The History of Coffee

Not just a cup of coffee

Our morning mug of invigoration, our afternoon boost or our late shift double shot of caffeinated awesomeness has a fascinating story. One full of spirituality, a siege, slavery, subversion and a pilgrims beard – here’s an abridged version of the history of coffee!

Where it all began…

Widely believed to have originated in Ethiopia, the first known use of coffee for drinking or cultivation begins in Yemen in the 15th century. At this point, Arabia had firm control over coffee production.

Let me introduce you to Baba Budan, a Sufi pilgrim who smuggled just 7 (a sacred number in Islam) raw beans to India, hidden in his beard.

The Yemenis exported only roasted, or sun-baked beans, therefore countries had to buy already processed coffee and were not able to grow their own. The journey beans had to take across continents meant that they were less than perfect when they reached the cup.



So, during the history of coffee, what made Baba Budan smuggle a sacred number of beans on his return from Haj, the holy pilgrimage to Mecca that all followers of Islam are expected to make at least once in their lifetime?


Let me indulge in a little science, or biology! It has been proved that caffeine can enhance cognition, and performance. Caffeine can induce a high by increasing the amount of Dopamine in the body, resulting in a mellow feeling of wellbeing, it is for this same reason coffee is addictive.

So, back to Baba Budan. He’s been on a journey of enlightenment, travelling from India, to Mecca – through the coffee state Yemen – arriving and leaving Yemen through the port of Mocha! Imagine, after all the travelling taking your first sip of freshly roasted coffee. You can almost feel it coursing through your veins for the first time, shaking off the weariness of your journey. Pretty magical if you ask us!


close up of coffee sacks

Coffee & Religion

Sufis are highly spiritual, devoted followers of a pure Islam focused on inner purification. They used the stimulating properties of coffee to aid concentration and for spiritual intoxication while engaging in prayer. Ancient manuscripts indicate the spread of coffee along with Sufism throughout what is known today as the Middle East.

It’s after this that history of coffee comes to Europe.

Coffee houses had proliferated the Middle East right up to Turkey. The Ottoman Empire had swathes of land from the Arab peninsula right into Central Europe including Malta! Cue the Knights of Saint John & the siege of Malta! The Knights took Ottoman prisoners as slaves, and it was these slaves who brewed their traditional beverage to try and glean money from the local populous. Frequented by the rich and affluent of Malta, many coffee shops opened. Travellers and traders passed through Malta and eventually the first coffee shop opened on Mainland Europe in the Republic of Venice. At the time, this was a bustling port owing to a vibrant trade with Muslims in North Africa.


Coffee hits Britain

It’s the 16th century, and the first coffee house opens in Britain. It was run by Pasqua Rosée, the servant of the trader of Turkish goods, Daniel Edwards. The rapid spread of coffee houses throughout Britain in the years that followed attracted both the religious and political. This caused so much concern that Charles II tried to shut them down for fear of subversion!

The well known East India Company and the Dutch East India Company respectively began farming coffee specifically for import at around this time. The mountain slopes of Southern India with the shaded plantations delivered some of the best shade-grown coffee in the world.

Coffee has played a significant part in shaping the geopolitical world as it stands today. Coffee was thought to be a sought after item by both traders and governments in centuries past. A coffee plant from India was given as a gift from Dutch representatives, to the French at the Treaty of Utrecht negotiations due to its high regard. This is what ended the Spanish war of succession. The valued seedling was grown at the Jardin du Roi (The Royal Garden of Medicinal Plants) in Paris.


building with large gardena


How times have changed

Today’s coffee production employs millions of people worldwide. Lack of significant automation makes the harvesting of ripe coffee cherries a personal and involved practice of what is one of the most traded agricultural commodities on the world market.


coffee cherries


Coffee is grown all over the world. Brazil, Columbia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Ethiopia take the main stage. However, India, Mexico and Guatemala all produce great coffee beans, each with their own unique flavour, aroma body and acidity. Even Australia has a small but growing coffee cultivation in the tropical and subtropical areas on the Northeast coast.


Rwandan Coffee Worker


From humble beginnings helping pilgrims reach enlightenment, to what is estimated to be two and a quarter billion cups of coffee consumed daily worldwide. We think you’ll agree this is an exciting story. It contributes to a massive part of our ethos to source great ethical speciality coffees from around the world.

As a result; to roast and deliver to you, so you can maybe enjoy a touch of Baba’s enlightenment is a great pleasure.


coffee beans falling out of the cooling tray


Quite simply put – ‘Awesome Coffee, No Nonsense’.

Want to try some awesome coffee for yourself? Visit our shop now.


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