steamed milk
  • Irish – coffee, sugar, cream and whisky
  • Affogato – espresso and ice cream

The convenience of modern coffee houses means that the list really is endless. You can order what you like.

Nowadays, people tend to customize their coffee with flavored syrups and shots such as vanilla, caramel, and pumpkin spice!

These flavors go best with lattes and cappuccinos, but they still remain the most popular choices for modern coffee consumers.

different types of coffee

Where did lattes and cappuccinos come from?

Europeans have been enjoying lattes and cappuccinos for decades, and their popularity has only soared to become a cultural phenomenon.

You would be hard-pressed to find a coffee shop or chain that does not have a latte or a cappuccino on the menu today.

So what is it about the perfectly poured latte that makes our taste buds tingle for more?

A latte consists of ⅓ espresso shot and ⅔ steamed milk, topped with a velvety layer of frothed milk like icing on a cake.

The latte is widely considered to be the world’s favorite coffee and is served across the globe.

The term latte comes from caffe latte which literally means coffee with milk. This is the basic component of the process. However, lattes have grown to become much more than just that.

Lattes are world-renowned for the milky art that takes place on top of their frothy exterior.

Coffeehouses battle for the best floral art, or even use their own stencils to create branded sprinklings of chocolate.

The latte is both the United States and the United Kingdom’s favorite coffee.

Americans drink over 67 million lattes per year! That is a latte of coffee! We just simply cannot resist that creamy espresso topped with steamy hot milk.

The cappuccino has been around since 1901 and was first called the name, by Luigi Bezzera.

The term cappuccino is derived from the phrase ‘cappuccio’ which means hood.

This is a direct reference to the Capuchin monks and friars who would traditionally wear beige hoods and robes that replicated the look of a cappuccino.

The first-ever cappuccino is dated to the 1900s and was invented in Italy following the popularization of the espresso machine.

The cappuccino has since grown in popularity and become more favored and sought after following the widespread use of espresso machines in 1950s America.

In the US, the cappuccino has since progressed from its humble beginnings in New York and San Francisco and has become an important staple of coffee culture.

A cappuccino is often confused with a latte as they are very similar in look and flavor.

However, unlike the latte, the cappuccino is much more balanced. It is typically ⅓ espresso shot, ⅓ steamed milk, and ⅓ frothed milk.

The cappuccino is well-loved for its smooth and velvety texture and is widely recognized as the second most popular coffee drink.

A cappuccino is typically more flavorful than a latte due to the fact it has less milk and is often balanced with a sprinkling of chocolate powder for a creamy, frothy result.

What the frappe is a frappuccino?

In the 20th century, the frappe and frappuccino have become one of the most favored drinks, especially in younger consumers and hotter climates.

For example, in regions such as Hawaii, Florida, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Los Angeles, they enjoy iced coffee and frappes more than they do hot coffee!

Los Angeles alone drinks more Frappuccinos than anyone else in the country!

You may have already known that Starbucks pioneered the Frappuccino which has since gone on to become one of their most popular and best-selling drinks.

But this may have you wondering what is a frappuccino?

In the simplest terms, a Frappuccino is a trademarked name for the range of frappe drinks that coffee giant Starbucks produces and sells.

They sell them in their coffee shops, and in supermarkets as on-the-go versions. The Starbucks frappuccino is derived from the more commonly known frappe.

The frappe is an iced beverage that is shaken or blended with ice for a cold, refreshing result.

The frappe is typically a mixture of coffee, milk, ice, or cream for topping.

It has become widely popular as it is far more refreshing and cooling than a hot cup of coffee, and can include customized options with sweet syrups and toppings for your enjoyment.

It may surprise you to find that the frappe is not an American-made drink.

Although we are some of the biggest fans of the frappe and frappuccino, the beverage did not originate in the United States.

The frappe was actually invented in Thessaloniki, in Greece during the 1950s. Frappes still remain some of the most popular modes of drinking coffee in Greece and Cyprus today too.

The frappe was originally formed in 1957 during the International Trade Fair by an employee of the famous Nestle company.

The employee, called Dimitris Vakondios, was promoting a new Nestle product for children, and as the legend goes, was looking forward to his favorite cup of coffee on his break.

When he struggled to find hot water, he decided to mix his coffee with cold water within a shaker.

This resulted in the foamy, cold, delicious blend of coffee and water that came to be known as the frappe.

Nowadays almost every coffee place or cafe has a frappe or a frappuccino on the menu, and has started mixing coffee with water and ice, or blending flavors together to create sweet icy milkshakes that are now widely popular.

Did you know that Starbucks actually has over thirty different frappuccinos currently on their menu?

Some are blended with coffee, others with cream and syrup and some have flavorful toppings and sweet treats sprinkled over the top. It’s no wonder they have become so popular.

Statistics show that most Starbucks customers visit the coffee giant at least six times a month, which could mean that people get their coffees at least once a week.

And that is just Starbucks alone, which does not account for the coffees at home, or ones picked up at other coffee chains.

Which makes you wonder, how much coffee do we actually consume?

Facts About Coffee Consumption

Facts about coffee consumption

In America, people consume around 400 million cups of coffee per day, which makes the United States the number one consumer of coffee in the whole world!

The daily grind can get exhausting, and we all need something to keep us hydrated and give us a buzz to get through the working week.

But did you know that the average American will spend around $1000 a year on coffee?

We simply cannot resist a brew-tiful cup of steaming goodness in the morning!

Although coffee prices have risen by roughly 20% as the global demand continues to grow and grow, we simply don’t give a frappe!

Nothing will stop us from enjoying a freshly brewed pot of coffee.

Fun coffee facts that’ll perk you up

If you are looking to find some more interesting facts about coffee, then you have come to the right place.

We have some fab-brew-lous coffee facts that will surely perk you up! It may surprise you to find out that only two American states produce their own coffee.

These are California and Hawaii.

As coffee traditionally is best grown in places close to the equator, the climate in Hawaii is perfect for making coffee.

There are four big coffee roasting companies worldwide. These are P&G, Nestle, Sara Lee, and Kraft.

These four companies buy around 50% of the coffee produced in the world. We bet that you did not know that coffee is the second largest traded commodity in the world.

Coffee is a billion-dollar industry that is served worldwide and has only grown in popularity since its discovery.

Coffee beans are actually fruit. As we now know, they grow on a bush, and the beans come from the pit of the berry called the cherry.

This makes the spoils of the bush a fruit! Also, a coffee plant can live for up to 100 years!

Drinking coffee is actually not a bad habit to have.

It can be a healthy means of getting an energy boost in the morning but also helps to lower your risk of heart failure and liver disease.

It is good to know that our coffee addiction might not kill us just yet, as a recent study showed more than half of all coffee consumers have stated that they would rather skip a shower in the morning than skip their morning coffee!

Now that is a dedication to coffee culture.


Hailing from the United Kingdom, Adam has a wealth of experience in building websites including researching, designing, content creation and website optimisation. Adam and his team were instrumental in helping create the master plan for Portafilter and subsequently designing and launching the site. Follow on: Facebook or View all posts by Adam

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