The coffee history

There are a lot of legends and myths about the discovery of the coffee berry. The first reliable evidences come from Ethiopia. The plant was successively taken to Arabia and grown in territories today called Yemen. A Yemeni legend says that one of the Chehodef monastery monks, having heard from a shepherd called Kaldi that his goats and camels used to be awake also at night after eating some particular berries, prepared a beverage out of those same berries in order to stay up late and be able to pray longer. Coffee got to Europe through the Venetian trade . At first the Catholics were very much against it and called it “the devil’s beverge”, but they were soon contradicted by the Pope who, on the contrary, appreciated coffee very much and approved of its consumption. Places where coffee was served started to spread all over Europe, and soon they became the meeting points of men of culture. In the 18th century the French planted their first berries in Martinica and after that the coffee crops reached Central and Southern America. Coffee spread so widely that it became the official beverage in the United States, in response to the heavy taxes imposed by the English on tea. The espresso history began in 1882 in France and it spread quickly to Italy, where it developed more intensively. Today coffee represents a huge industry which hires more than 20 million people in the world and its investments are second to the petroleum industry only. With its over 400 billion cups consumed every year, coffee represents the most famous beverage in the world. Only in Brazil the people working in the coffee fields are over 5 millions, and they take care of over 3 billions plants. Taking a steaming cup of coffee to one’s lips has become one of the most common actions among people from almost the whole planet.

Coffee Production

HISTORICAL SIGN - In the first part of 1700s, Brazil started to produce coffee. It cheated some plants and a seeds handful of Guiana, to where he was sent to suppress an insurrection. In 1756, the first ships unloaded the Brazilian coffee in Portogallo, giving life to the great tradition of the old continent export. The production process was mainly left to slavers at the service of the Spanish and Portoguese till 1888, when Brazil abolished slavery. Neverthless, man power is today is essential for the production of coffee.
THE HARVEST - In the main part of the areas in which the Arabicas grow, ripe berries must have been picked by hand, put down in baskets and, depending on their weight, the picker’s salary varies at the end of the day. The ripe berries fall down on the soil, after that they are racked, deprived of scorias and picked up. Recently mechanical harvest systems have been developing, in specific and favourable conditions only: the plantations must be level and plants far from each other in order to allow machineries passage.
THE MARKET - Coffee trade is economically important for its huge consumption worldwide. It is one of the main products in world trade and its investments are second to the petroleum industry only. Its cultivation, production, trade, transportation and marketing hire million of people all over the world. Coffee represents an important resource for a lot of developing and not developed countries. Its quotations are daily estimated by New York Stock Exchange (Coffee, Sugar&Cocoa Exchange) for the Arabicas and London Exchange (LIFEE) for the Robustas. Coffee quotations depends on different complex and extremely variable factors. Temperatures in production areas, rainwater abundance and scarcity, spread of parasitic diseases, production problems, geopolitical conditions, economic speculations and much more condition its negotiation worth.


Coffee was classified in the rubiaceae family, including, in the vegetal classification system created by the Swedish Botanic Carlo Linneo, 4500 varieties, among which 60 species belonging to the Coffea genre. Only 25 species are more marketable thanks to their fruits but Coffea Arabica, Coffea Liberica, Coffea Robusta and Coffea Excelsa are the first 4 in coffee trade.

Coffeea Arabica

Coffea Arabica, coming from Etiopia and giving origin to Arabic coffee beans, represents about ¾ of global production and is considered the best coffee variety in the world. The Arabica is a delicate plant, growing on high altitude only, it has green and sparkling leaves and can be 12 metres tall. It is the best on a quality level: the higher is the altitude, the riper is the fruit and the richer in aromatic compounds is the beverage. Its delicate branches blossom at an altitude of 800-1200 metres, where only the equatorial areas offer the weather conditions for an healthy and luxuriant growth of the shrubs. The ideal temperature is 20° degrees. All the prestigious cru are Arabica’s and come from Eastern Africa and Southern America. The caffeina contents is lower than the Robusta’s, but the Arabicas are pleasantly aromatic, full-bodied, strong flavoured, agreeably sour, depending on their origins and preparation moods (more or less spicy, sour, cocoa flavoured). Depending on the production areas and the varities grown, the Arabicas have different names as Brazil, Milds, Typica, Maragogype (appreciated for the big beans), Moka and Bourbon (very common in Brazil). The most prestigious Moka grows mainly in Arabia, whose beans are rather small with an intense aromatic smell. The distinctive colour is mountain-green and the shape is flattened and extended. At the end of 1800s the cultivation of the other species began to spread because a lot of diseases damaged and destroyed the Coffea Arabica in different areas. Since then other varieties have been chosen and selected in order to be put on the market with success.

Coffeea Robusta

The Coffea Canephora, commonly called Coffea Robusta, is a strong and resistant shrub that can reach an height of 50 metres, suffers from not many diseases, stands insects and heat, grows at low altitude (200-800 metres) with great yield. Its branches grow like an umbrella, down to ground. During the year the blossoming is incessant. It was discovered in 1898 in Congo and nowadays represents about ¼ of global production: its fruits (drupe), generally smaller than Arabica’s, have rounded seeeds with a central straight groove, rich in caffeine, even if, after being roasted, are little scented. This variety, you can find in level plane too, has had a great success in trade, because, in addition to production’s wealth and system lower price, it stands diseases, remains healthy in poor conditions too. The Robusta fruits produce a mediocre coffee, little aromatic, very strong (bitter and woody) but more full bodied, with a higher caffeine content than the Arabica’s. Some varities, obtained by Canephora crosses, are very common in Indonesia, Uganda, Western Africa. Furthermore, the Arabusta, cross between the two Coffeas, Arabica and Robusta, was born.

Coffeea Liberica

Coming from Liberia’s woods and Ivory Coast, is a beautiful, strong, luxuriant, long live plant with much greater fruits and seeds than Arabica’s, more resistant to parasites attack. It is a plant requering high tempratures and abundant water. For its features, the Coffea Iberica has been chosen as a graft in order to obtain new varieties you find in Ivory Coast and Madagascar. From its beans, though lower on a quality level, you can produce a scented and pleasant coffee, till some time ago, its flavour was more appreciated in the Scandinavian countries.


The Coffea Excelsa, discovered in 1904, stands the attack of diseases and drought, its yield is very high and the aged beans are used for the production of a scented and pleasant coffee, similar to the Coffea Arabica’s. Among less adaptable species, you find: Coffea Stenophilla, Coffea Mauritana, Coffea Racemosa, Coffea Congencis, Coffea Dewevrei, Coffea Neo-Arnoldiana, Coffea Abeokutoe, Coffea Dybowskii coming mainly from Africa (Ivory Coast, Congo, Guinea, …)