Coffee Origins: From Coffee Bean Field to Your Morning Cup

coffee origins

Have you ever wondered about the coffee origins while drinking your morning cup? Many of us love coffee. It is our favorite morning drink, a great way to start the day, and something that cultures all over the world value, but have you ever wondered where coffee originally came from? Or how different crops in different countries vary in taste, boldness, and flavor?

Coffee has a rich and amazing history. It started from the African plains, traveled through the Arabian world, and then eventually, meeting the East and the West – Asia and Europe. In a few more centuries, coffee would eventually land in the Americas.

But coffee did more than just traveling from continent to continent. It faced strict regulations, having to be smuggled out of and into stricter territories. Coffee would go on to revolutionize the economy, society, and culture of many countries after its introduction.

It is interesting to think that this beverage, once discovered in Ethiopia, thanks to the “dancing goats,” would become one of the most commonly traded commodities today – and a very integral part of society. Thanks to the spread of coffee, we have a variety of International Coffee Recipes to try out, that you can read about HERE.

So, if the history of your favorite drink interests you, read on! Let’s begin at where it all began: Ethiopia.

Coffee Origins: The History Starting in Ethiopia

coffee origins

Coffee originated from Ethiopia (formerly known as Abyssinia), but it wasn’t meticulous discovery that led to the discovery of coffee. if you are a coffee lover, you should probably thank the Ethiopian goats for this.

In 700 AD, Kaldi, a goat herder living in Ethiopia, was herding his goats one day – the usual routine, of course. This time, though, things were different – his goats acted strangely as if they are “dancing”.

Upon seeing the strange behavior, Kaldi went on to investigate the matter. Eventually, he found out that the “dancing goats” were eating red berries and thought that this could be the reason behind his goat’s strange behavior.

After discovering these energizing red berries, Kaldi shared them with a local monk. As the story goes, the monk got excited by the berries because of the thought that they could keep him awake all night as he prayed.

There’s another version of the story, though: the monk did not like the berries and, as a result, threw them all into a fire. As the beans were burned, it produced a pleasing and strong aroma – probably the world’s first roasted coffee beans.

Eventually, the beans went through the grounding process and boiled to make what will soon become coffee. Regardless if the monk liked or did not like the berries, one thing is for sure: coffee originated in Ethiopia. And, more importantly, the discovery of our favorite morning drink was made!

Coffee Origins: Into the Arabian World

espresso beans

Eventually, during the 15th century, coffee spread from Ethiopia to the Arabian world – starting with Yemen. Around the 16th century, coffee spread into other parts of the Arab/Islamic world like Egypt, Syria, and all the way to Persia and Turkey.

Coffee became a cultural norm in Arabic society. For example, coffee would eventually be consumed not only in houses, but in what is called qahveh khaneh – an Arabic word for coffeehouse, and a predecessor of modern-day coffee shops and cafés. People frequented qahveh khaneh just as people frequently visit coffee shops today.

Interestingly enough, patrons don’t go to qahveh khaneh just to drink coffee. They also go there to listen to music, play chess, talk with friends, and be updated with the current news. This is also what we do at Western coffee shops. They’re not just for coffee, but for leisure, business, and socializing.

As thousands of pilgrims visited the holy city of Mecca each year from all around the world, the knowledge about coffee (or what they call the “wine of Araby”) began to spread – and indeed, it will eventually spread to Asia and Europe.

Migrating into Europe and Asia

Eventually, coffee spread from the Arabian world to Asia and Europe – or, to the East and the West. But how?

During the 16th century, if countries or nations from Asia or Europe wanted coffee, they had to send their merchants to Yemen to buy it. Yemeni authorities quickly realized how much they could profit off of coffee. In turn, they tried to monopolize coffee plantations for themselves.

Eventually, the smuggling of fertile coffee beans began. In the 17th century, coffee was introduced in Asia, thanks to Baba Budan, a Sufi saint coming from India.

In 1670, Baba Budan traveled to Mecca to pay his pilgrimage visit to the holy city. On his way home, he decided to smuggle some fertile coffee beans back to India where he eventually began a coffee plantation there.

Eventually, coffee production in India grew and grew where it became popularized. Over the years the coffee-making process has turned into an art, so if you are wanting to learn How to Brew the Perfect Cup of Coffee, click HERE.

Migrating To Europe

In another part of the world, the Dutch had already smuggled the same fertile coffee beans from Yemen in a similar attempt to grow coffee in Holland, but the cold winter prevented the growth.

However, the Dutch had territories and connections in Asia. Friends in Ceylon (now known as Sri Lanka) decided to send some coffee seeds to the Dutch Governor of Java, Indonesia. There began another wide coffee plantation in Asia – in Indonesia.

At first, the plantation faced harsh planting conditions, but eventually, it survived to produce what is called “Java” coffee. But Indonesian coffee does not stop in Java; it eventually spread through Indonesia, to Sumatra and Celebes.

Now, how did coffee arrive in Europe? While Arabia and Asia mostly welcomed coffee with open hands, not so much in Europe – at least, for a very short time.

When coffee arrived in Venice in the year 1570, it became a new popular drink. There were a few rough years due to Pope Clement VIII declaring that the drink could be satanic in 1615, but, he later announced that coffee was not as satanic as he thought. Even later on, he declared and baptized coffee as a Christian beverage.

Afterward, coffee spread throughout Europe, to countries like France, Austria, Germany, England, and Holland like wildfire.

Just like in the Arab world, coffee houses soon became popular among Europeans. Coffee houses in Europe were not only made for drinking coffee, but for sports, culture, friendships, and philosophy, too. While Arabs called their coffee houses “Schools of the Wise”, Europeans called theirs “penny universities”.

Migrating to the Americas

what is healthy coffee

In 1714, the Mayor of Amsterdam brought coffee seeds as a gift to King Louis XIV of France. King Louis had the coffee seeds immediately planted in the Royal Botanical Garden in Paris. Fast forward a few years and, in 1723, Gabriel de Clieu got some seedling from the King’s coffee plant, to which he proceeded to transport the seeds to Martinique in the Caribbean – the first settlement of coffee in the Americas.

Eventually, coffee plantations will spread throughout the Americas – from Martinique to key South and Central American countries including Brazil.

In the would-be United States of America, coffee became popular after the Boston Tea Party – a revolt by the Americans against the English imposition of taxes on teas. Tea became unpatriotic in the US whereas coffee became a favorite drink of the Americans.

The Coffee Industry Today

flavored iced coffee

Ever since there has been a lot of innovation in the coffee industry. Of course, it’s not all upwards, but over the past years until today, we’ve seen the development of the roasting machine, thanks to Jabez Burns, the percolator, which was invented in France but was improved by Jason H. Nason in 1865, and of course, our favorite espresso, thanks to Luigi Bezzera who created it in 1901.

And today, coffee houses are still famous spots for not only drinking coffee, but for relaxation, business, friendships, socialization, or even a place for reflection, which is why to some, quiet coffee shops are the ideal.

Over the years countries all over the world have cultivated their own beans, which in turn has created a large variety of products to choose from. Below we will discus 15 of the most popular countries of origin and what differentiates them from one another.

If you are looking to try out any of the following roasts at home, make sure to check out our post, “Best Coffee Equipment, Everything You Need to Know.”

1) Bali Blue

Flavor profile → A cup of Bali Blue Moon coffee is a powerful combination of flavors, with a nutty hint, a chocolate flavor, and a cherry finish. A cup of Bali Blue smells of not only chocolate but fruit as well, a welcoming roast for an early morning cup.

One of the defining characteristics of Blue Bali Coffee that differentiates it from the rest of the Indonesian coffees is its processing method. Wet-processing is the processing method used for Blue Bali Coffee and other Balinese coffee, whereas dry-processing is used for most Indonesian coffees outside of Bali.

Blue Bali Coffee is one of the most unique coffee roasts from around the world. In fact, it is so special that the Indonesian government placed heavy regulations on its production years ago. This may seem bad, and there are definitely some downsides to it, but actually, the regulations are the main reason why Blue Bali Coffee has been able to keep consistent with its excellence!

Thanks to the rich volcanic soil and the climate of Bali, particularly in the Kintamani region, coffee production became a popular and ideal export in the region. Production rapidly spread, and the Bali Blue coffee bean became one of the most popular roasts around the world.

Bali Blue is a unique coffee in its name, but also in its roast. Click HERE to learn more about the history of the coffee.

2) Brazil Santos

Flavor profile → Brazil Santos is considered one of Brazil’s most popular and finest roasts. It’s a medium roast that has a light-bodied brew with low acidity. The roast has a smooth flavor that is uniform throughout due to the way the coffee cherries are dried on patios. The smooth flavor has a hint of fruity flavor due to the natural drying process the beans go through.

When it comes to coffee roasts, one of the countries that you cannot miss out on is Brazil. In fact, Brazil is one of the largest producers of coffee. For over 150 years, Brazil has been the number one producer of coffee worldwide, producing 1/3 of the world’s coffee each year. Recently, Brazil also became the #1 consumer of coffee, passing the United States.

Due to Brazil’s wide and diverse geographic characteristics, Brazilian coffee also comes in a wide variety of flavors. If you visit the grasslands, you will see Robusta beans being grown there. Brazilian Robusta beans grown in grasslands tend to have mildly earthly notes and strong bitterness.

Surprising or not — most coffee in Brazil is farmed by small farmers. A large portion of Brazil’s coffee farms has less than 10 hectares in size. According to Diagnóstico da Cafeicultura em Minas Gerais, 71% of Brazil’s coffee farms are only less than 10 hectares. 25% of Brazilian coffee has around less than 50 hectares in size and only as few as 4% of coffee farms have a land area with more than 50 hectares.

Do you want to dive deeper into the rich history of Brazil Santos coffee? If so, click HERE.

3) Colombia

Flavor profile → Colombian coffee is typically a bold, yet sweet roast. The coffee, comparable to beans from Peru, has a lower acidity level with a strong sweet flavor, oftentimes similar to caramel. It has a nutty undertone, with a medium-bodied flavor, making it one of the most common origins from South America.

Today, Colombian coffee is one of the most popular beans in the world’s coffee supply, accounting for around 12% of the global coffee supply. Aside from its unique taste, Colombian coffee is popular today thanks to improved farming infrastructures, key advertising, and marketing campaigns. Colombia got into the coffee industry when it was still developing, carving a name out for themselves in the beginning.

When it comes to flavor, Colombian coffee is varied and diverse. Due to the varying climates of the region, the beans can be very different depending on the harvest zone.

For instance, in the Northern regions of Santander and Santa Marta, which has higher temperatures and lower altitudes, coffee beans grown in these regions tend to have a fuller body and deeper flavor notes.

Colombian coffee has both a unique flavor and a unique background. Click HERE to learn more about Colombian coffee.

4) Costa Rica

Flavor profile → Costa Rican coffee is typically sweeter than other roasts with a mild acidity level. The flavor notes can vary, but often remind drinkers of honey or molasses. The roast can also emulate flavors similar to that of citrus fruits or grapes. When this coffee is specifically brewed through a paper filter, the flavor notes are emphasized, making it a great cup of coffee for many.

Costa Rican coffee is one of the best roasts you can try out.

Not only is the flavor great, but the history of the coffee is rich as well. Costa Rica was the first country in Central America to grow and produce coffee for commercial purposes. Eventually, Costa Rica became witness to economic success within its growing coffee industry.

Coffee produced in Costa Rica is quite diverse. Unlike other countries that keep a wide variety of qualities, like Colombia, Costa Rican coffee has consistent qualities. Costa Rican coffees tend to have a lighter body, dynamic acidity, and sweet, smooth, floral flavor profiles.

Costa Rican coffee is not only delicious but it has a colorful history. Click HERE to learn more.

5) Ethiopia Natural

Flavor profile → Ethiopian coffee stands out for a variety of reasons. Not only was it one of the first places to farm the bean, but it has some of the strongest tasting beans in the world. The coffee has a mild and pleasant acidity level that shows floral notes, specifically that of a jasmine flower. Some coffee drinkers may even compare Ethiopia Natural coffee to that of a tea or wine-like flavor.

When it comes to coffee, Ethiopia has a lot to offer. Aside from being one of the best countries of origin for coffee, matching the levels of Tanzania, Brazil, Jamaica, Indonesia, and Kona (Hawaii), Ethiopia is actually the birthplace of coffee itself. But it does not stop there. Aside from having a rich and interesting history, Ethiopia is also home to unrivaled coffee plant diversity – meaning, unrivaled flavor, and quality in diversity. It is so diverse that some coffees cannot be classified altogether.

Most coffee growers and farmers in Ethiopia are only small, rural farmers. In fact, on average, they produce as low as 300 kilograms every year. With this size, it would be better to describe their farm as more of a backyard garden rather than an actual farm.

Impressively, Ethiopia is still the 5th largest producer of coffee worldwide. But that is not much of a surprise because, as mentioned above, Ethiopia lines up well with other big coffee producers like Brazil, Indonesia, and Hawaiian Kona, among others.

Do you want to take a deeper look into the rich history of Ethiopian coffee? Please click HERE.

6) Guatemala

Flavor profile → Guatemala produces one of the most popular Central American roasts. The flavor is typically medium to full body with a sweet after finish that emulates notes of chocolate. Depending on the specific roast, the flavor can even have a nutty or toffee-like flavor as well.

Perhaps, unlike other coffees, what really makes Guatemalan coffee so fascinating and remarkable is its diversity of flavor profile. Not only does Guatemalan coffee have a wide variety of flavor profile diversity, but the different flavors grown from various regions of the country are clearly distinguished from one another. 

Over the years, Guatemala faced trial after trial, hindering their coffee production.

Thankfully, the civil unrest and political and economic instability would come to a stop. After decades of civil wars, among other social troubles, Guatemala can finally rebuild itself. Just as the whole Guatemalan economy is reviving, so is their coffee industry. Local coffee farmers and growers can go back to coffee farming and begin to thrive in their industry once again.

Guatemala provides one of the most popular Central American coffees. Click HERE to learn more about the history of the coffee.

7) Honduras

Flavor profile → Honduran coffee can range in flavor, but it typically has a slightly sweet taste with a smooth texture throughout. The coffee can range in flavor from fruity to nutty to chocolatey. Depending on the roast it can be stronger in fruit flavors, similar to lemon zest, to almond, to chocolate, to even coconut.

It’s a full-body, sweet-tasting coffee that is famous for its flavor profile. It makes the perfect morning brew, an ideal afternoon iced coffee, or a yummy post-dinner treat.

Due to Honduras’ tropical and temperate climates and other geographic features where its coffee grows, the coffee is typically sweet, mild, and robust.

Honduran beans grow at high altitudes that range from 3,600 to around 5,249 feet above sea level. Their coffee beans tend to be classified in terms of the altitude where they grow. This, alongside the region in which they grow, factor into their classification.

To this day, more than a hundred thousand families across entire Honduras are participating in the country’s coffee production. In fact, 95% of these are small-scale, rural farmers.

Honduran coffee has a unique and flavorful history, much like its coffee beans. Click HERE to learn more.

8) Indonesia/India

Flavor profile → Indonesian and Indian coffee usually have similar taste profiles. The roasts from these countries are darker and bolder than flavor profiles of beans from other countries. Due to the process of semi-washing the bean, the flavor has notes of earthy, spicy, wood-like tones. The coffee has a long-lasting finish also due to the washing process.

Indonesia was one of the first and earliest countries in the world to start growing coffee for commercial purposes. They started before many African countries (where coffee originated, in Ethiopia), before most Asian countries, and even before the South American coffee powerhouse, Brazil.

The quality and characteristics of Indonesian coffee will vary, depending on which island it was grown as Indonesia is comprised of thousands of islands. The definition of an Indonesian coffee based on its island origin (such as Java coffee or Sumatra coffee) is often so strong that some professional coffee tasters would know from which Indonesian island the coffee is raised just by tasting it.

To take a deeper look into the rich history of Indonesian/Indian coffee click HERE.

9) Mexico

Flavor profile → Mexican coffee beans can range in flavor depending on the region in which it was grown, but the beans usually have a light body. The beans can hold a nutty flavor, or a chocolaty flavor, depending on the region.

Not only are Mexican coffee beans a flavorful addition to your morning, but they bring a unique flavor and taste. This is partially due to the varying growing climates of Mexico, but also the geographic distribution.

Often times, the Mexican climate is thought of as strictly dry and hot. This is probably due to stereotypical thoughts when it comes to the land. For one, movies have something to do with it. Movies often depict Mexico as a deserted and dry wasteland, but that does not depict the entire picture of Mexico. In fact, Mexico is actually rich with geographical and climatic diversity – making Mexico one of the ideal places to grow and produce coffee.

In the present times, Mexico is actually the 10th largest coffee producer in the whole world – and the #1 source of Certified Organic and Fair Trade coffee. Mexico is a good example of how innovations plus skilled and experienced farming can help revive a struggling industry. Although at this current time, the Mexican coffee industry still has not recovered and returned to its pre-bust strength.

Mexico is famous for many different things, but coffee is one of the most popular! Please click HERE to learn more about Mexican coffee.

10) Nicaragua

Flavor profile → The flavor of Nicaraguan coffee is incredibly unique. The coffee has a balanced flavor with a fruity base and a hint of vanilla notes. Not only is the coffee delicious but the aroma itself is incredibly pleasing with caramel elements.

Like many other countries in South America, Nicaraguan coffee is fruity with specific citrus notes. Unlike other South American countries, this type of coffee is milder in acidity. The beans grow organically, not purposefully, but simply because of a lack of infrastructure, also common other Central American countries.

Since Nicaragua has a variety of regions for growing coffee, it can produce different coffees for different levels – from low-grade coffees to commodity and specialty coffees. In recent decades, the coffee industry of Nicaragua faced hindrance due to the civil war, destructive hurricanes, and more devastating events.

But despite struggling, coffee remained a principal product of Nicaragua, which is why they strive to push and improve it. One way they do it, as also mentioned earlier, is labeling their coffee based on the terrain it was grown – as it can determine the coffee’s quality and grade.

Nicaraguan coffee is unique in flavor, but also unique in its origins. Please click HERE to learn more about Nicaraguan coffee.

11) Papua New Guinea

Flavor profile → Coffee from Papua New Guinea can range in flavor depending on how the beans were washed. In Papua New Guinea, the beans are typically wet-washed, where the flavor becomes well-balanced and mild in flavor. The notes include fruity, citrus-related flavors.

From mountains to islands, there are stunning places that grow some of the best beans around. Papua New Guinea coffee is a prime example. Located just north of Australia, Papua New Guinea is an island nation boasting a rich coffee culture. It is often hidden in the general umbrella of Indonesian coffees. But this country’s coffee is unique on its own. Coffee beans are actually Papua New Guinea’s second-biggest agricultural export! Its diverse and mountainous terrain provides an optimal area for coffee growing. And, these beans have a fantastic flavor profile.

Papua New Guinea coffee has an interesting and captivating background story. Click HERE to read more about its rich history.

12) Peru

Flavor profile → Peruvian coffee is quite similar to Colombian when it comes to flavor, with a few different distinctions. Its flavor is typically a medium-bodied drink with a middle level of acidity. It has a bold nutty undertone but has a sweet gentle finish, making it a great option for any coffee lover.

South America is full of delicious coffee. In particular, Peru boasts some excellent small scale produced beans. The country has evolved into one of the world’s biggest coffee exporters. Currently, it is the 15th largest coffee exporter in the world. The unique characteristics of Peruvian coffee are driving their demand. It actually is one of the few countries that mostly produces fair trade and organic coffee. This is a result of the culture and history behind Peruvian coffee.

The coffee in Peru is as natural as it gets. As we know, all producers are small-scale in Peru. The size of their farm and lack of funding makes chemicals inaccessible. The farms’ innately natural state inclines farmers to work towards organic and fair trade certifications rather than harmful pesticides. This lends Peru an edge in the international market. It also gives a solid foundation of quality to their coffee from the start!

Peruvian coffee is similar in flavor to Colombian, but it has a very unique history and processing method. Click HERE to learn more about it!

13) Sumatra

Flavor profile → Sumatra coffee, one of the Sunda Islands of western Indonesia, has a subdued acidity with a sweet chocolate flavor. Sumatra coffee is often described as syrupy due to its full body and intense earthy flavor.

Sumatra is plentiful in natural splendor. The beautiful Bukit Barisan mountain range is the backbone of the island. It is known by many as the ‘Andes of Sumatra.’ This mountain range possesses peaks as high as 12000 feet. Sumatra also has multiple active volcanoes. This gives the island exceptionally fertile volcanic soil.

The history of Sumatran coffee is complex and fascinating. Coffee beans themselves arrived at the island through Arab tradesmen. Yet, it was not until the Dutch set foot in Sumatra did the coffee plant first set its seed.

Since the recognition and unification of Indonesia, the Sumatran coffee industry continued to develop due to the prestige of Indonesian coffee. Prior to its unification, Indonesian farmers began growing coffee as a cash crop. This opened the market to Indonesian farmers, uplifted their spirits, and supplied better income.

This coffee is delicious. It is a combination of rich coffee and pronounced herbal notes. Sumatran coffee’s low acidity makes it super easy to drink. It lends it a smooth velvety texture that shines in a dark roast.

Sumatra coffee is not only unique in its taste, but in its history. Not only this but it also a coffee that is known world-wide. Click HERE to learn more.

14) Tanzania

Flavor profile → The coffee beans from this east African country are popular all around the world. The beans have a medium to full body flavor that is as intense as it is creamy. Often times this flavor is compared to fruit, with a berry-like flavor. Depending on the roasting method, the beans can even hold hints of cedar.

Tanzanian coffee has a rich history, and some facts that might surprise you. Tanzania’s specific rich history of trade birthed its coffee industry. Tanzania had coffee plants well before European colonists arrived but faced trial after trial for the years that followed.

Tanzanian coffee is just as rich as its cultural history. The beans are peaberry coffee beans which are a product of a genetic mutation in the coffee cherry. These beans provide more refined and flavorful coffee beans than traditional coffee beans.

Click HERE to read more about Tanzanian coffee and the fascinating peaberries used to make it.

15) Ethopia Harrar

Flavor profile → Ethiopian Harrar is even more full-bodied and bold than typical Ethiopian coffee. Along with the typical fruity notes of a Ethiopian coffee beans, the flavor also has notes of jasmine, apricot, and berries, blueberries in particular.

The origins of Ethiopian coffee are not like other countries, whose coffee production in the 1700s or 1800s all stemmed from Ethiopia. The coffee is so varied that one cannot simply pinpoint specific qualities of Ethiopian coffee, even the most common ones. In fact, Ethiopian coffee plants are very diverse that most plants are not even genetically classified.

Part of the reason Ethiopian beans are so great is because the geography and climate is rich for cultivating and growing coffee, hence the varied diversity of their coffee beans.

Coffee is so important to Ethiopia that there is even a phrase in their local language, Amharic, that translates to “coffee is our bread”. Ethiopians also hold a “coffee ceremony”, where participants harvest, roast and brew cups of coffee all in one go. This is not just a simple ceremony; but a long, communal process for the participants.

Do you want to learn more about Ethiopian Harrar coffee and the history of the full-bodied flavor? Click HERE to learn more.

16) Kenya

Flavor profile → Kenyan coffee beans provide a unique and tasty profile for any coffee drinker. The beans are wet-processed. This method creates a full-bodied coffee flavor with citrus-like flavors along with hints of berries. Sometimes the roasts can even taste sweeter with hints of tomato.

To take a deeper dive into Kenya and the rich history of their coffee click HERE.

Coffee beans from all over the world are awesome. It’s impossible to pick one country that produces the best coffee beans, because there are so many! When it comes to the best bean, it really comes down to personal preference. This can range based off of your boldness, taste, and flavor preference.

If you haven’t given some of these coffee beans a try, make sure to test them out. A fun way to keep track of which beans you love is by tasting beans from all around the world and keeping a list. You will even be surprised at how your taste buds differ from your partner, your roommate, or anyone you complete this with.

Now that we’ve discussed the grand variety of flavor, boldness, and taste of coffee from different countries, you might be wanting to test some out! If so, please check out our shop HERE.

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