Where Did Coffee First Originate From & How It Became A Global Product

The coffee tree has a long and fascinating history that’s intertwined with the development of trade partnerships and production processes that are still in existence today. Throughout almost every country, coffee is one of the most popular beverages, rivaled only by water and tea.  This popularity has led several of those countries to also rely on coffee production to sustain their economies. As one of the largest agricultural industries in the world, coffee production has been around for hundreds of years, gave rise to an important cultural mainstay in the café and employs millions of people in almost every country.

So, how did coffee go from a relatively unknown plant to one of the most successful beverages of all time? Let’s explore its fascinating progression as we take a look at where coffee as a drink came from, how it became so popular and where this global industry stands today.

What Is Coffee’s Origin Story?

There’s actually multiple stories associated with the invention of coffee and how it originated. Like many things that happened hundreds of years ago, there’s not much solid evidence on who the first country to discover coffee was. But, there are legends. The first involves a goat herder named Kali, living among the coffee tree forests of the Ethiopian plateau. After noticing his goats becoming uncharacteristically energetic after consuming coffee berries, he and his monastery decided to make a beverage out of the berries by boiling them in water. After experiencing the effects of caffeine, the monks gained the seemingly supernatural ability to stay awake for days to pray, meditate and attend mass.

Another involves Yemeniti holymen utilizing coffee as a spiritual enhancer, again allowing them to practice their religious beliefs for hours on end. And once it was introduced in the Arabian peninsula, it soon spread throughout the world. In fact, the first place to export coffee was the aptly named port of Mocha in Yemen in the 1500s. 

Coffee’s Background In The United States

Coffee spread throughout Europe in the 1600s and 1700s, country by country. Even though some regions rejected the new, energy-fueling beverage because of its intoxicating effects, it soon became the continent’s most popular drink and gave rise to the modern coffeehouse. As these countries colonized North America, they brought this concept to what is today the United States. The drink played a key role in the birth of our nation. After the Boston Tea Party in 1773, it became a colonist’s patriotic duty to make the switch from tea to coffee. 

The 1900s Into The New Millenium

Throughout the 1800s, several small advancements pushed coffee even further into the mainstream. By the early 1900s, new brewing methods like the French press and espresso machine had made their way into cafés around the world. The 1920s saw the rise of prohibition of alcohol in the U.S. and people replacing a boozy night at the bar with a trip to the local coffeehouse. The first wave of the coffee movement had come into effect, marked by low-quality, mass-produced, instant coffee.


By the 1960s and 1970s, producers had made a strong shift into offering higher-quality beans and small-batch roasts. This gave rise to modern-day coffee culture, specialty drinks and craft coffee brewing, among other unique trends.

From Capable Crop To A Modern Global Industry

Today’s coffee industry is a major player in the global economy, bringing in a whopping $102 billion last year alone. Plus, it’s expected to reach a compound growth rate of over five percent through 2025, totaling $145 billion. Beyond this, more than 25 million producers rely on coffee production to live, so it’s important to people of all socioeconomic backgrounds.

Coffee’s Origins: A Journey To The Top

The coffee tree went from an entirely unknown plant to one of the most successful crops ever grown, but it was a long journey to the top. From African and Middle Eastern countries hundreds of years ago to the pantry shelves of billions of global citizens today, there aren’t many other beverages that can claim such massive amounts of success. Not only has it become a top industry among the global economy, it’s given rise to the important cultural mainstay of the coffeehouse and gives millions of farmers a livelihood. 


Now that you know coffee’s origins, you can appreciate what it took to take the crop from arid deserts directly to your mug. Happy sipping!