The History of Coffee

For many of us, coffee has been a part of our lives for as long as we remember. I personally began drinking coffee as early as age thirteen, and have enjoyed a cup of coffee daily for the rest of my life. As I got older, I began to drink more coffee and enjoyed experimenting with new kinds of coffee. As the years went on, though, it became apparent to me that while I loved coffee…. I knew every little about this drink that I love so much.

You may be the same as me, and find it hard to actually know much about coffee. If you would like to learn more about coffee and how it came to be the amazing drink that we know it is today, have a look below. This post should give you all the information that you need to get to truly know – and love – the heart and love of coffee at its very best.

The Humble Beginnings of Coffee

For one, coffee never started out in the way that many of us would expect. You see, the coffee plant was, as far as we know, first discovered in the 11th Century, in Ethiopia. It was found with a rich white blossom that held an almost rich, jasmine-like scent. It sat within the core of a beautiful cherry-style fruit, with the coffee bean lodged within the fruit itself.

The leaves of the fruit were seen as magical by many, and for that reason they were often boiled in water and drunk. It was believed to have provided medicinal aids to the people of the time, and before long the coffee plant began to spread as an amazing natural substance. Before long, its name was spreading far and wide across the world.

By the 14th Century, coffee had managed to find itself a major part of the Arabian lifestyle. It was all across the Arabian Peninsula, no more so than in Yemen. It became a major part of the nation’ cultivation cycle, yet for close to three centuries it was drunk in the classic Ethiopian way described above.

The natural climate and style of Yemen made sure that coffee here could grow, thrive and develop into the rich product that we know today. It was one of the reasons why Yemeni coffee harvests were so plentiful and rich in overall volume.

The coffee culture was now beginning to settle into full flow and major swing, and it was now becoming a massive part of the lives of so many on the peninsula. Before long, the tremendous depth of taste, style and strength of this coffee was beginning to shine through and, for many people, it was quickly becoming the perfect example of a superb delicacy.

However, like anything else in life, it soon moved to a new region. By the 15th century, the coffee culture which was so rich in Ethiopia and Yemen was spreading around the rest of the world.

When Coffee Meets Turkey

The first time that coffee reached the nation of Turkey was in 1555. At this time, of course, it was nothing like the Turkey that we know of today. Then, it was under the reign of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent and was the Ottoman Empire; one of the single most powerful empires in the history of the human race.

Coffee was introduced to the nation by Ozdemir Pasha. Pasha was the Ottoman Governor of Yemen at the time. When living in Yemen as Governor, he grew fond of the rich taste of coffee and thus decided to take it to the rest of the Empire.

When he did this, it was quickly taken up as one of the most commonly consumed and enjoyed beverages. Not only will you find that this beverage quickly became a major part of the Ottoman lifestyle, but it was quickly altered and changed to help fit with the most specific tastes and enjoyments of the people of the era.

For example, it was at this point that the cultivation and making of coffee changed entirely. Rather than merely using the leaves of the plant for that subtle taste, fire was used. The beans were roasted over a fire, before being finely ground down into a rich dust. Then, it would be used with water and cooked very slowly over a charcoal fire.

Done for long enough, this would create a rich brew of coffee much like what we might be more used to do at this present era. It was therefore transformed again, and with this new and improved means of enjoying this bitter yet wonderful drink, the entire culture around coffee seemed to shift and change to a whole new style.

Before long, it spread to become a major Ottoman delicacy.

Coffee and the Ottoman Empire

At this stage, coffee was beginning to spread even further afield from the Ottoman Empire, and before long it was reaching most parts of the empire itself. Quickly established as a powerful and wonderful part of the cuisine culture found in Ottoman palaces, it was very popular particularly in the courts. Before long, there was even a Chief Coffee Maker put in place; an expert who would provide professional expertise over coffee.

They would brew the coffee of the Sultan or his patron, and then was also seen as someone who would be steadfastly loyal, and a person who was good at keeping secrets and retaining information meant for only a select few. Before long, they became richly trusted associated within the Empire. Indeed, a quick glance through the annals of history of the Ottoman Empire shows that this was a nation that seen coffee as very important; many people went from Chief Coffee Maker to holding the position of Grand Vizier.

It became a major part of palace life and before long was sold en masse to the public, as well. It became quickly a favourite of the people of Istanbul, and before long it was even roasted at home by people instead of bought pre-roasted.

Coffee houses began to soon pop up all across Istanbul, creating a culture of social enjoyment over a warm brew. Before long, the culture of sitting in a coffee house in Istanbul to talk with friends, family and officials became as common today as it is for our own culture to pop out for a quick cup of coffee.

For that reason, it’s become a major part of the culture of the country. How, though, did it spread elsewhere? How did coffee reach other part of Europe?

Coffee Heads to Europe

Given the immense importance of the Ottoman Empire at this point in human history, it’s no surprise that coffee soon spread from here to the rest of Europe. Arguably the first place that it arrived in outside of Istanbul and the Ottoman’ was to make its way to Italy.

It arrived in Venice in 1615, apparently, when it was brought there by merchants looking for trade in Istanbul. They’d become enamoured with the drink, and it was brought back to Venice to be enjoyed. It was sold on the streets at first as a minor niche delicacy, but by the mid-1640s it had become an essential part of the national trade, with coffee houses opening up with regularity across the city.

First Venice then the whole nation. It spread like wildfire across Italy, reaching other major settlements and cities in a uniquely short period of time. It was enjoyed by soldiers, professionals, students, parents and anyone else looking for an excuse to mingle and enjoy a nice, warm drink.

However, just like it had spread so strong in the Ottoman Empire, it soon spread out of Italy and into other parts of the European theatre. By the 1660s, it was part of the culture of France. Brought into France via the major part of Marseilles, it began to become a regular import into the city and became an easy way to sate the appetite of a city that demanded more, more and more.

By 1671, coffee houses were a very important part of the city culture, and by the same time it had even spread as far as the capital in Paris. It was brought to Paris by Hoşsohbet Nüktedan Süleyman Ağa, the ambassador to the court of King Louis XIV of France, sent by Sultan Mehmet IV.

The Spread Across Europe

Becoming a major delicacy in Europe very quickly, Aga quickly became a major figure of culture in Parisian society and thus he was seen as a man of great repute within their culture. This seen to the development of Café de Procope, the first Parisian coffee house, in 1686. This helped to see the rest of the European world begin to come and see coffee much closer to home, and this lead to it spreading to Austria. As the Turks fled from their siege of Vienna in 1683, they left behind key supplies from the war – including coffee. 

The Australians thought it was nothing more than camel feed, though, and thus dumped it into the Danube. One man, Kolschitzky, has served as a spy for the Austrians during the Siege of Vienna, and knew all too well what coffee was. He served the coffee in small ups to the people of Vienna, and before long established himself as a major name in the Austrian coffee industry.

From Vienna, the spread of coffee was rapid and impressive. It already reached Britain in the late 1630s, but never quite kicked into the culture of Britain until the 1660s when coffee houses became a common part of the parlance. It became a common stopping point for lawyers, poets, artists, writers and other members of the higher classes of British life. For that reason, it’s safe to say that coffee soon exploded into the culture of Britain.

Other European nations found their love of coffee fulfilled, too. By the 1660s, Holland, too, was home to many coffee houses. It reached Germany in the late 1670s, and became a dominant drink for the nobility and high classes of German life. Arguably, it’s last major destination was America. 

Coffee and America

Coffee reached the Americas in 1668 at first, but it was not really a major thing until the late 1600s. By 1696, though, New York was home to The King’s Arms; a wonderful store that made enjoying a fresh cup of coffee supremely simple.

Not only that, but it soon became apparent that coffee was going to become a part of American history. In 1714, the Dutch presented King Louis XIV with a coffee sapling. This came through their own coffee plantations out on the Island of Java, and the sapling was planted in Paris.  Nine years later, Gabriel du Clieu, a French mariner of some repute, took a sapling from Paris and travelled with it to Martinique.

There, he helped to grow the coffee plant into a major part of the Caribbean cultivation culture. It went from the Caribbean to visit South and Central America, and laid the foundations for arguably the biggest producers of coffee this side of the world.

A Portuguese sailor also brought it over to Brazil in 1727, and thus helped to cultivate the massive Brazilian culture for coffee that is so utterly prevalent in modern society. They came from the French Guyana, and today the by-product of this decision sees Brazil as the #1 producer of coffee on the planet.

This amazing cultivation experiment lead to seeing over one third of the world’ entire coffee supply created by the Brazilians. This amazing transformation of coffee was a truly special change in the cultivation of the drink, ad by the 19th century it had become one of the most importantly traded items on the planet.

Still one of the largest industries in the world today, those small Ethiopian cherries have helped to create the cultivation of a culture and a drink that has easily become one of the most significant developments in human history. 

Paul Mason

coffee blogger

Interested to know more about Hot Coffee? Got a question about our content or perhaps want to make a suggestion? The feel free to contact us today.

We’ll be more than happy to take a look at any comments, requests or queries that you may have. Thanks for your time, and we hope that your next cup of coffee that you enjoy is the best one that you’ve had, every time! 

My Personal Favourites
Books We Recommend