Where Coffee Comes From and Why it Matters

Being transparent with coffee origins is a critical part of the third wave coffee movement. Walk into a specialty coffee shop, and they’ll not only tell you the country that a particular roast is from but the region where it was harvested. Does this really matter? Yes! 

You may already know that coffee origin can have a significant impact on the taste and quality of a roast. But that’s not the only reason why it’s important. Traceable coffee origins help ensure the farmers who grew it are being taken care of and paid properly. You can follow a cup of coffee back to the very farms it was grown.  

Not only does this contribute to a sustainable coffee economy, but it allows you to take a bigger part in the story of coffee. Of course, if you’re truly going to understand the story of coffee, we need to go back to the very beginning. 

The Origin of Coffee 

Though coffee is grown across 70 countries and enjoyed in countless others, most believe it originated in Ethiopia. There are a few legends surrounding its discovery. One popular story tells of a goat herder named Kaldi. As he watched over his herd, Kaldi noticed some of the goats were feeding on the bright red berries of a nearby bush. That night, these same goats were so excited they refused to sleep.  

Kaldi reported this observation to a local abbot. The abbot went out and found the berries of which Kaldi spoke, using them to create a beverage. After consuming this beverage, he found he was incredibly alert throughout his lengthy evening prayers. Thus, coffee was born. 

Another story involves a mystic named Abul Hasan ash-Shadhili who observed birds consuming coffee cherries. After seeing how energetic the birds were, he decided to try the cherries himself. Other stories say it was actually his disciple Omar who discovered the coffee cherries and decided to brew them to improve the flavor. 

Regardless who actually discovered the plant first, coffee quickly began to spread across the region as people learned of its unique properties. The first credible documentation surrounding coffee dates back to the 15th century where it was imported from Ethiopia to Yemen. By the 1600s, it was gaining popularity in Europe. As demand increased, more people began to cultivate coffee crop. 

As European explorers started venturing through the Americas, they brought coffee with them. Though they couldn’t grow the plant in their own country, they found the climates of South and Central America were favorable. Soon, coffee was being grown an ocean away from where it began. 

Where is Coffee Grown Today? 

Though it started in the Middle East, most coffee is now grown in South America. Brazil alone accounts for 25-30% of coffee production, exporting 6 million pounds every year. The other largest producers include Vietnam, Colombia, Indonesia and Ethiopia. All of these countries sit comfortably within The Coffee Belt. 

The Coffee Belt (also known as The Bean Belt) is the geographical stretch of the world that is best suited to grow coffee plants. Coffee plants require a lot of rain, and they’re sensitive to cold temperatures. Though this sensitive nature limits where it can be grown, it also leads to the development of unique regional flavors. Soil, moisture, farming techniques, washing practices and more can all affect the flavor of coffee beans, telling the story of the land and the people who grew it.  

That’s not to say all coffee from one area tastes the same. After all, there is the roasting process to factor in, which can add, enhance, and change flavors and textures. There are also different types of coffee plants. Though these are often simply divided into Arabica and Robusta (with Arabica being the most popular), there are further varieties within each species.  

We’ll talk more on those topics in future posts. 

Ultimately, the best way to discover the unique tastes of coffee from different regions is to simply try it. With all of the places that grow coffee (even here in the U.S.), there are almost endless varieties to discover. The founders of Madcap coffee taste around 3,000 types of coffee per year in their never-ending search to discover new and unique flavors.  

If you’d like to appreciate the results of their relentless work, make sure to come to 7 Corners Coffee quickly! Madcap Coffee is currently our featured roaster but we’ll be changing soon. Don’t worry if you miss it. We’ll be rotating in another ethical roaster you can try. Whatever you order at 7 Corners Coffee, you can trust it comes with traceable origins so you can truly appreciate the story behind it. 

Stop by our space near the University of Minnesota. We’re open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., 7 days a week! 

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