The History of Coffee – Origin, Types, Uses, Health Effects, & Facts

Are you a coffee person or a tea person? No matter what type of person you are, we are sure you have curiosities about both drinks. For now, we will talk about coffee. Being in 2nd place at the top of the most traded commodity in the world, coffee is for sure one of the most popular drinks in the world after water and tea.

With a historical beginning shrouded in mystery and legends as well as its benefits and contradictions, coffee is a pillar in the modern diet being part of the daily routine of millions of people. Whether it is drunk in the morning to provide a boost of energy, used as a social activity, or passion, for most people a cup of coffee is a moment of relaxation, pleasure, and aroma.

History of Coffee

Who first discovered coffee?

The history of coffee is shrouded in mystery because there are many legends around it. According to an extremely popular legend, coffee was first discovered in the 9th century by an Ethiopian who grew goats. He noticed that the goats were much more active and did not sleep at night after eating certain red berries. Intrigued by this bizarre fact, he chose to consume that unknown fruit himself and feels invigorated. Determined to unravel the mystery, he decided to collect some of the magic berries and take them to a monastery, where, out of fear the monks throw them into flames. When the unique smell of roasted coffee beans began to emanate, the monks decided to save the beans from the fire, and later the first coffee appeared.

The Coffee Bearer by John Frederick Lewis 1857 - All about coffee
The Coffee Bearer by John Frederick Lewis 1857, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

When did humans start drinking coffee?

Leaving the legend aside, the first evidence of the cultivation and consumption of coffee dates back to the 15th in Ethiopia. As you can already guess, no one could resist its unique aroma so its consumption spread so fast that in 1527 coffee reached Vienna, Austria, and by the 17th century you could already enjoy a cup of coffee in numerous cafes in Europe and America.

Coffeepot, part of a service, 1836, hard-paste porcelain Metropolitan Museum of Art
Metropolitan Museum of Art, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

How did coffee become global?

Some people were not initially fascinated by the bitter taste of coffee, while others had suspicions about it and its effects, but despite all these, coffee managed to spread globally extremely fast. More than this, the habit of enjoying a cup of coffee acquired different meanings from one culture to another.

One of the first continents on which coffee spread was Europe through the Turkish invasion of Hungary in 1526 and Vienna, Austria in 1527. The coffee beans were introduced to the Europeans by Turkish prisoners who used to sell the beans in order to make money. A couple of years later, it entered the port of Venice and aroused curiosity in the world of European botanists, so in 1591 botanist-physicist Prospero Alpini published his first description of the coffee plant.

Palestinian women grinding coffee, 1905
Keystone View Company, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The history of coffee in America is primarily due to the Frenchman named Gabriel de Clieu, who in 1720 imported the coffee plant into Martinique, Caribbean. Surprisingly, the climate in this area was so favorable for coffee trees that in a short time coffee plantations spread to Central and South America, and by 1770 there were already 18,680 trees in Martinique alone. In 1727, coffee beans were already arriving in Brazil, the country with the largest production of coffee from 1852 till today. The one responsible for laying the foundations of the largest coffee empire in the world is the Portuguese-Brazilian Colonel Francisco de Melo Palheta who managed to bring the coffee beans using a more controversial method: he used his charm and seduced the wife of the Dutch governor during the territorial dispute between French and Danish Guiana.

How did coffee get its name?

The name “coffee” comes from the Arabic word “qahwah” which is derived from the verb “qahā”, and makes reference to a certain type of wine. Why wine? Because the Persians, enchanted by the effect of this new drink, considered it the “new wine of Islam” because the true wine was forbidden to them. Later, the word “qahwah” became “Koffie” in Dutch, and in 1582, it entered the English language as coffee.

A 1652 handbill advertising coffee for sale in St. Michael's Alley, London
Pasqua Rosée, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Coffee and Health

Is coffee healthy?

Over time, plenty of researches and studies have been done to find the answer to this key question and they all concluded with the same result:  yes, coffee is good for your health. Containing a high level of vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B2 (riboflavin), manganese, potassium, magnesium, and niacin, coffee even brings a surplus of positive effects on the health of the heart and brain.

What are the health benefits of coffee?

Let’s start by saying that you will be definitely surprised to know how many benefits coffee has for your health. But the well-meaning advice “everything is alright as long as it is eaten in moderation” should also be considered when it comes to coffee. Its benefits are recognized for moderate consumption as the excess can be harmful.

  • It improves brain activity and energy levels

This is also the best-known benefit of coffee. But coffee is more than an energizer improving, at the same time, various brain functions, as well as mood, energy levels, reaction time, and memory.

  • It can help you burn fat and lose weight

Isn’t it great? You can enjoy a cup of coffee and at the same time improve your metabolism. While caffeine breaks down fat cells, magnesium and potassium help regulate blood sugar levels by suppressing appetite.

  • It can improve your physical performance

Caffeine increases physical performance by enhancing the level of adrenaline in the blood. This hormone is designed to help us survive in extremely difficult situations where we need to perform an intensive physical effort. It has been scientifically proven that a cup of coffee leads to an increase in physical performance by up to 11-12%. So how about drinking a coffee before training? Be sure you will amaze those around you!

  • It helps regulate the liver activity

According to several studies, people who drink at least one cup of coffee reduce their chances of developing liver cirrhosis by 20%.

  • It reduces the risk of stroke

Another effect of theophylline found in coffee is that it regulates the functions of the heart and peripheral circulatory system. In addition, it prevents myocardial infarction and lowers blood pressure in the elderly.

  • It helps lower your risk of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s

A recent study showed that caffeine can reduce the risk of developing diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s by up to 60%. The study found that caffeine inhibits the appearance of a protein that is usually associated with brain cells affected by those 2 diseases, called beta-amyloid.

  • It reduces the risk of certain types of cancer

Coffee drinkers have a 20% lower risk of developing cancer, especially prostate cancer in men and endometrial cancer in women. But this is not all. Caffeine can also prevent the development of basal cell carcinoma, which is the most common type of skin cancer.

  • It lowers your risk of type 2 diabetes

Due to its ability to remove sugar from the blood, coffee helps reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, a disease directly related to blood sugar levels.

  • It improves the mood and helps fight depression

According to an American study effectuated on 50,000 women, two cups of coffee per day helps prevent depression. With more than 280 million people suffering from it in 2021, depression is one of the most common diseases in the world. It has also been shown that there is a lower suicide rate among coffee drinkers. Researchers were not able to identify the exact substance responsible for this effect, but they have a suspicion: caffeine. Why caffeine? Well, it seems that decaffeinated coffee has no such benefit.

  • It helps your brain

Believe it or not, coffee is the brain’s best friend. Caffeine protects the brain and helps increase the number of fatty acids in your bloodstream, helping to oxygenate the brain.

How much coffee a day is healthy?

Specialists recommend limiting to 400mg of caffeine per day. Because in everyday life we do not measure it in mg, let’s see how much this means in cups: if we are talking about a coffee with medium concentration, you can drink up to 5-6 cups a day, but if we are talking about espresso then 3 cups a day are enough.

Which coffee is the healthiest?

Espresso, cappuccino, macchiato, and latte are just some of the many coffee varieties we find on the market, but the healthiest remains the plain, black coffee. If you are no fan of plain, black coffee and its bitter taste, you can sweeten it with brown sugar or other zero-calorie sweeteners, but do not overdo it because sugar is well known for its negative effects on health.

How does caffeine work?

Surprised or not, it is neuroscience that gives us the answer to this question. After swallowing, caffeine is propelled through the blood to the brain, reaching its peak level within 30 to 60 minutes. Once in the brain, caffeine increases the production of adrenaline while blocking, at the same time, the adenosine receptors, which are a chemical produced during the waking state and responsible for sleepiness.

How long until caffeine is completely out of your system?

Each body feels the effects of coffee and metabolizes it differently, but it generally takes up to 12 hours for the body to completely eliminate caffeine from the bloodstream. Factors such as age, weight, liver condition, and medication influence this process.

What are the bad health effects of coffee?

Coffee has many benefits for the body as long as it is drunk in moderation. On the other hand, high doses of coffee can have negative impacts on your health. Anxiety, insomnia, addiction and withdrawal, digestive issues, migraines, high blood pressure, rapid heart rate, and fatigue are some of the risks of high caffeine consumption.

What does caffeine withdrawal feel like?

If your body had become addicted to caffeine and for various reasons you need to stop drinking coffee, you should know that withdrawal symptoms appear within 12-24 hours after stopping consumption and can last for up to 10 days. Researches have shown that the most common symptoms are: headache, nausea, vomiting, irritability, fatigue, shivering, constipation, depressed mood, and difficulty concentrating. Doesn’t sound good, does it?

But fortunately, there are ways to reduce the chances of experiencing these unpleasant withdrawal effects such as:  cutting it slowly so that the body will not be shocked, staying hydrated, and sleeping enough.

Can you drink coffee on a no-carb diet?

YES! Plain, black coffee and espresso are carb-free drinks that are extremely safe when following a no-carb, low-carb, or keto diet. So, next time you go out with your friends you can confidently order an espresso or an Americano (espresso plus hot water).

Curiosities About Coffee

Is coffee a drug?

By definition, a psychoactive drug is a chemical that crosses the blood-brain barrier and acts mainly on the central nervous system where it affects brain functions leading to changes in perception, mood, cognition, and behavior. Therefore coffee is not just a simple drug, but the most widely used psychoactive drug in the world acting as a stimulant of the central nervous system and causing addiction.

Which country is famous for coffee?

The most famous country for coffee is Brazil. This title is held by it because it is the largest coffee producer in the world for the last 150 years. The total area of coffee cultivation is estimated at about 27.000 m2 and with a production of about 2,600,000 metric tons of coffee per year.

Can you die from a coffee overdose?

According to specialists, the lethal dose would mean ingesting 10 grams of caffeine. So, caffeine overdose is quite rare due to the time it takes to drink that amount of coffee considering that a cup of coffee has around 100 to 200 milligrams of caffeine.

What is the most expensive coffee in the world?

Obtained through a very special process, the most expensive coffee in the world is named Kopi Luwak. Its name comes from Kopi, which means coffee in Indonesian, and Luwak, which is the name of the animal that “creates” this coffee. This Indonesian cat consumes coffee beans that his body cannot completely digest, but which changes their chemical composition. During digestion, the enzymes found in the tract destroy the proteins from coffee beans, reducing the bitter taste while increasing the flavor.  The excrements are carefully harvested, lightly washed, and lightly fried so as not to destroy the aroma.

Every year about 4400 lb (2000 kg) of Kopi Luwak is produced and the price tag for one single lb is around $ 900.

What percentage of the population drinks coffee?

Statistics show that about 35% of the world’s population consumes a cup of coffee daily.

How many types of coffee exist?

There are about 25 types of coffee from Genus Coffea but only three of them are cultivated for commercial purposes: Arabica, Robusta, and Iberian. However, experts say that there are still about 82 species of coffee in the wild that are not marketed and are in danger of extinction due to climate change.

What are the nutrition facts of black coffee?

Amount Per 100 grams / Calories 0

Total Fat: 0 g
Saturated fat: 0 g
Trans fat regulation: 0 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 2 mg
Potassium: 49 mg
Total Carbohydrate: 0 g
Dietary fiber: 0 g
Sugar: 0 g
Protein: 0.1 g
Caffeine: 40 mg

Which are the best coffee festivals in the world?

San Francisco Coffee Festival

Held in November, the San Francisco Coffee Festival is something you can not miss if you’re a true coffee enthusiast. During this festival, you can enjoy special offers, taste the specially prepared coffees and also learn some new things from the over 90 famous roasters and coffee exhibitors.

The Milan Coffee Festival

The Milan Coffee Festival is the place where you can enjoy and be a part of Italy’s most exciting coffee community. It is aimed at consumers and enthusiasts alike, roasters, equipment manufacturers, and all operators in the field. The best part is that by purchasing the ticket, you will receive some free samples too.

Vienna Coffee Festival

The Vienna Coffee Festival takes place in the famous Ottakringer brewery. Here is the perfect place to enjoy tastings, barista art demonstrations, professional competitions, barista battles, and numerous stands featuring coffee products.

Which are the oldest coffee houses around the world?

Café Le Procope – Paris, France (1686)

Cafe Le Procope - Paris France 1686 - Which are the oldest coffee houses around the world
Cafe Le Procope – Paris France 1686 – The oldest cafes in the world

Also known as one of the oldest cafes in the world, Le Procope was opened in Paris by a Sicilian named Procopio Cutò. Closed in 1872 and reopened in 1920, this coffee house was frequented by revolutionaries and intellectuals such as Rousseau, Benjamin Franklin, Victor Hugo, Voltaire, Marie Antoinette, and Napoleon Bonaparte.

Caffé Florian – Venice, Italy (1720)

Caffe Florian - Venice, Italy - Which are the oldest coffee houses around the world
Caffe Florian – Venice, Italy

With a picturesque location in the Procuratie Nuove of Piazza San Marco, Caffé Florian can also boast the title of the oldest coffee house in Italy. Opened on November 29, 1720, this caffé was originally called Alla Venezia Trionfante and later came to bear the name of the original owner Floriano Francesconi. Over time, Caffé Florian has attracted famous names such as Lord Byron, Hemingway, Charlie Chaplin, and Charles Dickens.

Antico Caffé Greco – Rome, Italy (1760)

Antico Caffe Greco - Rome, Italy - Which are the oldest coffee houses around the world
Antico Caffe Greco – Rome, Italy

Situated in Via dei Condotti in Rome, Italy, the Antico Caffé Greco was named after its Greek owner. The legendary coffee house has attracted big names throughout history from Stendhal, Goethe, Arthur Schopenhauer, Henrik Ibsen, Hans Christian Andersen, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

Café Central – Vienna, Austria (1876)

Café Central - Vienna, Austria - Which are the oldest coffee houses around the world
Café Central – Vienna, Austria

Café Central boasts the title of the oldest and most elegant coffee house in Vienna, Austria. Designed by the famous architect, Heinrich von Ferstel, this coffee house has as frequent guests Alfred Polgar, Adolf Loos, Franz Viktor Werfel, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Trotsky, Sigmund Freud, Anton Kuh, but also Lenin, Stalin, and Adolf Hitler.

Famous quotes about coffee

  • I like coffee because it gives me the illusion that I might be awake. – Lewis Black
  • Even a bad cup of coffee is better than no coffee at all.- David Lynch
  • I have measured out my life with coffee spoons. – T.S. Eliot
  • Way too much coffee. But if it weren’t for the coffee, I’d have no identifiable personality whatsoever. – David Letterman
  • I never drink coffee at lunch. I find it keeps me awake for the afternoon. – Ronald Regan
  • If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee. – Abraham Lincoln
  • A mathematician is a device for turning coffee into theorems. – Alfred Renyi
  • Humanity runs on coffee. – Unknown
  • Science may never come up with a better office communication system than the coffee break. – Earl Wilson

2 thoughts on “The History of Coffee – Origin, Types, Uses, Health Effects, & Facts”

  1. I love coffee! I can’t imagine my life without this drink. It’s ironic that some people rush to categorize coffee as a bad thing for the body, but they are ok with other types of double-triple-quadruple lattes with 3 tons of sugar …

  2. What’s funny is that some Catholics have urged Pope Clement VII to ban coffee, calling it “the devil’s drink”. It great that they failed and we can enjoy this awesome drink.

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