Skip to main content

The History of Good Coffee: How It Became a Global Phenomenon

coffee plant, coffee farm, columbian bean, robusta bean, aerial resupply coffee


Coffee is more than just a drink. It’s a culture, a lifestyle, a passion. For many people around the world, coffee is an essential part of their daily routine, a source of energy, pleasure, and inspiration. But how did coffee become such a popular and influential beverage? How did it go from being a mysterious plant in Ethiopia to a global phenomenon that shapes art, politics, and society?

In this article, I will take you on a historical journey of coffee, exploring its origins, its spread, its impact, and its evolution. I will show you how coffee has been a catalyst for change and innovation throughout history, and how it continues to influence our contemporary culture. Whether you are a coffee lover or a curious reader, you will find something interesting and surprising in this story of good coffee.

The Origins of Coffee

The Discovery of Coffee in Ethiopia

The story of coffee begins in Ethiopia, the birthplace of the coffee plant. According to legend, coffee was discovered by a goat herder named Kaldi around the 9th century. He noticed that his goats became more energetic and playful after eating the red berries of a certain bush. He decided to try some himself and felt the same effects. He then took some of the berries to a nearby monastery, where the monks brewed them into a drink that helped them stay awake during their prayers.

The word “coffee” comes from the Arabic word “qahwah”, which originally meant “wine”. The Arabs were the first to cultivate and trade coffee beans, and they kept their knowledge secret for centuries. They roasted and ground the beans before brewing them into a dark and bitter drink that they called “qahwah”.

Early Coffee Use in the Arab World

Coffee became an integral part of the Arab culture and society. It was consumed for its stimulating and medicinal properties, as well as for its social and religious functions. Coffee was served in public places called “qahveh khaneh” or coffeehouses, where people gathered to chat, play games, listen to music, and discuss politics and religion.

Coffeehouses were also centers of learning and innovation in the Arab world. They attracted scholars, poets, artists, and scientists who exchanged ideas and knowledge over cups of coffee. Some of the most famous figures in Arab history were regular visitors of coffeehouses, such as Ibn Battuta, Ibn Khaldun, Al-Jazari, and Al-Khwarizmi.

The Coffeehouses and Enlightenment

Coffeehouses in the Ottoman Empire

Coffee spread from the Arab world to the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century. The Ottomans adopted coffee as their national drink and established coffeehouses throughout their lands. Coffeehouses became places of entertainment and culture in the Ottoman society. They hosted performances of music, dance, theater, and shadow puppetry. They also served as venues for political debates and social movements.

Coffeehouses were especially popular among the Janissaries, the elite soldiers of the Ottoman army. They used coffeehouses as their headquarters and meeting places. They also used them as platforms for expressing their grievances and demands to the sultan. Some of the most important events in Ottoman history were influenced by coffeehouses, such as the Patrona Halil rebellion in 1730 and the Auspicious Incident in 1826.

European Coffeehouses and the Age of Enlightenment

Coffee reached Europe in the 17th century through trade and travel. It soon became a fashionable and desirable drink among the upper classes. Coffeehouses were established in major European cities such as London, Paris, Vienna, Amsterdam, and Venice. They became hubs of intellectual activity and social interaction in Europe.

Coffeehouses were frequented by writers, philosophers, scientists, artists, politicians, and businessmen who discussed and debated various topics over cups of coffee. They also exchanged information and news from different sources such as newspapers, books, letters, and travelers. Some of the most influential figures in European history were regular patrons of coffeehouses, such as Isaac Newton, Voltaire, Benjamin Franklin, Jonathan Swift, and Ludwig van Beethoven.

Coffeehouses played a key role in the emergence of the Age of Enlightenment, a period of scientific discovery, philosophical inquiry, and political reform in Europe. They fostered a culture of reason, criticism, and innovation that challenged the established authorities and traditions. They also contributed to the development of the public sphere, a space of rational and democratic discourse among citizens.

Coffee and Trade

Coffee as a Global Commodity

Coffee became one of the most valuable and traded commodities in the world. It was grown and exported by countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America to meet the growing demand in Europe and North America. Coffee cultivation and trade involved complex networks of farmers, merchants, brokers, shippers, roasters, and retailers. It also involved conflicts and controversies over land, labor, taxes, tariffs, and quality.

Coffee had a significant impact on the global economy and society. It stimulated trade and commerce between different regions and continents. It created new markets and opportunities for entrepreneurs and innovators. It also influenced the social and cultural dynamics of the producing and consuming countries. Coffee was a source of wealth and power for some, and a source of exploitation and oppression for others.

The Rise of Coffee Brands

Coffee became more than just a commodity. It became a brand, a symbol, a lifestyle. Coffee brands emerged in the 19th and 20th centuries to differentiate themselves from the competition and to appeal to the consumers. They used various strategies such as advertising, packaging, labeling, quality control, and innovation to create their identity and reputation.

Some of the most famous coffee brands in history are:

  • Maxwell House: Founded in 1892 by Joel Cheek in Nashville, Tennessee. It was named after the Maxwell House Hotel, where it was served to guests. It became known for its slogan “Good to the last drop”, which was allegedly said by President Theodore Roosevelt.
  • Folgers: Founded in 1850 by James Folger in San Francisco, California. It was originally a part of the Pioneer Steam Coffee and Spice Mills. It became popular among the gold miners during the California Gold Rush. It later expanded its market to the East Coast and became one of the largest coffee roasters in the US.
  • Nescafé: Launched in 1938 by Nestlé in Vevey, Switzerland. It was the result of a collaboration between Nestlé and the Brazilian government to find a way to preserve coffee surplus. It was the first instant coffee product that could be prepared by simply adding hot water. It became a global success during World War II, when it was supplied to the Allied troops.
  • Starbucks: Founded in 1971 by Jerry Baldwin, Zev Siegl, and Gordon Bowker in Seattle, Washington. It was named after a character from the novel Moby-Dick. It started as a retailer of whole bean coffee, tea, and spices. It later transformed into a coffeehouse chain that offered specialty coffee drinks and snacks. It became one of the most recognizable and influential coffee brands in the world.

The Coffee Revolution

Coffee in Modern Times

Coffee is now one of the most consumed beverages in the world. According to the International Coffee Organization, over 2 billion cups of coffee are consumed every day. Coffee is available in various forms and flavors, such as espresso, cappuccino, latte, mocha, americano, frappuccino, macchiato, etc. Coffee is also used as an ingredient in many foods and desserts, such as cakes, cookies, ice cream, chocolates, etc.

Coffee is now accessible to everyone, thanks to the advancement of technology and transportation. Coffee machines and appliances allow people to brew their own coffee at home or at work. Coffee pods and capsules provide convenience and variety for coffee lovers. Coffee shops and cafes offer a wide range of coffee options and services for customers.

Coffee’s Influence on Contemporary Culture

Coffee has become a part of our contemporary culture. It influences our art, lifestyle, and social interactions.

  • Art: Coffee inspires many artists to create works that express their love for coffee or use coffee as a medium. For example,
    • Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans series features a painting of a can of Chock full o’Nuts coffee.
    • Vincent van Gogh’s Café Terrace at Night depicts a scene of a coffeehouse in Arles.
    • Salvador Dali’s The Persistence of Memory includes a melting clock that resembles a cup of coffee.
    • Maria A. Aristidou’s Coffee Art series consists of portraits of famous people made with coffee on paper.
  • Lifestyle: Coffee influences our daily habits, routines, and preferences. For example,
    • Many people start their day with a cup of coffee to wake up and energize themselves.
    • Many people rely on coffee to boost their productivity and creativity at work or school.
    • Many people enjoy coffee as a treat or reward for themselves or others.
    • Many people have their own favorite type, brand, or style of coffee that reflects their personality or mood.
  • Social interactions: Coffee influences our relationships,  communication, and community. For example,
  • Many people use coffee as an excuse to meet and socialize with friends, family, colleagues, or strangers.
  • Many people bond over coffee by sharing their stories, opinions, feelings, or interests.
  • Many people join coffee clubs, groups, or events to connect with other coffee enthusiasts or learn more about coffee.
  • Many people participate in coffee-related activities, such as tasting, roasting, brewing, or reviewing coffee.


Coffee has come a long way from its humble origins in Ethiopia to its current status as a global phenomenon. Coffee has been a witness and a catalyst of history, culture, and society. Coffee has shaped and been shaped by the people who grow, trade, roast, brew, and drink it. Coffee has enriched and influenced our art, lifestyle, and social interactions.

Coffee is more than just a drink. It’s a culture, a lifestyle, a passion. It’s a part of who we are and how we live. It’s a history of good coffee.

If you enjoyed this article and want to learn more about coffee, check out these other articles from The Flightline Cafe on Aerial Resupply Coffee’s website:

  • How to Brew the Perfect Cup of Coffee at Home
  • The Best Coffee Roasts for Different Occasions
  • The Health Benefits of Drinking Coffee

Thank you for reading and happy brewing! 

This is Brian, signing off.


Be the first to comment.

Your Cart

Your cart is currently empty.
Click here to continue shopping.
Thanks for contacting us! We'll get back to you as soon as possible. Thanks for subscribing Thanks! We will notify you when it becomes available! The max number of items have already been added There is only one item left to add to the cart There are only [num_items] items left to add to the cart