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The History of Coffee


Each year, Americans spend a total of $40 billion dollars on coffee drinks, according to research conducted at Harvard University, which certainly shows our intense love for the caffeinated beverage. Yet, even our love for coffee pales in comparison with the rest of the world, especially when you discover that coffee is the second most traded commodity value-wise on the Earth – and the United States is only 8th in terms of coffee consumption, well behind Finland who leads with a nearly 10-cup average per person, per day.

But where did this passion for coffee really begin? Today we take a look at the history of coffee and how it’s evolved over many centuries, growing from a regional delight into the powerfully aromatic and energizing necessity it is today.

Coffee’s Early History

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that coffee was first discovered to be growing naturally by inhabitants of the country of Ethiopia, which is located on the eastern portion of the African continent. Though no real time period is given for its discovery, it was probably around the 10th century when coffee began making its way onto mankind’s menu. How did it first come about? Interestingly, coffee was encountered completely by accident.

One day, a goat farmer noticed his goats had become so energized after eating berries from a certain tree that they were unable to sleep at night. When he figured out what berries they were eating, he tried the berries for himself by concocting a homemade drink, and found it to be stimulating enough to make his workday much easier to get through.

Soon after, these coffee drinks were introduced at a local monastery by the goat farmer, where monks would use the drink to stay alert during the long hours of evening prayer, and from there the news about these berries began to spread.

Coffee’s Popularity Begins Growing

Once coffee drinks had begun settling into the African culture, it wasn’t long before it began its history of cultivation and trade on the Arabian Peninsula. While it took a couple of centuries to reach this point, by the time the 15th and 16th centuries rolled around, coffee was being produced and sold by growers and merchants in modern day Yemen, Iran, Syria and Turkey.

The area is also where coffee houses began to take shape, with large groups of local citizens and traveling tradespersons gathering together for socializing, viewing performances and having a cup of joe. And it was these same travelers who would take the drink back to Europe and effectively start the trend in the largest cities of England, Austria, France, Germany and Holland by the early 17th century.

Within just a few years, in the mid-17th century, over 300 coffee houses could be found in the city of London, and it was widely accepted that coffee had become a staple of both breakfast and business owners who used it to boost productivity in laborers. At roughly the same time in what would become the United States, coffee was being introduced to the early settlers who would take another century before its takeover as the chosen drink.

Up until the mid-1700s, tea had dominated coffee as the number one pick-me-up for city dwellers. However, that changed in 1773, when the taxation revolt known as the Boston Tea Party took over, and drinking coffee became viewed as a rejection of the English monarchy.

Since then, coffee’s popularity hasn’t slowed down, either in the United States or the world. In fact, it’s only become more widespread as new growers, roasting techniques and artisan-like blends have been introduced. And it’s only expected to keep on growing.

Warm Up at the Lighthouse!

Now that the weather is getting cooler, it’s a great time to visit the Lighthouse Ice Cream Kompany for a tasty cup of hot Stone Street coffee or a Harney & Sons tea to go with one of our assorted baked goods from Balthazar Bakery. We offer everything from espressos, lattes, mochas and cappuccinos to chai tea drinks and freshly squeezed lemonade for the little ones. Come and visit us in historic Tarrytown!




Phone. 914-502-0339