Drive down just about any street in the United States and you will spot people holding coffee cups walking into their place of employment or just on a lazy morning stroll. With specialty coffee shops strategically tucked in our business districts, one would think coffee has always been in the United States, but this ever growing trend is not an original American idea.
It is believed that the first coffee trees were found in Ethiopia. Several urban legends surround the discovery of the coffee bean – the most familiar being a farmer who watched his goats eating the beans, and out of curiosity, ingested one and was impressed with the surge of energy the bean produced - but cannot be substantiated. But what we do know is that coffee beans found its way through the Arabian Peninsula that led to Yemen and Arabia. Yemen was the first area to cultivate the coffee bean. From there, it made its way to Turkey, where coffee beans were first roasted and then crushed and boiled in water, producing a very primitive version of the coffee we drink today.
Trade merchants brought coffee to Europe, and it quickly took off. Coffee houses popped up rampantly, and were the sites of philosophical and other intellectual discussions.
Then, in the 1700’s a French captain brought a tree from Europe to the Americas, and planted it on the Caribbean Island of Martinique. From there, coffee consumption spread like wild fire in Central and South America.
And in the mid-1800’s, Italy put its own spin on coffee by perfecting espresso in their region. France was known for making the first espresso machine, but the Italians found a way to add to the technology. They were the first manufacturers of the now ever popular espresso machine, and espresso remains a significant aspect of their culture today.
America added its own spin to coffee consumption. In the 1970’s, the “coffee revolution” was born in Seattle, WA. At that point, the latte – a coffee and milk beverage - was created, and sought after throughout the United States. This ingenious invention that has American buzzing around their jobs and life helped change the quality of coffee we drink now. It has also begun to quickly spread to other parts of the world – coffee shops and other coffee venues can be seen just about anywhere globally – but Americans are still dubbed the largest consumers of coffee.
Today, coffee is one of the largest world commodities – it falls second to petroleum world-wide. The coffee industry employs over 20 million people, 5 million alone in Brazil. Coffee industry workers cultivate and harvest over 3 billion plants all over the world – which helps support the approximately 400 billion cups of coffee consumed each year. In the United States, the coffee industry pulls in annual revenues of over a billion.