What is the history of coffee?


Last Updated on September 10, 2017 by Laura Teso

What is the history of coffee? Coffee, in Italian caffè [kahf-FEH], is a beverage obtained by grinding the seeds of some small tropical trees of the genus Coffea. This genus includes actually over 100 species, which differ in taste and caffeine content. The most popular among them are:

  • Arabica (originating from Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya and Yemen)
  • Robusta (from the African area between Uganda and Guinea).

The world’s largest producers are Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia and Indonesia.

Did you know that… The finest coffee in the world is the Indonesian Kopi Luwak. Only 50kg per year are produced and the price is between €500 and €800 per kg. It is famous because its coffee beans are eaten and defecated by the Asian palm civet. Then they are collected, obviously cleaned and toasted.


The true history of coffee and its origin are still a mystery. The best known legend tells of an Ethiopian shepherd who had lost his sheep. He found them near a bush, visibly lively. In fact they had eaten coffee’s berries, which by the way are similar to cherries. He wanted to taste them so he cooked them with water and soon noticed their invigorating effect.

The history of coffee


In the XV century the beverage made of coffee beans spread in all the Middle East and the first coffee-rooms were created in Istanbul. Gianfrancesco Morosini, Venetian ambassador, said (in 1585) that the Turks were drinking, both on the street and in the public places, a stimulant black water.

Soon after, the botanist Prospero Alpini, personal doctor of the Venetian consul in Egypt, introduced the dark drink in Venice, where it took the name of coffee. The first Café was opened in 1640.  A rumour says that in the rest of Italy coffee was little used because it was considered the devil’s drink. Pope Clement VIII, however, loved it and allowed its diffusion. It is said that he pronounced the following sentence:

This devil’s drink is so good that we should try to deceive him and bless it.

Towards 1650 were opened the first coffee-houses in Oxford and London.

Louis XIV, the Sun King, tasted coffee for the first time in 1664, thanks to the visitor of the Turkish ambassador sent by Sultan Muhammad IV.

As for Vienna, a legend narrates that in 1684, after the liberation of the city from the Turks, a former polish soldier opened the first Café, using the sacks of coffee abandoned by the Ottoman army on the run. Actually, the first Viennese coffee-house was opened by an Armenian businessman named Johannes Diodato in 1685.

In 1689 was inaugurated the first coffee in the United States, in Boston.

The diffusion of the coffee plant in Central and South America was promoted by the Dutch between the late 1700s and early 1800s.

In Italy

In Italy, coffee is one of the most popular beverages, especially at breakfast and after lunch. On average people drink 2-3 cups each, especially at home. They usually prepare it with the coffee-maker called Moka (here my post about the Moka). But they also drink it at the bar and at the office. What would a working day be without at least one (but better two) coffee breaks? People drink coffee to charge one’s batteries, relax a few minutes and socialize with colleagues. There is also a saying, according to which people should drink coffee with 3″c”: caldo (hot), comodo (comfortable), because you must enjoy it with no hurry, and chiacchierato (chatted), ie in company.