The origins of coffee are shrouded in mystery, but the drink dates back to at least the 15th century, and may have been around centuries earlier. One well-known story dates the discover of coffee to the 9th century. Apparently Kaldi, an Ethiopian goat herder, came across the plant while tending his flock. However, this story was first recorded in 1671 and is probably simply a legend.

Coffee is said to have spread from Ethiopia to Egypt and Yemen, but there’s no clear evidence to indicate this. The earliest confirmed evidence of coffee drinking appears in the middle of the 15th century in the Sufi monasteries near Mocha in Yemen. By the 16th century, coffee had reached the rest of Middle East, Persia, Turkey and Northern Africa. Coffee then spread through the Balkans, Italy and on into the rest of Europe. Later still, coffee was imported into Indonesia and the Americas, which are key coffee producing countries today.

Scale of Coffee Production

  • Less then one million bales
  • 1-5 million bales
  • 5+ million bales

Coffee producing Countries e.g.:

  • Brazilie
  • Colombia
  • Venezuela
  • Cuba
  • Jamaica
  • Ecuador
  • Peru
  • India
  • Angola
  • Uganda
  • Ethiopia
  • Mexico
  • Indonesia
  • Vietnam

Coffee in the Netherlands

Coffee beans and trees were closely guarded by producers, and there was competition among Europeans to acquire live trees or seeds. The Dutch are believed to have won the race: in 1616, Pieter van der Broecke, a Dutch merchant, made off with coffee bushes from Mocha in Yemen. He took them back to Amsterdam and found a home for them in the botanical gardens, where they thrived.

The beans produced numerous healthy coffee bushes, and the strain was named Coffea arabica. In 1658 the Dutch used them to begin coffee cultivation in Sri Lanka and later in southern India. Within a few years Dutch colonies on Java (now part of Indonsia) and in Suriname had become the main suppliers of coffee to Europe.