The History Of Coffee

The history of coffee is a long one. Coffee is older than almost every country in the world, it has seen empires rise and dynasties fall, it’s pretty darn old, and there’s a reason for that. Coffee has been alluring ever since its discovery and its history backs this up. Today it is the second most consumed drink on the planet, behind water, and can be purchased in every far-flung corner of the map, but until relatively recent history, coffee was kept safeguarded by those who grew it in the hopes to maintain control over the humble bean. Coffee heists, the East India Trading Company, illicit affairs and even goats are all to credit for coffee being the raging success it is today. But that’s a lot to digest so, where do we start? In this entry we will explore coffee in all its history and see how important these events were for shaping the landscape of the coffee industry today.


I - Ancient Origins of Coffee

II - Coffees spread around the world

III - Coffees impact on society

IV - Coffee production and trade

V - Modern coffee culture

VI - FAQ's


Ancient Origins of Coffee

750 AD- The Legend

Legend has it that Kaldi, an Ethiopian goat herder discovered coffee. Kaldi noticed the goats acting unusually, dancing, and frolicking after eating the red cherries of a particular bush. After some observations he noticed nothing bad happening to the goats other than they seemed happier so he decided to try the cherry to see if it would give him the same happy feeling and it did! From there he took it to his local monastery and introduced it to the priest.

While there may be some embellishment here, such as goats even being able to dance, the fact remains that coffee became very popular with the Sufi monks due to it keeping them alert and focused. This meant that they could concentrate more when praying and spend longer in deep thought about God. It was referred to as Arabian wine.

Did you know? The name of coffee comes from the Dutch Koffie



Coffees Spread Around the World

On the turn of the 15th Century, coffee starts to take the world by storm.


Coffee moves north with the Sufi monks into Yemen. The port in Mocha was an extremely busy port at the time and led into the famous trade routes. It was controlled by the Ottoman empire, and its move meant that coffee could be grown and traded in Yemen.



Turkey adopts a method of dark roasting the cherry seeds and pulverizing them with pestle and mortar, the ground coffee would then be added to boiling water and brewed. The coffee would then be stored in earthenware jars and served when ordered. Think of this like a giant vat of filter coffee ready to be served to order.



The first known coffee house was opened in Istanbul during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent, who was a keen coffee lover. It was founded by two brothers from Damascus and established in Tahtakale (now Istanbul, Turkey).Today their idea has spawned over 25,000 coffee houses in the UK alone.[1]



Baba Budan is accredited for stealing coffee from Yemen and bringing it back to India. The story states that he strapped 7 seeds to his belly to smuggle them out of Arab control. Whether the espionage is true or not, he was certainly successful and was able to start coffee cultivation in India.

Colourful building in Yemen



The East India Trading Company steals coffee and tries growing it in their home city of Amsterdam. This didn’t go as well as Budan’s smuggling operation, because Holland cannot foster coffee. Unfortunatly the lack of high mountains and tropical weather meant that the coffee would not fruit and so their attempts to control the coffee trade were thwarted.

They are only successful in cultivating coffee nearly 100 years later when they transport some coffee to Java, Indonesia (the central hub for the EITC) after learning the correct ways to farm the delicate beans.



The Dutch gift King Louis XIV of France a coffee plant. Frances weather is similar to Holland’s so there’s not much hope of it last ing long in the Kings garden. However like most King’s Louis XIV is pretty rich and owns a lot of land. The French cultivate the cofee on a small island off Madagascar known by the French as the island of Bourbon, AKA Reunion island. And interestingly, this is where the popular chocolate biscuits get their name from as well.

Map of renunion island



Gabriel-Mathieu Francios D’ceus De Clieu (yes that’s all one name), a French naval officer brings a coffee plant to the French colonists on a carribean island known as Martanique. De Clieu is credited with bringing coffee to America as a result of its connection to the carribean at that time. His actions have allowed coffee to grow into a 27 billion dollar industry today.

French ship bringing coffee plant



Colonel Francisco De Melo Palheta of portugal intends to steal coffee from French colonised Guiana (Northeast coast of South America). He fails his mission. However, he is successful in wooing the Governers wife, who hides a handfull of coffee seeds in a boquet of flowers presented as a parting gift. So illicit affairs can now be added to the list of means by which coffee has bee spread across the world.




There is a massive increase of coffee production around middle america, a lot of this is due to slave labour. With the abolition of slavery at the end of the 19th Century, coffee production slows dramatically in the west. The East (Indonesia, Vietnam and India) are now able to take control of the market as their workforce is largely unaffected by this.

Chains being broken to represent abolition of slavery



With an increase in demand, Sri-Lankas government sold off a lot of land to produce coffee. The people that took it over, however, did not fully understand how to grow coffee, especially in their climate. They demolished the trees thinking the extra sunlight would help but it actually did the opposite. Due to the wet land and lack of shade caused by cutting down the trees, a viral fungus emerged called Hemilia Vastatrix or more simply known as ‘coffee rust’. It ate away at the plants and there was nothing the farmers could do to prevent it. Coffee rust moved across the globe quite rapidly and by 2005 it is classified as endemic worldwide. Over 150 years later, it is still an issue that faces coffee farmers today.



Due to the destruction the coffee rust caused; people turned to another type of coffee plant. Seemingly more resistant to the fungus called Robusta. It found its footing and production increased across the Indies. There’s a lot to be said about these two plants which you can access here (LINK THIS TO ARTICLE OF HOW COFFEE GROWS

Coffee plant with cherries on



Stokes Tea & Coffee was established. Robert William Stokes, at the time a grocer’s assistant, takes over the Grocery. Tea and coffee were just starting to become a household commodity and it was the grocers that would stock it, Robert saw an opportunity and took it, he developed the award-winning Gold Medal Tea and started roasting coffee to supply the local area. Now, our company supplies business throughout the whole of Lincolnshire. Theres a lot more to our history but that’s an article in itself which you can find here

RW Stokes (founder of Stokes Tea & Coffee)



From the 1900’s It was recognized that coffee fit into different movements which today we refer to as Waves.

The 1st and 2nd wave established coffee as a popular commodity and set a standard, but it was the 3rd wave, at the start of 21st century, that really pushed the popularity and in turn the technology, understanding, and development of coffee further.

We are currently in the 5th Wave.

This chart is from Alegra world Coffee Portal

chart showing the waves of coffee



Coffees Impact on Society

Coffee changed the world and the human race. That’s a big statement, huge in fact, but it’s true. Not in a grand and dramatic way but it played its part, like a background character in a play doing its best to serve the larger story. Coffee can be credited as a large reason that humanity broke free from the schedule of the sun. When the sun rises, the body wakes up and as light disappears the human body begins to feel lethargic and needs rest. It is a biological clock that evolved over tens of thousands of years to keep humans productive when they need to be and rest when it is dark. Well, coffee stopped that. Caffeine’s effect on the central nervous system meant that humans could stop feeling tired, pretty much whenever they wanted for a period, without alcohol. This had a massive effect on social meetings, politics, and religious groups. Coffee became a staple of political discourse in the Holy Land and Constantine empire fueling long debates and conversations while allowing the council to maintain focus. Its use was much the same in religious groups, being used to help monks focus on religious teachings and pray for longer, therefore allowing them closer to God.

In the west, coffee aided discussion and encouraged collaboration during the seventeenth and eighteenth century. It acted as a catalyst in aiding scientific discoveries and technological advancements we still use today. This period may be familiar to you as the Age of Enlightenment, or the Age of Reason and it is no accident that coffee played its role three hundred years ago and today is still considered a sophisticated beverage by some.

Coffee Production and Trade

Colonialisation left a dramatic imprint on the world, and it had had a dramatic impact on coffee too. The British at one point in time claimed ownership of ninety percent of all land on the planet, that’s a lot of people to manage. To maintain control over such a vast area, they needed people, thousands of people, in hundreds of locations. It’s busy work and so those people wanted to keep caffeinated. Given the specific environments needed to grow coffee, supplying each solider required coffee to be shipped where it couldn’t be grown and so a global trade network emerged in the name of caffeine and the British crown.


Modern Coffee Culture

Coffee has had a long time to germinate, take root and grow. Now, we are seeing the delicate fruits of that labour come to bear. Specialty coffee has been taking the world of coffee by storm over the past fifty years and shows no signs of stopping, but what exactly is it? Simply put, it’s the best coffee has to offer. The term ‘Specialty coffee’ is used to refer to coffee that is graded 80 points or above on a 100-point scale by a certified coffee taster (SCAA) or by a licensed Q Grader (CQI). They are made using high grade beans, grown at the right altitude, and harvested at exactly the right time, they take a lot of work and even more skill to produce. We here at Stokes are proud to say that we not only stock one specialty coffee but in fact stock eight. All of them are available to browse here. The rise of these specialty beans shows that coffee has a following like never before and that following are looking at every angle to create the best and most unique coffee they can.

Advancements in brewing methods has been a part of that as well with the pour over method, Aeropress, siphon method and cold brew system being just a few. Each of these will yield a different result in flavour, aroma, intensity and even temperature. It can all sounds very complicated, but we wrote this article on BREWING METHODS articleto help you learn more and enjoy coffee. It is safe to say that coffee helped create the age of enlightenment but now, enlightenment is seeking to elevate coffee.

Needless to say, all this technology, scientific research, and demand for coffee amounts to one thing: money. A whole lot of it in fact. In 2023, the global coffee industry was valued at over 88 billion dollars, more than the GPD of Costa Rica.  With all that money, the industry shows no sign of stopping as is set to grow at a rate of around 4.6% each year until at least 2028, but what does that mean for the world? One thing it means is jobs. Coffee plant farming provides much of its resident’s overall income and with the world expanding and developing, it is important to ensure that the people at the root of things, the ones responsible for providing even the ability to access things like coffee are taken care of and treated with dignity.



Who Invented Coffee?

The Ethiopians are credited with the invention of coffee. A goat herder named Kaldi is named as the father of coffee in the famous legend dating back to the eighth century. Whether it truly was him or not, we will never know, but the idea of dancing goats certainly is an interesting one.


Who Introduced Coffee to England?

While the name of the individual who brought coffee to England has been lost to history, however, it can be said with confidence that whoever they were, they were Dutch. The Dutch brought coffee to England in the sixteenth century according to Leonhard Rauwolf as part of the trade conducted by the East India Trading Company.


[1] Number of Coffee Shop Outlets in the UK