Aug 12

The history of coffee – or at least it’s a story of coffee


As soon as the word history is mentioned there’s always a number of opinions, conflicting stories and hearsay thrown around disputing what supposedly happened, when it and how it happened, and to whom it happened – and the history of coffee is no different. 


If you were to ask the average person on the street who discovered coffee you’d probably hear Italy answered a lot. Which makes sense as Italians have been synonymous with coffee for a long time. Definitely so in our lifetime. 

But that answer would actually be incorrect. Italy lays claim to having the first known café (1648 in Venice) and I’m also willing to give them props for spreading it’s popularity to the Western world in 20th century, but the actual honours of where coffee originated from goes to Ethiopia. 

And in fact, it’s a Yemeni – Sufi Imam Muhammad Ibn Said Al Dhabhani – in the late 15th Century that’s given credit for bringing the coffee plant to the Islamic world from Ethiopia. With it’s beginning being directly related to religious practices. It’s amazing to see that almost from day one people were creating rituals around brewing coffee. 

Since our trader from Yemeni introduced coffee to the Middle East century there’s been countless coffee plantations started and coffee plants grown, sacksful of coffee cherries picked and dried, oodles of coffee beans roasted and countless delicious cups of coffee drunk – and many not so delicious too I’m sure. 


So what about coffee in Australia? When did it become such a thing to drink coffee in Oz?  


Coffee plants originally hit our shores during the first white voyages from abroad in the late 1700’s. However, it wasn’t until after the first world war, and we welcomed our immigrant friends from Europe – Italy in particular – that coffee started to become a part of everyday life in Australian households. 

The Greeks and Italians brought with them many great foods, traditions, wine and lifestyle – along with coffee. Dark roasted coffee. Coffee that needed to be injected with a couple of spoonfuls of sugar to be palatable.  

And so Australian households were drinking copious amounts of darkly roasted coffee, mainly provided by Nescafe Blend 43 or Moccona for numerous decades until we were saved by The Third Wave of Coffee. 

This latest movement has moved away from coffee being purely a commodity and mass produced darkly roasted coffee, to really focusing on the journey of coffee bean to cup. Through experimenting with lighter roasts, bringing more exotic flavours into the cup, introducing latte art, pouring cappuccinos that don’t have a mountain of froth on the top… it’s been an exciting couple of decades in the coffee world. 


More on this next time! 

NB: Wikipedia helped with some of the info I’ve used this story 🙂 

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