History of Coffee

The history of coffee as a cultivated crop dates back to the 1500s though there have been undocumented stories of a goat-herder who discovered the plant in the 9th century. The story goes that coffee was discovered in Ethiopia, and then spread to nearby Yemen and Egypt. The first recorded use of coffee comes from a Sufi monastery in Yemen, though overall the early history of coffee is extremely fuzzy. They roasted the beans and brewed coffee in much the same way as today.

As the popularity of this stimulating drink spread through the Muslim world, it was banned by orthodox clerics in 1511. That didn’t last very long, and the ban was lifted in 1524. After spreading through Africa, and the Middle East, it eventually came to Europe through Italy. It did have the reputation of being a Muslim drink, which didn’t sit well with the Catholics of the time. The story goes that Pope Clement VIII actually baptized the drink (because he was unwilling to ban it), and therefore made it acceptable to Catholics. Up until the late 1600s, coffee was generally drunk their coffee black. But in Austria, one coffeehouse owner spread the custom of adding milk and sugar to the coffee.

It was brought to the Americas with Dutch explorers. The English word “coffee” comes from the Dutch word for the same drink, “koffie”. And the Dutch got the word from the Turkish word “kahve”, which comes from the Arabic words that mean “wine of the bean”. During the more modern history of coffee, the popular brand Maxwell House was invented in 1886 and named after a Tennessee hotel. In 1900, Hills Bros. started to produce vacuum-packed packages of ground coffee which was the first time you could buy coffee outside of actual coffee shops and roasters. A big milestone in coffee history was the invention of instant coffee, in 1901. Two years later, the decaffeination process was perfected. Espresso joined the party in 1946, with the first piston espresso machine from Gaggia in Italy.

History of Coffeehouses

As the drink itself spread around the world, the institution of the public coffeehouse did as well. The first recorded coffeehouse was in Damascus, and it opened up in 1530. The first European coffeehouse opened for business in 1645, in Italy. Five years later, London had its coffeehouses. It was actually in a British coffee shop where the word “tips” was coined as it pertains to extra money paid for good service. A jar was labeled “To Insure Prompt Service”. The coffeehouse became an important part of society in Europe and then in North America. It was the place to come for a casual drink and discuss just anything with friends or strangers. Many places even became hotspots for business and deal-making.

Today, the casual conversation-oriented coffeehouse still exists though the term “coffee shop” is now also used to describe diners or small restaurants that just serve basic coffee. Starbucks brought the trendy coffeehouse coast-to-coast and they are still quite the powerhouse in the coffee world. Their first outlet opened up in 1971 when they were still just selling beans.