The History of Coffee - Coffee Blog - Tin Cup Coffee Company Nashville

Schools For The Wise: The History Of Coffee

Known as one of the world’s most profitable export crops, coffee has become an artistic trade that has continued to grow since it originated. Like all great tales, the history of coffee’s origination is still one of mystery. A popular Ethiopian tale, The Legend of Kaldi the Goatherd, is said to have been where its story begins.


Set in the Ethiopian highlands, Kaldi noticed the odd behavior of his goats after eating the cherry-like berries of the coffee plants. He reported findings of the goats’ hyper behavior to his local abbot, who became an advocate for the plant after he found it kept him alert and awake during evening prayer. Word of this stimulating drink soon spread east across the Peninsula and later around the globe.


The Arabians were among the first to cultivate the coffee plants and begin its trade in the 15th and 16th centuries. The first coffeehouses, referred to as qahveh khaneh, began to arise, their popularity unequaled. People frequented coffee houses for a variety of social activities, much like those we find in coffee houses today; engaging in stimulating conversations, watching performers and musicians, playing chess and keeping up with current news. For these reasons, coffee houses were often referred to as “schools for the wise.”

Though the Arabians kept close guard of their caffeinated secret, coffee began its spread to Europe in the 17th century. Because of its bitter taste and stimulant qualities, coffee was not readily accepted and found opposition in Venice in 1615. Pope Clement VIII intervened when the controversy began to rise to great lengths. Before agreeing to ban the bitter drink, he tasted the drink for himself and found it so satisfying he gave it Papal approval.


As opposition began to die down, England birthed the start of “penny universities,” coffee houses known for the price of their penny coffee drinks and exchange of information. By the mid-17th century, there were over 300 coffee houses spanning across England and London, and by the latter half, the Dutch had succeeded in obtaining coffee seedlings from the Arabians. This close-guarded secret was expanding to new islands for its production and trade.

Coffee reached the New World during the 18th century but was not the favored drink until 1773 when tea was taxed and thrown into the Boston Harbor in what is now historically known as the Boston Tea Party, which, ironically, was planned in a coffee house called The Green Dragon.


Though America was last to be a part of coffee’s stimulating existence, our love for the concoction mirrors those of its previous producers. Today, 2.25 billion cups of coffee are consumed on a daily basis. The appearance and movement of grassroots coffee houses continue to grow. Small, independently owned cafes, such as Tin Cup, continue to boost locally roasted beans and increase the economic importance of fair-trade.

From a dark, bitter drink to specialty coffees which get more complex by the day, the history of coffee and its importance to the world is understated. Providing jobs for millions of people, foreign exchange profits for third-world countries, and networking opportunities to those young and old, the coffee industry in one of the most crucial industries for our economy and, by far, the most satisfying.

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