A Brief History of Coffee

All new hires at Carabello Coffee go through a multi-part "Intro to Coffee" training, beginning with a detailed "History of Coffee." Coffee has been around for quite a while and has gone through many periods of transformation to get to where it is today! It would take a book (or several) to tell you about all of them, so here are just a few of our favorite coffee history highlights!

We Have Goats to Thank

Coffee was first discovered in the mountains of Ethiopia in 850 AD by...goats! As legend has it, one day a young goat herder named Kaldi noticed his goats were acting strange—usually calm, they were dancing and jumping around. At first he thought they were possessed. Then he discovered that the goats had been eating some unfamiliar red berries. Taking a risk, Kaldi tried the berries (that were actually coffee cherries) and soon had as much energy as his goats!

A Unique Farming Method

 Ethiopians eventually brought coffee to Yemen. Much of the terrain in Yemen is mountainous, so farms were often set up on terraces built into the hillside—they're practical and beautiful! Some of the terraces have been around since 3000 BC! Coffee began to spread outside of Yemen around 1650 AD.

Coffee Says "Bonjour!" to France

 After coffee had spread throughout Southern India, Indonesia, and to the Netherlands, it arrived in France—at Versailles! In 1714, the Mayor of Amsterdam gifted Louis XIV a young coffee plant that went straight to the Potager du roi, aka "King's Vegetable Garden." Under the garden's supervisor Francois Le Normand, 12 coffee plants were cultivated to 13 ft in height!

No More Green Beans

Around 1668, coffee arrived in the New World! But it would still be nearly 200 more years before consumers could buy it already roasted. Until the mid-1800s, most people in the US purchased their coffee green and roasted it at home in a pan! (Can you imagine doing that before your morning brew?!) Between the 1850s and 1950s, big name coffee companies like Maxwell House, Folgers, Arbuckles, and Hills Bros. started selling commercially roasted coffee.

A Focus on Quality

In 1955, Alfred Peet began working for E.A. Johnson & Company, the coffee importer for all the big name brands. He was disgusted by the low quality of the coffee. In 1965, Peet was laid off, so he decided to open his own store where he would roast and sell quality coffee. He was 45. On April 1, 1966, he opened Peet's Coffee & Tea in Berkley, California.

Quality Coffee Comes to Seattle

Inspired by Alfred Peet, a group of three college buddies who had met at the University of San Francisco, decided to open a shop that sold high-quality coffee beans. Their shop opened in Seattle in 1971 and they called it...Starbucks. Perhaps you've heard of it? ;) For their first two years, Starbucks purchased their green coffee beans directly from Peet's Coffee & Tea.

The Birth of Specialty Coffee

In 1968, Erna Knutsen had started working as an executive assistant at B.C. Ireland, a coffee brokerage in San Francisco. Over time, Erna realized there was an opportunity to sell small lots of coffee to small roasters. She hit a barrier though because, as a woman, she was not allowed in the cupping room—she had to wait for the men to roast and taste samples. However, Erna was persistent and finally got a seat at the cupping table in 1973. A year later in 1974, she would coin the term "specialty coffee."