One of the few current goods that date back to the 15th century spice trade is still a major commodity that is traded even to this day. It is coffee we are talking about, and it has played a major role in the expansion of the global economy even before the world took the shape that it has today. Do you want to join us for a trip back in time to discover the origins of this black gold?
Our journey begins in East Africa. In the territory that we know today as Ethiopia, before the 15th century began, the first evidence of undomesticated coffee plants was found; but it was not until closer to 1450 that the coffee tree appeared in Yemen, 30 kilometers from Ethiopia across the Red Sea. How the seed or the wild plants got from one place to another still remains a mistery today, with many tales circulating, but no historical certainty.
It was here in the Arabian Peninsula where the coffee seeds were first roasted and brewed in a similar fashion as they are today. In the subsequent decades, and thanks to the oriental spice trade routes, the beverage spread from Arabia to Persia, Turkey, the north of Africa, India… and Italy. The first European coffee house opened its doors in Rome in 1645 and the port of Venice became the gateway through which Europe would then fall rendered to this new and exotic beverage.
Coffee arrives in the New World
Coffee quickly attracted the attention of the major European trading companies. The English, Dutch, French, Spanish… rapidly established links with the spice traders that brought the grains from its zones of production to the Old Continent and went one step further, taking it to the New World. What happened next… won’t surprise you.
European explorers discovered that several places in Central and South America offered amazing conditions for the production of coffee, and ever since, countries like Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Honduras or Guatemala find in the coffee market one of the main assets of their national economy.
With the Latin American producers entering the production market, the bean belt was then completed. What is the bean belt? It’s the region all around the globe comprised of the area between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn where coffee trees grow:
This limited but wide surface of production allows up to four continents to produce their own coffee with arabica and robusta varieties, which are the two species that exist and that, either pure or either mixed in some percentage with one another, offer an almost infinite array of tastes, aromas and experiences to millions of consumers every day.
Different world, same coffee
After the set-up of the coffee trade, empires fell, new orders arose, wars were fought and big events took place. And the world woke up to every one of them with a cup of hot coffee in their hands. One of the most ancient assets, capable of linking different cultures and societies just with one sip, keeps on making the world go round. Don’t you want to partake in history?
Key facts about coffee:
- Over 2.25 billion cups of coffee are consumed in the world every day
- Over 90% of coffee production takes place in developing countries - mostly South America, while consumption takes place mainly in the industrialized economies.
- 25 million small producers.
- Primary source of income for 100 million people.
- Production process not subjetc to automation.
- 1/3 of drinking water in North America and Europe is used for coffee.
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