The actual recorded history of coffee dates back to the 10th century, but humans have been harvesting coffee beans for much longer than that. It's very possible that the first humans in Ethiopia used to chew the beans before discovering that they could be ground up and steeped in hot water over a fire. But just how did we get from basic coffee beans to gourmet coffee and medium roast K cups?
There are records of people drinking coffee from every nationality and country dating back centuries. The monks of the Sufi monastery learned how to grow coffee trees and harvest the beans. Over the next century, the coffee trade grew until it reached the Middle East and beyond to South India to the east, and Italy and the Balkans to the west. And then it was only a matter of time before someone brought these magical plants over to America.
Every nation has their own words for “coffee” which truly speaks to the insanely expansive reach of the most popular beverage on earth. The word is likely derived from the Dutch “koffie” who took it from the Turkish word “kahve”, who borrowed it from the Arabic “qahwah”.
What is now called Ethiopia is often considered the origin of human civilization and this is arguably the best place to start when looking at the history of coffee. Our ancestors recognized the effects of the beans from their coffee plants. Some coffee experts contend that sugar and cream were probably not introduced to coffee drinkers until the drink made its way to Italy. Perhaps they may have used honey, or mixed it with other drinks.
The coffee trade thrived throughout the years and the energetic effects were an easy sell to people who worked long days. The history of coffee is a culmination of hard facts and as well as many stories. One of the original legends of coffee's adoption in the early days involves a monk in Ethiopia who disapproved of consuming coffee beans, due to their energetic effect. He tossed them in the fire, and a strange aroma emerged. Curious, his friends scooped up the resulting grounds, and placed them into hot water. The rest is history.
In order for coffee to have that distinguish flavor, the green beans must first be roasted. There was time in coffee's storied history when many people had to roast their own coffee beans at home. The idea of a making a quick cup of coffee in the morning before heading out off to work was a totally foreign concepts prior to home coffee makers. As a matter of fact, prior to the early 20th century it was far more common for people to roast their own coffee beans than to buy pre-roasted coffee in the store. Home roasting was very popular in those days and in 1849, a special spherical coffee roaster was invented in Ohio. However, the art of home roasting was soon overtaken by commercial roasting endeavors which helped usher in the modern day coffee landscape that we know today. As any coffee lover knows, almost all coffee beans are sold today come already roasted, or in already ground form so that much of the work is done for us.
Fast forward to today and the coffee industry looks very different compared to the olden days. It used to be that you can get your coffee in one of just two ways: whole bean and pre-ground. Today, the coffee lover has many more options. From coffee pods and K Cups to specialized capsules and proprietary single serve cups, coffee has truly evolved over the years.
Even the classification system of coffee is part of this evolution. Gourmet coffee is in reference to premium types of quality coffee, and is basically a marketing term. The quality of the coffee grounds or beans are sold in bags, and is not your standard “jar” or “canned” coffee. Then there's also specialty coffee, which is made from specific beans of the best flavor. There's even the Special Coffee Association of America (SCAA) that governs regulations of specialty coffee, and was founded in 1982. Depending on who you ask, specialty coffee can also include coffee designed for health or what's known as “healthy coffee“. Some examples of healthy coffee include VitaCup and Coffee Blenders.
Medium roast coffee is perhaps the most popular type of roast, with a wider range of population preferring this type over others. Some who are new to the K Cup and coffee pod world may also notice that most coffee pods and k cups are either medium roast or dark roast. Even though light roast k cups aren't nearly as popular as their medium to dark roast counterparts, there are still a wealth of options to choose from.
The advent of K cups and coffee pods took coffee drinking to the next level of simplicity and convenience. By selling pre-measured coffee in plastic K cups, coffee companies helped broaden coffee reach to new levels. Coffee lovers around the world could now have their proverbial cake and eat it too. The coffee pod delivery form can be easily inserted into your coffee maker or K Cup machine and will brew the perfect cup of coffee every time. Coffee pods and K cups on average will be more expensive than ground coffee as you are paying for convenience. However, when you can be treated to a high quality coffee in less than a minute with no clean up needed, it's hard not to justify the extra you pay.
The history of coffee has very early beginnings and as you any coffee lover can see, the story is still being written as we speak. The process for making coffee has changed over the course of human civilization but one thing is certain—we all enjoy the energy boosting properties of a good cup of gourmet coffee.