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The origin of coffee: A journey from myth to global culture


Hidden behind every aromatic cup of coffee is a long journey that has transformed this unique beverage into an integral part of human life. Let’s turn the pages of history to explore the origins of coffee, uncover fascinating secrets and thrilling legends, as well as the captivating spread of this special drink around the world.


Legend of coffee’s inception


The legend of coffee’s origin begins with the mythical story of Kaldi, a shepherd in the Ethiopian highlands around the 9th century. One afternoon, as the sun touched the horizon, Kaldi noticed something unusual. His normally docile and slow-moving goats suddenly became exuberant and started frolicking joyously. Curious, Kaldi followed the goats’ tracks and discovered they had been eating from a peculiar bush with bright red berries.

Driven by the curiosity of an adventurer, Kaldi decided to taste the berries himself. Miraculously, he felt a surge of intense energy, as if all his senses were sharpened. Excited, Kaldi took these strange berries to a nearby monastery and shared his discovery with the monks.

The monks, initially skeptical, were eventually persuaded by the power of the berries. They began to study and created a beverage from the seeds of the red fruits. This viscous liquid emitted an enticing aroma and provided remarkable alertness—what we now know as coffee.


The Journey of coffee from the Middle East to Africa


The spread of coffee from Ethiopia to Yemen

The origin of coffee: A journey from myth to global cultureCoffee began its remarkable journey from its birthplace in Ethiopia to Yemen in the 15th century, facilitated by Arab traders

In the arid lands of Yemen, coffee found a suitable environment to flourish. The Yemenis capitalized on their natural conditions to cultivate coffee on a large scale, and simultaneously developed sophisticated farming and processing techniques. Yemen’s port of Mocha (Al-Makha) quickly became a significant coffee export hub, and the term “Mocha” became synonymous with a type of coffee known for its rich, deep flavors.

The birth of Arab coffee culture

As coffee cultivation progressed, the Arabs also refined the methods of roasting and brewing coffee. The creation of the Ibrik, a traditional Turkish and Arab coffee pot, became an icon of the art of traditional coffee brewing. By the 16th century, the first coffee houses, known as “kaveh kanes” or “coffee houses,” appeared in Mecca, Cairo, and other major cities. These venues quickly became meeting places for intellectuals, poets, merchants, and Muslims post-prayer. Here, people enjoyed the taste of coffee and engaged in exchanging knowledge, fostering artistic creativity, and strengthening social connections.

Coffee’s role in society and religion

In Islamic culture, coffee was more than just a beverage; it held significant social meaning. Offering coffee to guests was seen as an act of hospitality and respect. Family gatherings often occurred around fragrant cups of coffee, creating a warm and cohesive atmosphere. However, coffee also faced skepticism and opposition from some Muslim clerics, who feared it had effects similar to alcohol (which is prohibited in Islam). But with its widespread popularity and essential role in life, coffee was eventually widely accepted and became an integral part of the culture and commerce of the Muslim world.

The development of coffee in North Africa

From the Middle East, the aroma of coffee spread to North Africa, particularly Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia. New and enchanting coffee shops sprang up in Cairo, Casablanca, Fez, and other major cities, becoming gathering places for intellectuals, artists, and merchants. Here, the North African coffee culture also gradually took shape with unique styles of brewing and enjoying coffee. In Morocco, coffee is often brewed with spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, and nutmeg, creating a distinctive and refined flavor. The interplay between coffee and local culture has given North Africa its unique charm, enriching the global tapestry of coffee’s development.


Coffee’s spread across Europe and the World


The introduction of coffee to Europe

In the early 17th century, coffee first made its way onto the European continent through the trading ports of Venice. Talented and curious traders brought this exotic beverage back from the East, and it quickly captured the attention of the European nobility and intellectuals. The unique flavor and allure of coffee made it a luxury item, a symbol of sophistication and elegance.

The birth of coffee houses in Europe

The origin of coffee: A journey from myth to global cultureLuxurious coffee houses with elegant and inviting atmospheres began to appear in London, Paris, Vienna, and many other major cities.

These venues quickly became gathering places for nobility, intellectuals, and artists. There, people not only savored the taste of coffee but also exchanged knowledge and debated on politics, culture, and the arts. Coffee houses became cradles for new ideas, revolutionary thoughts, and creativity.

Global expansion of coffee cultivation

The popularity and growing demand for coffee spurred the expansion of the coffee cultivation industry worldwide. With the surge in trade and colonialism, European nations began to establish coffee plantations in Indonesia, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. The fertile lands and favorable climates of these regions provided ideal conditions for robust coffee growth. Gradually, coffee became an important export commodity, contributing to the prosperity and economic development of many countries.

Coffee has become a global beverage

With the spread of coffee cultivation and trade, this beverage transcended all geographical and cultural boundaries. From Europe, coffee continued to conquer new territories like North America and Australia. Coffee shops sprang up everywhere, from bustling cities to tranquil rural areas. Coffee became an indispensable part of daily life for millions of people worldwide. It evolved beyond just a beverage to become a symbol of connection, a common language for like-minded souls. With its widespread popularity, coffee has truly become a global phenomenon, a unique and cherished cultural heritage of humanity.


The formation of renowned coffee brands and chains


The emergence of pioneer coffee brands

As coffee became an essential part of daily life globally, the emergence of famous coffee brands marked a significant milestone in the industry’s history. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, long-standing brands like Lavazza (1895), Illy (1933), and Melitta (1908) were established, laying the foundation for standardization and enhancing coffee quality.

The origin of coffee: A journey from myth to global cultureLavazza broke new ground with its coffee roasting and blending technologies, becoming one of the world’s leading coffee producers.

Meanwhile, Illy established its reputation with a focus on quality and refined flavors. Melitta revolutionized the coffee brewing method with its invention of the paper filter, bringing convenience and exceptional flavor to coffee enthusiasts.

The development of famous coffee chains

Entering the 21st century, the emergence of prominent coffee chains like Starbucks, Costa Coffee, and Trung Nguyên elevated coffee culture to new heights. Starbucks, starting as a small shop in Seattle, expanded to become a global icon with over 30,000 stores worldwide. Starbucks not only offers quality coffee but also creates a unique space where people can enjoy flavors, meet friends, and experience coffee culture in a personal way. Costa Coffee also provides exquisite coffee and a cozy atmosphere to global coffee lovers.

The role of domestic brands

Not just international brands, domestic coffee chains also play a crucial role in developing and spreading coffee culture. Trung Nguyên, a symbol of Vietnamese coffee, uniquely combines traditional flavors with modern style. With a broad presence both domestically and internationally, Trung Nguyên has helped bring Vietnamese coffee closer to global consumers.

The influence of coffee brands and chains on popular culture

The origin of coffee: A journey from myth to global cultureCups of coffee crafted by talented baristas in cozy and elegant shops have become symbols of refinement and modern lifestyle.

The birth and growth of coffee brands and chains have not only spurred the growth of the coffee industry but have also brought diverse and rich cultural experiences to coffee lovers worldwide. Each brand, with its philosophy and style, contributes to a comprehensive picture of coffee culture, from flavors to spaces, from ways of enjoyment to cultural integration. 


From humble beginnings in the Ethiopian highlands, the coffee bean has undergone a miraculous journey, captivating the taste buds of billions worldwide. More than just a regular beverage, coffee serves as a cultural connector, a symbol of knowledge and spirit, encompassing thousands of intriguing historical stories, endlessly inspiring life, and remaining an indispensable part of human culture.




Q1: According to legend, where did coffee originate?

A1: Coffee originated in the 9th century in Ethiopia, where a shepherd named Kaldi noticed that his goats became more energetic after eating the red berries from a certain bush, later identified as coffee berries.

Q2: How did coffee culture spread from Ethiopia to Yemen?

A2: Coffee spread from Ethiopia to Yemen in the 15th century through Arab traders. The arid conditions in Yemen helped the coffee plants thrive, and the port of Mocha became a major coffee export hub.

Q3: What is the significance of coffee in Arab culture?

A3: In Arab culture, coffee is not just a beverage but also a symbol of hospitality and respect. Coffee houses became cultural meeting places for intellectuals and the Muslim community, particularly after prayer sessions.

Q4: How did coffee enter European society?

A4: Coffee entered Europe in the early 17th century through the port of Venice. Its unique flavor and stimulating effects quickly made it popular among the nobility and intellectuals, establishing coffee as a luxurious gift and a symbol of sophistication.

Q5: How have the establishment of coffee brands and chains impacted global coffee culture?

A5: The establishment of coffee brands and chains like Lavazza, Illy, and Starbucks has standardized and enhanced the quality of coffee and brewing techniques. These brands and chains have played a crucial role in making coffee an integral part of daily life globally and in shaping modern coffee culture by providing unique spaces for social interaction and cultural exchange.

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