A Guide To The History Of Coffee

We are living in a coffee crazy world. This well known drink can be found all over the world. It has many looks, can be used in many ways, and its smell is instantly recognizable! Although we have heard of coffee, very few of us understand the complex history that comes with it. 

Trends have come and gone, so don’t believe the hype that hipsters have ruined the drink! For all you know, your favorite type of coffee was once an outlandish idea!

We are going to explain what coffee actually is, where it originated, its amazing story from creation to right now, and the trends it has seen as these centuries have gone by. We will even give you a peek into the future of what coffee might look like years from now.

A Guide To The History Of Coffee

What Is Coffee?

Coffee which we find ground up ready to sieve through our drinks, or pressed into an instant creation, is originally a bean. Before the bean is turned into a drink, it is roasted either by itself or with other flavors to create a delightful combination.

The beans come from coffee trees, which are kept short for easy picking on mass farms. If left to its own devices, the tree can grow 30 feet high (9 meters)!

Just like most trees, coffee grows in a cycle. Depending on the time of year, you can see flowers grow, fruit sprout, and greenery emergy from the branches. The most common fruit to grow on a coffee tree is a cherry. It’s these cherries that the beans come from.

It takes around a year for a cherry to mature enough to produce a flower, and then another 5 years for that cherry to produce a bean. This means that a newly planted tree will cost thousands of dollars to look after before it can start earning someone money. However, once they have a strong foothold, they can live for up to 100 years.

Where Did Coffee Originate?

There are two main stories that surround coffee’s origin, one of which is charming and filled with life, and another of which is more human. Their tales are very similar, and it doesn’t really matter which is right, but both are fascinating. 

Let’s start off with how the stories are alike!

Originated from Ethiopia and discovered by a goat farmer!

Coffee trees originated in Ethiopia, and legend tells of one man who found the fruit and shared it with the world.

According to the legends of old, Kaldi, a goat herder, took his flock on their daily roam and found them eating this uneventful fruit.

He watched unfazed and without concern until he noticed that the goats were dancing. That’s right, dancing! Goats can be lively creatures, but this type of activity was unheard of. Kaldi decided to take the plunge and join in with his herd. He took a bite of the coffee tree’s cherry fruit. 

To his surprise, the mango-like sweetness of the cherries gave him a boost of energy, and just like the goats, he began to dance.

Delighted with the magic fruit, Kaldi wanted to share his findings with the local monks.

This is when the story changes.

Rejoicing Monks, or Fear From The Devil

The first tale suggests that the monk was intrigued by Kaldi’s discovery and wanted to try the cherries himself! Kaldi gave him a handful and left for the night.

On his return, the monk rejoiced. The cherries had helped him stay awake all night. Without the bean’s help, he wouldn’t have finished his work! He was so happy with the fruit that he told Kaldi to spread the word and allow everyone to join in with this energizing treat.

The other version of this tale doesn’t begin with an understanding interest. 

The monk listened to Kaldi and frowned. Goats are connected to the devil himself, and a bean that gave energy sounded like a contract had been signed. He didn’t agree with the concept of the beans and threw them into the fire in anger.

As the fire burned, a warm and welcoming aroma was released. A smell so pleasant that the devil couldn’t have created it. The other monks of the monastery came to investigate this aroma and decided to crush the roasted beans and brew them for tea. 

All night they drank, and in the morning, they sent for Kaldi to get them more! 

Both stories end with Kaldi being able to share his discovery with the monks and the people around him. Without their collaboration, we wouldn’t be able to drink our morning brew!

Coffee: Throughout History

Although the origin story of coffee is fascinating, so are its changes and growth in the world. Coffee is found in every country on this planet, despite its humble beginning in Ethiopia. The East African country is set near the red sea, and this connection to the water is what helped spread the produce. 

Trade of coffee began in the Arabian Peninsula.

The first signs of mass trading coffee started on the Arabian Peninsula. Using cultural knowledge and studying land changes, we can see that by the 15th century, coffee was being mass grown in Yemen, just over the Gulf of Aden. It then returned to African soil when Egypt began mass growing in the 16th century, although the Asian countries of Syria, Persia, and Turkey were starting to develop their own breeds.

In this 16th century expansion, coffee was no longer the drink of monks or the brew of kings; it became a household beverage and was found in shops that we would recognize as coffee houses today. These public spaces were called qahveh khaneh, and they grew at a large rate among eastern countries. 

This was the beginning of coffee’s social boom, as qahveh khaneh became a social hub for music, conversion, performances, news stories, and games. 

In some places, these coffee houses were also known as “schools of the wise” due to people coming to the qahveh khaneh to exchange and spread important information.

The holy city of Mecca was already a well known location around the world. Muslims would travel to the city for religious expression, so it didn’t take long for word to grow about the “wine of Araby,” or as we know it, coffee.

17th century: Coffee had made its way to Europe

As travelers came and left these eastern countries, news of an energetic dark beverage spread to Europe. As with every country it touches, coffee became an instant success. However, this beautiful drink was about to cross not only country lines but also political and religious lines too.

Catholic priests were not fond of people drinking elixirs from another religion and called it the “bitter invention of Satan.” The rejection was so strong that clergymen around Venice declared it a strike against God to drink the “juice of the tainted.” Of course, this declaration caused so much controversy that Pope Clement VIII was told to intervene.

Luckily this pope didn’t reject the drink simply because of its origin; instead, he drank the coffee to understand its benefits and supernatural tendencies. The ordeal was rather scientific, and in the end, he declared the coffee was not a devil’s drink and gave it the Catholic seal of approval.

Controversy or not, Austria, England, France, Germany, and Holland all quickly built coffee houses in the image of qahveh khaneh, which became the same social hub you would find in the east. In England, the new name was something quintessentially British. “Penny universities” were the coffee houses’ new title, where a penny worth of coffee could buy you fascinating conversation and mind-opening experiences. 

This idea of drinks and enlightenment was beginning to grow despite the Enlightenment era not officially starting for another couple of years. It could be that this chance to talk was the starting point of change amongst the Europeans, as the previous drink of choice was beer or wine. As coffee made you alert instead of drunk, the ability to talk and discover was greatly appreciated. 

Coffee houses started to pop up all over London, and the name “penny universities” dropped in favor of brand names. Soon chains like Edward Lloyd’s Coffee House began to emerge.

Mid 1600’s- Coffee was brought back to New Amsterdam (New York)

New York was originally called New Amsterdam, but that’s a story for another day. In the mid 1600s, coffee reached the hub of North America, and just like London, coffee houses sprang up everywhere. The battle of the beverage commences as tea rooms and coffee houses fought and struggled to win the people’s favor. Despite the new charm of this exotic drink, tea was still in the lead. 

However, in 1773 when the British imposed a heavy tax on imported tea, Boston showed their rebellion against King George III in a revolt come to be known as the Boston Tea Party.

Tea shipments were kicked into the sea as the North Americas refused to partake in the British taxing system. 

With tea out of the picture, coffee had the room to grow in popularity. It became such a political statement that the 3rd president of North America (Thomas Jefferson) declared coffee “the favorite drink of the civilized world.”

From devil’s liquid to favored beverages, you might think that the story ends here, but this much loved drink has a lot more history left in it!

1938:Freezer dried coffee was invented 

Instant coffee, which is one of the most popular forms of coffee today, was initially invented in 1771, Britain. The coffee was compounded to make brewing quicker. This instant version was not as fast as today’s standard, but it was the beginning of something great. 

In 1851, during North America’s civil war, people tried to give this energizing drink to soldiers. They needed to share the beverage in a non-liquid form, and so the coffee cake was invented.

In 1889 David Strang, from New Zealand, patented a new version of instant coffee, which was the first manufactured form of its kind; however, Japanese-American chemist Satori Kato was the first to create a stable and soluble powder. His creation in 1901 was a best seller and allowed people to drink coffee on the go. The last remaining issue of instant coffee was it’s not-so-long shelf life.

The strong coffee and snack business, Nescafe, agreed to research how to make coffee faster to produce and give it a longer shelf life. In 1938 the freezer dried method was completed, and instant coffee as we know it was born!

1960: The first espresso machine was invented

Cafetières, also known as French Presses, was the go-to contraption to make coffee at home. They were invented in 1923, but as technology was growing, coffee connoisseurs wanted to bring their favorite drinks to the gadget enthusiasts. In 1961 Faema introduced a pump driven espresso machine, the same width as a typewriter and as tall as a 90s computer. 

Instead of using your own physical force to push down the ground coffee, this mechanical pump would create pressure so the force could mount without interference. The idea was so revolutionary that rival coffee companies started making and selling their own versions soon after!

1970: The term ‘specialty coffee’ was used in The Tea And Coffee Journal

Specialty coffee is a coffee rating system that tells you if the beans were grown at the perfect altitude, during the correct time of year, and through the best type of soil. With coffee coming from every direction, people wanted to create certified coffee tasters who could verify that the beans were worth their money.

To be classed as ‘specialty coffee,’ you have to earn over 80 points on the scale. A certified coffee taster or a licensed grader will judge the coffee; if they give below 80 points, the coffee is not classed as a specialty. If the beans have an 80 – 84.99 rating, they are very good, 85 – 89.99 they are excellent, and 90 – 100 they are outstanding!

Though rating coffee is not a new trend, the specialty term (along with chains like Starbucks, Pret, and Costa) is the reason why the energizing drink now has a level of sophistication to it.

2000’s: The term ‘hipster coffee’ had increased in popularity because of light roasting profiles and farm to cup sourcing

At first, the term “hipster coffee shop” meant a stereotypical independent cafe set in an urban location that serves high end coffee in a minimalist style. So many of these cafes popped up that a meme began to trend about hipsters drinking coffee and writing screenplays. 

Although it started off as an insult to a newly emerging subculture, the hipsters reclaimed the name and tried to show the world why this type of coffee shop was good. Hipsters often follow the same ideologies as environmentalists, although they stick to the social version of the cause. This means that hipster coffee shops often explain where their coffee comes from, how much of a carbon footprint the company has, and will offer you a lot of variety in your drink. Oat milk is the best milk for the environment due to its low water usage, low land usage, and easy to grow ability. This type of knowledge is widely shared in hipster coffee shops which are perfect for people with dairy allergies. 

It was this type of thinking that forced shops like Starbucks to change their milk options and gave allergy-restricted people more room in the coffee world.

Coffee Trends

We cannot talk about hipsters without mentioning trends. Coffee has had a multitude of different trends throughout the years, and each one is as entertaining as the last!

Although coffee trends would have begun from the humble Kaldi beginnings, the most recorded changes occurred after the coffee machine was invented! That being said, every country has its own way of brewing this black drink that powers our hearts. Turkish coffee is made by heating up sand on a wide pan. The drink comes out thick and hot, with very little milk needed to mold the flavor. Instead, it is traditional to add a dash of sugar to lighten the taste.

With the addition of coffee machines, we can control and combine our flavors more dramatically than ever before. Not everyone has the room for a massive sand pan, which is one of many reasons why new trends emerge as everyone tries out new ways to make the old flavors fit their modern lifestyle.

The simple addition of apps to our phones has allowed us to order coffee to our homes and remove the need to queue. We can even order coffee to our table and not have to talk to a soul. This means that barristers have more time to focus on their creations, allowing them to come up with new ideas. This allowed them to play with flavors, mess around with techniques and produce iconic ideas like the Frappuccino! 

The Dalgona or Whipped Coffee was an instant hit after a video went viral. Different people on social media showed how they prepared the drink to a frothy texture by whipping up instant coffee with a dash of sugar and a drop of milk to create a sweet summertime trend!

These are just two ways in which non-coffee-related technological advances have allowed people to create new drinks and share them with the world!

Third wave coffee: A niche discovered in the 1980’s – Highly focusing on coffee beans

The first wave of coffee was when the world welcomed the potent drink into every corner of our lives. The second wave was when big brands started to grow and turn the local coffee culture into a North American enterprise.

It was the third wave of coffee that made us wonder where our beans came from and how the people were treated. 

We are living in an age of empathy, where you realize that our actions affect people we have never met before. Coffee is a great way to show how our culture has changed, as we start to question where the coffee bean farms are and the treatment of the workers.

Organizations like Fair Trade help you figure out which brands are treating the workers right by paying them a fair wage and not giving them terrible hours.

With the people looked after, the standard and quality of the beans needed focus. We do not want to drink beans that have been coated in pesticides, and so grades like 

“specialty coffee” took over.

1999: The trend grew rapidly- Consumers were aware that there was more to coffee than flavor

Flavors are the current trend that seems to be here to stay! Pumpkin Spiced Lattes, Chocolate Cappuccinos, and Chai Lattes are some of the most iconic and requested flavor combinations around the world. 

Although the original flavor of the coffee will always be a classic, these new experiences show how there is more to coffee than a one-note flavor.

Throughout coffee’s history, it has always been a central focus for social connections. Every place it has been and every culture it has been accepted by has seen the community spirit that coffee can give, as well as the warming taste it naturally brings.

What the third wave coffee trend includes:

Within the third wave of coffee, there are hipsters and other niche communities that focus on lighter roasts and growing techniques to bring different flavors to the beans themselves rather than just adding syrups to the mix. 

Latte art and brewing methods, such as pour over coffee

Latte art has become a competition, changing coffee from a delicious drink to a beautiful centerpiece. As with everything in human culture, if we have enough time, we will make something beautiful, and coffee has been around long enough for competitions around latte art to be a prominent force in the barista world. 

As the third wave of coffee concentrates on care, location, and creativity, the brewing methods of coffee have evolved too. Pour over coffee is a classic and simple method of pouring hot water through a coffee filter that already has ground coffee in it. It is a common cafe and home method.

Hipster coffee

We have talked about hipsters a lot in this article, and they have indeed shaped the world of coffee as we know it, but they also have their own signature style of coffee too. Hipster coffee is noticeably sour!

In all honesty, anything that isn’t mainstream can be considered hipster coffee, but when you arrive in a distinctly hipster shop, you will notice that the bright flavors will have touching notes of tastes you were not expecting. The first couple of sips are often sour as your tongue adjusts to the new flavors.

However, if you notice that the sourness doesn’t stop, and there is no gentle cradle of a new flavor, then it could be that the coffee wasn’t prepared properly! Bad coffee will taste sour from the first sip to the last, no matter if you follow traditional methods or take the courage to try something new.

Because traditional coffee drinkers know that a sour sip is a sign of something bad, they often take one gulp of their drink and declare it a failure. But hipster coffee should be treated like wine. Let it sit and rest, take a sip to coat the tongue, and another to taste the flavors. 

A light roast bean often gives you more complex flavors to work with, but with the flavor comes the acidity. This is why the sourness is the first thing you will taste, but the delicate additions arrive soon after.

The Future Of Coffee

As the third wave shows us more diverse ways to drink coffee, including practices that are better for the environment, we can see that the future of coffee will be healthy! That being said, a new form of coffee is growing in popularity, and it takes the form of fermentation!

Healthy Coffee

Coffee drinkers between the ages of 18 and 34 are more likely to pay extra for coffee that contains probiotics. Probiotics are the good bacteria that help your gut digest food for a healthy and painless internal system. Coffee is the most common drink that a person will have in the day, so having your vitamins and minerals in one easy-to-reach place will be super convenient. But it’s not just the future of our gut that is healthy.

The rise in plant-based alternatives for healthy, environmental, and value-based reasons means that oat milk is a growing choice in coffee shops. Oat milk holds more carbohydrates than cow’s milk, the same amount of vitamins and minerals, doesn’t need as much land or water and doesn’t produce as much carbon dioxide in the production. It is also great for those with nut allergies and vegans. The only thing that oat milk doesn’t do best, is give us more protein. Cow’s milk is still the best milk for protein.

As more and more people understand the benefits of oat milk, the coffee shops have bowed to pressure and added it to their list of options. This means that there are healthier choices for you to pick from at your local coffee shop!

Fermented Coffee

Fermented coffee has a second name; cultured coffee. Either one refers to the method of creation. Typically coffee beans are fermented when they are still in their cherry form, but this method requires the fruits to be pulped and the husks to be scraped off. Then they are roasted and grown to create a green version of our classic coffee.

This concept isn’t new, but as we rediscover a part of the coffee-making history, this type of creation has been brought back to life. 

The taste ends up being sweet and full with a slight acidity to it. Depending on what the creators do with the cherry after, you may even notice a fruit note.

Barrel-Aged Coffee

Barrel-aged coffee sounds like a thing of the past, however, we wouldn’t be surprised if it made a resurgence. This technique is often used with fermented coffee to create deeper flavors and even a whiskey-like aroma. The coffee ages from 30 to 60 days, and as it sits, a slight alcoholism emerges. 

We hope to see more of this type of coffee around, but it seems to be growing very slowly in popularity.


Coffee has gone on a wild ride, from its goat dancing beginnings to its Catholic-labeled devilishness, to a boom in American capitalism! Right now, it sits firmly between those who like a classic and untouched brew, and those who want to experiment with their flavors. Hipsters have taken over the coffee industry, and they are looking to the past and the future to see how to spark another life into the drink.

We as a culture look towards making the world a better place for the people and the environment, and the third wave of coffee shows how we can innovate, create and protect all at the same time. 

As we look to the future, we can predict that more technological advances will shape our idea of coffee, healthy choices will become more abundant, and unique methods of creation will start to trend. And through it all, the classic black coffee will prevail.