Coffee History

Where does coffee come from? Coffee is grown in many countries around the world, but the origin of the coffee plant is the Ethiopian plateau. By the 15th century, coffee spead to the Arabian peninsula, where coffee houses became very popular. By the 17th century, coffee was a large part of social activity and communication in Europe. Eventually, coffee was planted throughout the world and became a profitable export crop.

Coffee trees can grow in a wide range of climates as long as there is no harsh fluctuation in temperature. The most important factors are: rich soil, mild temperatures, frequent rain, and shaded sun.

The genus of plants that produce coffee beans is known as Coffea. There are many species of these plants, and they vary in size and color. In the coffee industry, the two most commonly found species are arabica and canephora (robusta).

C. arabica

Roasted coffee beans.  Source: Chad Kassin/Flickr.

Roasted coffee beans.
Source: Chad Kassin/Flickr.

  • fine, mild, aromatic coffee (70% of world’s coffee production)
  • 2,000 – 6,000 ft above sea level
  • temperatures must be mild
  • costly because the terrain is steep
  • trees are more disease prone
  • lower in caffeine
  • higher fat and sugar content
  • larger beans
  • best for all types of roasts

C. canephora (robusta)

  • Central and Western Africa, Southeast Asia (Indonesia and Vietnam), and Brazil
  • more resistant to disease and parasites, and therefore cheaper to cultivate
  • can withstand warmer climates
  • 50-60% more caffeine than arabica
  • primarily used in blends for instant coffees
  • best for dark roasts

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