On a global level, we drink about 2.25 billion cups of coffee every day. That is about 70 cups of coffee every second. No wonder coffee is one of the most valuable, legally-traded commodities in the world (second only to oil). This is one of the most popular beverages in the world – people drink it in massive quantities; some simply love it, while others even rely on it to kick start each day.
Such a huge coffee culture today may have something to do with the caffeine it contains. Caffeine is the most popular nootropic, and it is stimulating, providing clarity and boost of energy. It is also addictive, but this addiction has little or no obvious consequence in most people, which is why there’s no stigma against its consumption. Today, there are countless varieties of beans, roasts, and styles of this beverage – black coffee, espresso, coffee with cream, cappuccino, etc. Below, we will be looking at a brief history of coffee around the world and how it made it from seed to cup.
The Beginnings of the Coffee Bean Industry
The very first mentions of coffee (as with any other food that has been around for centuries) are found in various stories and legends. Since coffee originated in Ethiopia, one Ethiopian legend says that coffee was discovered by Kaldi, a monk and goat herder who found his goats full of energy and frolicking after eating the fruit of the coffee shrub. When he tasted the fruit, he experienced a similar reaction, so he took the fruit to his fellow monks who also spent the night alert and awake (after eating it).
The word of this strange fruit moved east, and coffee reached the Arabian Peninsula, where people began cultivating and trading it. That marked the beginning of a journey that would bring coffee beans across the world. The Arabs called it qahwa, which means wine in Arabic.
By the 1400s (15th century), coffee was being grown in the Yemeni district. By the 16th century, it also became common in Syria, Egypt, Turkey, and Persia. People used to enjoy it at homes and in coffee houses (qahveh khaneh in Farsi), which began to appear in many cities across the Near East. While enjoying this beverage, the patrons engaged in various social activities (such as conversations, watching performances, listening to music, keeping current on the news, playing chess, etc.), turning the coffee house into an important center for the exchange of information.
From Arabia and into the World
The demand for coffee continued to spread, and the competition to cultivate it outside of Arabia also kept growing. In the second half of the 17th century, the Dutch acquired coffee seeds and coffee seedlings, then tried to plant them in India. These first attempts failed, but their efforts in Indonesia (Batavia, the Island of Java) were successful, which launched their coffee trade. Then, they expanded their business to the islands of Celebes and Sumatra.
Next, the French started growing coffee in the Caribbean, the Portuguese in Brazil, and the Spanish in Central America. During the early 18th century, the coffee plant reached the New World, but the beverage didn’t become popular until the Boston Tea Party (1773) and the American Revolution, when people switched from tea to coffee. Coffee consumption was increased due to the Civil War and other conflicts because soldiers used caffeine to boost their energy.
By the late 19th century, coffee had become a global commodity. In the mid-20th century, the awareness for specialty coffee began to grow, and the first Starbucks opened in 1971 (Seattle). Fast forward to today, the coffee movement keeps growing as we are witnessing the sprouting of numerous small, independently-owned cafés that boast locally-roasted, sustainable-trade beans. The “wine of Araby” has become a trade that’s valued for its complexity of flavors.
The Three Waves of Coffee
The Third Wave of coffee is the current wave of specialty coffee, which is appreciated as a craft or artisan beverage. In all of its processes, it is treated with the same relevance as craft beer or fine wine. To understand the importance of the Third Wave, we will take a look at the previous wave movements.
1. First Wave of Coffee
The first wave of coffee dates back to the 19th century when entrepreneurs saw business opportunities in the coffee market. The market was ready for the pot and affordable, and coffee brands like Maxwell House and Folgers quickly became household names across the U.S. When it comes to the quality and taste, the first wave is criticized for sacrificing these to promote mass production and convenience. However, the innovations in processing and packaging allowed the coffee industry to skyrocket.
Vacuum packaging and instant coffee
Vacuum packaging is probably the most important innovation that came from the founders of Hills Bros. Coffee (R.W. and Austin Hills). They invented the vacuum packaging process that removes air from coffee tins. This resulted in fresher beans and changed the way coffee processors would package coffee to this day.
In the early 20th century, the coffee industry continued to innovate and create products that were both convenient to use and time-savers. The dehydration process that was applied for soluble tea was applied to coffee, and that was the first patent for instant coffee (1903). Instant coffee didn’t require brewing equipment and was quick and easy, and Nestlé even supplied the U.S. military for the Second World War. By the 1970s, about a third of imported roasted coffee was used for instant coffee production.
In the mid-19th century, the Pioneer Steam Coffee and Spice Mills company began producing coffee that was pre-roasted, ground, and packaged in small tins. Once considered an upper-class luxury, the company made coffee available for mass consumption.
Another invention of the First Wave of Coffee was the invention of the automatic drip coffee maker. It was invented by Vincent Marotta and called his new coffee maker – Mr. Coffee. By the end of the 1970s, more than 40,000 of these coffee makers were being sold daily.
2. Second Wave of Coffee
The reaction to the poor quality of the coffee was the main driver of the transition into the Second Wave. Coffee lovers wanted to know the origins of coffee and coffee blends, along with understanding all the roasting styles of what is today called specialty coffee beans. Adding this knowledge to the enjoyment of this beverage led to creating a whole experience around coffee.
The term specialty coffee was coined by the late Ema Knutsen, also known as the “godmother of specialty coffee.” Since the 1970s, after founding Knutsen Coffees, Ltd. and becoming the first female coffee broker in the U.S), she ceaselessly advocated for the identity, quality, and distinction in coffee. She was recognized by the SCAA (now SCA) twice – she was the first person to receive the SCAA Lifetime Achievement Award (1991); and was honored as a founder of the specialty coffee industry (2014)..
In 1971, the first Starbucks opened in Seattle, and they served fresh-roasted coffee beans. However, Starbucks’ Director of Marketing Howard Schultz, tried to convince the owners to start selling brewed coffee drinks, but he was unsuccessful. After he founded his own coffee chain (Il Giornale Coffee), he came back to purchase Starbucks, which is when lattes, espressos, and pre-ground coffee found their way onto Starbucks’ menu. In the 1990s, the new coffee chain was opening a new location every workday and had over 3,000 locations by the year 2000.
The entrepreneurs of this wave began following the Starbucks model, and the social experience of consuming coffee grew to become more important than the artisan coffee production process. Forsaking the coffee bean source for the social experience was the criticism of the Second Wave. When illustrating the Second Wave of Coffee, Starbucks is the business most often used to illustrate how coffee shops became big businesses that started luring consumers to their brick-and-mortar shops to drink coffee.
3. Third Wave of Coffee
When it comes to the Third Wave of Coffee, there is not much history to talk about because the term is relatively new (its use began in 2002). It is the current, mainstream wave that represents the movement, and it is characterized by people interested in the characteristics of the coffee. It is more of a reaction to the way bad coffee is being promoted – social influences and marketing are not the driving force of the Third Wave growth.
Roast Magazine and Sprudge are great examples of a valuable source of news and information about the coffee industry that third wave coffee vendors seek. They address the business, science, and art of coffee by covering the issues that are highly important to the coffee industry. With the third wave, the product takes center stage, while the marketing and production take the back seat, and there is a new emphasis on transparency within the coffee industry. Coffee lovers can trace their favorite coffee’s origins to the farm where it was harvested.
The coffee bean industry is huge and in constant flux, making it almost impossible to note all the current best practices within a coffee processing facility. When growing their operations, coffee roasters need to implement various different technological solutions to meet their needs. Also, today’s standards regarding coffee quality and packaging are growing, making factors such as product loss, cross-contamination, foreign material contamination, bean breakage, and product segregation increasingly important. Cablevey’s tubular cable and disc conveyors are designed to meet the needs of every modern coffee processing facility.