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Coffee: history in a nut-shell

Coffee: history

There are still quite controversial theories about the origins of the black drink. We give for granted that the plant originates from ancient Ethiopia, and that its name could depend on a geographical area known as Kaffa.

Once people realised how to roast the beans inside the cherry and to obtain a drink from boiling (XIII century), the coffee spread throughout the Arabic world thanks to its attractive taste and tonic properties.


From Costantinopolis through the enterprising Venetian dealers it landed in Italy (XVI century) to spread soon afterwards in many European countries.

Dutchmen, Spaniards, Frenchmen, Portuguese and Englishmen soon realised the economical potential of coffee, and urged to expand its cultivation in their overseas colonies. Consequentially many and always extended farms appeared in tropical America, Asia and Africa. The world production leader is now-adays Brazil. This country and some other Central and South-American States, are able to supply more than half of the green coffee beans to the roasters worldwide.


Also big quantities originate from some African countries, like Kenya and Ethiopia, and Asia-Oceania, where Vietnam has become the world runner-up supplier in a short-time period.

Currently the world production is reaching the top quantity of 130 millions of bags (of 60 Kilos) per year (!) and coffee is being quoted at the Stock Exchange of San Paolo, London and New York as runner-up of oil.

Coffee: the plant

Coffee: the plant

Coffee belongs to the “Rubiaceae” family, like cinchona-tree, whose bark produces quinine used as medicine against malarial fever, or robbia-tree, by which clothes could be dyed red in ancient times. The tree grows and makes fruits in the tropical latitudes of the planet in plantations that from sea level may exceptionally reach tops of 2,500 metres of height, like the case of the highland cultivations of Jamaica.

Two main coffee species are “Coffea Arabica” and “Coffea Robusta” that feature a different number of chromosomes and different pollination way, as they were different plants. The former, being more delicate, grows at higher lever than the latest, which is more adaptable in poorer soil and harder weather conditions.

Coffee: the plant

Both blossom and bear fruit once or twice a year, thus depending on the climate and  the fertility of soil. In the best areas a plant may show flowers and fruits at the same time all year long.

Harvesting is done by hand or mechanically, while the following process  of cleaning from the pulp to obtain the raw beans takes place in the cultivating area, after this the green coffee is put into sacks and forwarded by the traders to importers and major roasters worldwide.


The coffee bean contains an alkaloid called “caffeine” that provides exciting properties to the drink.

“Coffea Robusta” contains more caffeine than “Arabica”. This substance is also naturally present in cocoa and tea leaves. Coffee beans also consist of proteins, minerals, oils, sugar, to cite the most important ones. Different fruit-picking techniques, an accurate selection of the beans, long tasting sessions of  professionals, all this contributes to the quality level of the product addressed to the roasting phase, which exalts its characteristics through the “hand” of the skilled roaster.