Java’s Journey: How Coffee Came to America

Dubbed “the favorite drink of the civilized world” by Thomas Jefferson, coffee clearly dominates the hearts (and palates) of people worldwide.


But it wasn’t always so celebrated. In fact, clergymen in 16th century Europe called for it to be banned as a Satanic stimulant. Spoiler alert: that didn’t work out. With the blessing of Pope Clement VIII, who found the beverage delightful, a wave of coffeehouses eventually appeared throughout the continent.

 

Today, it’s estimated that more than two billion cups of coffee are guzzled daily around the world. So how did we get from there to here? Before the modern proliferation of locally-roasted beans and artisan pour-overs, java took quite a journey.

 

The word “coffee” (and incidentally, our company’s name) derives from the Arabic word “qahwah,” which originally referenced a type of wine, and eventually our beloved, stimulating potion.

 

Pinpointing the exact origins of cultivation requires wading through some murky folklore about an Ethiopian goat herder whose flock got a buzz from snacking on ancient coffee cherries. The beans traveled east to the Arabian peninsula, and throughout the 15th and 16th centuries, coffee knowledge spread to Persia, Egypt, Turkey, the island of Malta, and eventually into Venice, where trade merchants introduced coffee to mainland Europe.

 

We imagine that productivity spiked there as coffee replaced the day’s popular breakfast beverages—beer and wine. By the 17th century, there were more than 300 coffee houses in London.

 

The British then brought coffee to New Amsterdam (aka NYC), but it didn’t really catch on until the Boston Tea Party in 1773, when the revolt against King George III’s heavy tea tax prompted a mass shift in drinking habits among colonists. Demand for coffee skyrocketed. Seeds were planted. And by the 18th century, coffee ruled the day.

 

It is now the second-most traded commodity in the world—and the revolution continues.

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