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The Evolution of Coffee

There’s nothing quite like a rich, warm cup of coffee in the morning. It’s impossible to deny that coffee has become an integral part of everyday life in America.

Many of us have had hundreds or thousands of cups of coffee throughout our lives. But the drink hasn’t always been the morning staple that it is today. 

From the early legends to the modern latte, the little magic bean has had quite the journey to its current modern status as a cultural icon.  

So let’s take a trip back in time and explore the evolution of coffee. 

Humble Beginnings

The origins of coffee are a bit murky. Depending on who you ask, you might get a few different stories of how coffee came to be.

Some believe that coffee consumption by humans began in the 9th century in Ethiopia. Where Kaldi, a goat herder, discovered that these red berries gave his goats a shocking amount of energy. 

Others will claim that coffee wasn’t first consumed until the 15th century in Arabia, specifically Yemen. One legend says a Yemenite mystic stumbled upon coffee berries during his spiritual travels in Ethiopia. Another believes that Sheikh Omar, a follower of Sheik Abou’l Hassan came across red coffee berries while starving in exile. He then discovered hot coffee through trial and error.

While the real story isn’t clear, it seems that the discovery of coffee berries was a happy accident – one that as coffee-lovers we’re beyond grateful for.

 

Global Coffee Culture

Fast-forward a couple of centuries, and the history of coffee becomes a bit clearer. The general consensus is that coffee made its way from Ethiopia and Yemen to Europe in the 17th century – the Netherlands to be exact. This Northern European country is where coffee started to take the shape that we way we know and love now.

The Dutch owned the first coffee estates and houses, and eventually the French, Spanish, and Portuguese began to follow suit. As coffee houses continued to pop up across Europe, coffee became more and more commonplace as a drink of choice.

To meet the growing demand for delicious caffienation, European coffee lovers rushed to produce coffee beans in new regions around the world. The Dutch were likely the first in this global expansion, successfully bringing coffee plants to the region known today as Indonesia. From Martinique to Brazil, coffee seedlings found their way to all corners of the world. Many of these regions eventually turned their plants into the billion-dollar coffee trade industry.

With the amount of coffee from different regions around the world, you may never have guessed they all started from the same type of seedling. These well-traveled coffee plants are the reason we’re now able to enjoy the unique flavors and aroma of coffee from around the world. 

Coffee in the New World

Coffee set sail for what is now known as America in the 1600s, when the British, Spanish and French, among other countries, brought coffee with them on their voyages.

Coffee even became a symbol of political protest. In 1773, American colonists were angry at Britain for imposing a hefty tax on tea. Their response? They stopped drinking tea and switched to coffee! (They also dumped several hundred chests of tea into the Harbor, but we prefer to think that coffee is what really helped shape America’s independence.) The shift in beverage preference was one of patriotic duty. But ultimately, this movement gave coffee the boost it needed to take over tea as the American drink of choice. 

In the years following the Boston Tea Party, coffee energized the growth of the new country, and also gave soldiers a boost of energy during the Civil War and the American War for Independence.

Coffee as a Commodity

By the 1800s, coffee became a hot ticket item. The business-savvy traders and business owners realized that there was profit to be made off of coffee production and consumption. You’ll notice many established and well-known coffee brands got their start in the 1800s. Around this time, we also saw the rise of more convenient coffee options like pre-roasted coffee beans – which is the most common form of coffee today.

For years, coffee was a symbol of status and global influence. But overtime, entrepreneurs made a business out of selling coffee to everyday people like gold miners and travelers. We can credit these merchants for bringing the joy of coffee into the lives of the average American. 

The commercialization and convenience of coffee, the way we know it today, really took off in the 1960s. Famous coffee shops first established themselves all around America during this time, beginning to bring specialty coffee, like Italian espresso, to the market. The rise of specialty coffee paved the way for many independent coffee shops, just like K Brew. 

Coffee Today

Today, coffee is one of the most profitable and sought-after trade commodities in the world. 

While our consumption of coffee continues to evolve, one thing’s for certain – coffee is a big part of our lives all around the world.

Coffee service continues to evolve, with movements like fair trade placing more emphasis on the welfare of coffee farmers, and eco-friendly movements stressing the importance of protecting the environment during farming.

From a simple cup of black coffee, to espresso and lattes, the modern coffee selection is endless. From convenience stores to high-end restaurants, you’ll find piping-hot coffee almost anywhere you go. But coffee wasn’t always the everyday staple that it is today. It took centuries of history, travel, and evolution to bring you the coffee you drink.

So the next time you stop by K Brew or enjoy our coffee at home, we hope you take a moment to appreciate the history behind every cup.

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