Skip to content

The history of coffee

Written by: Svenja Schindler



Time to read 4 min

We travel with you into the past and trace the exciting history of coffee.
Who discovered it and where does the coffee bean actually come from?
What are all the myths and legends about the origin and history of coffee and what is really true ?

How it all started...

The history of coffee begins with discovery. If you want to be precise, the coffee bean was not discovered by humans at all.

At least if you want to believe the most common legend of Antonius Faustus Naironus. In his book De saluberrima potione cahve from 1671 he writes about the discovery of the coffee bean.

Accordingly, it was actually goats that tasted the beans for the first time.

In the year 900 the shepherd Kaldi is said to have wandered with his sheep through the kingdom of Kaffa, today's Ethiopia. Some of the sheep ate the red coffee cherries along the way. Later in the evening the shepherd noticed that the sheep were jumping around very happily and could not find any rest. And only those who had eaten the coffee cherries.

The monks in the nearby monastery heard about it and tasted the coffee cherries. Complaining about the bitter taste, they spat them into the fire.
The beans were roasted like this and there was a delicious smell in the air, which the monks also noticed. So they brewed the roasted beans with water and drank their first coffee.

The enthusiasm was great, because now the monks could easily carry out their nightly prayers without getting tired.

The wine of Islam


Early 16th century In the mid-19th century, coffee conquered the Ottoman Empire, presumably through slave traders. As the "wine of Islam" it quickly gained popularity among Muslims. Since the consumption of wine was strictly forbidden, they had now found a remedy that gave them a similar stimulating effect.
The first coffee house was built in Mecca around 1511, which spread rapidly and therefore also had a major influence on the history of coffee. However, to the reluctance of the then ruler Murad IV. The coffee houses were burned again under his leadership and coffee drinkers were considered criminals. They were even persecuted and punished. The few remaining coffee houses were mostly disguised as barber shops.

Where does the word coffee come from?

The roots of the term can be found in the ancient Arabic word Qahwah which originally meant wine.

Translated it means the exciting.
The Turkish word kahve then led to the Italian caffè.

The French name café was then adopted into German without any further adjustments.

When did coffee come to Germany?

The history of coffee for Europe began when some European travelers got infected by the enthusiasm for Qahwah in the Ottoman Empire.
As a souvenir, it became known throughout Europe.

It was the Augsburg doctor Leonhard Rauwolf who made coffee popular in Germany in 1582. Finally, in 1615, the first coffee sacks reached Germany. But in the beginning, the new drink was reserved exclusively for the nobility and elite. Incidentally, it also had little to do with a cozy coffee party among women; it was mainly men who enjoyed the new pleasure.

In 1673 the first coffee house was opened in Bremen and that also changed the life of the non-nobles.
Up to this point, it was the norm to quench your thirst mainly with wine, because water was considered to be contaminated with germs. Even children and pregnant women drank large amounts of wine. With the establishment of coffee, people probably woke up from the state of constant fog for the first time.

Around the world

With the colonization, the coffee bean also spread around the globe. In 1645 the first European coffee house opened in Venice. London, Vienna and Paris followed a few years later. The rest of the world still had to be patient, because the sale was initially withheld from the Prussian state to make a profit. Even roasting coffee in private households was strictly forbidden. This made coffee smuggling very lucrative.
After all, it was Dutch and English seafarers who secretly introduced the coffee plant to their colonies around the world.

First Cultivation

Cultivation began with the import of the coffee plant. late 17th In the late 19th century, the Netherlands succeeded in cultivating the first coffee plants in Java, Indonesia. Sri Lanka and India followed quickly.
The colonial powers began a race for cultivation areas. Great Britain and France brought the plant to Central America, Africa and Australia.

In 1727 the Portuguese achieved a milestone, because they were the ones who brought the coffee plant to Brazil, which is still the largest coffee-growing region in the world today.
This was followed by cultivation in greenhouses, but despite all efforts, it was not possible to grow the coffee bean in Europe.

Today we know that this is only possible in the so-called coffee belt, i.e. regions near the equator. The coffee plant can only thrive in a subtropical climate.

Today's coffee culture

Today, coffee is a cult drink and it is impossible to imagine our everyday lives without it. Be it coffee in the morning, a coffee gossip with friends or the savior in the afternoon slump.
Trade is also booming: today coffee is the second most important commodity.

In addition to the original Arabica, another coffee variety appeared in 1889: Robusta.
Today, coffee is available in all conceivable types and flavors and there is something for every taste.

If you also want to find your favorite coffee, take a look at our Shop and treat yourself to quality organic coffee at fair prices.