A Short History of Coffee Drinking

I. The origins of coffee: 

  • The beginnings of coffee drinking are relatively uncertain. However, there is some evidence that the coffee fruit was being eaten in Ethiopia early on.
  • Moreover, there are some hints of coffee drinking in the 15th century and that the first coffee house opened in Kivan Han, in 1475 in Constantinople. If so, it is believed that the coffee was grown in Yemen and consumption would have been spread in the region.
  • Coffee houses were banned in 1511 in Mecca and 1532 in Cairo, as coffee was quickly associated with political and religious thinking. However, as the demand of the population grew, these bans were soon lifted.

II. Coffee in Europe and the US: 

  • It is believed that coffee drinking did not reach Europe before the 16th century.
  • Coffee consumption was rather for medical reasons than for pleasure.
  • Coffee trade in the early 16s went through Venice and the first coffee shop in London opened in 1652.
  • When coffee was given to Louis XIV, the habit of drinking coffee in Paris was spread.
  • Vienna developed a rich café culture at the end of the 1600s. It is believed that the first coffee house in Vienna, called the Blue Bottle, opened in 1685.
  • Coffee became a national drink in America when American colonists attacked British merchant ships as an answer to British oppression. It is told that during these attacks the Americans threw tea chests off board. In the following years, the US market grew rapidly, causing the US to have a major impact on the coffee industry.

III. How Innovation changed the Coffee Industry  

  • Most of the innovations that had an influence on coffee consumptions came from the US.
  • A company called Hill Bros packed coffee into vacuum sealed cans in 1900 causing the shelf life of coffee to be extended
  • Satori Kato, a Japanese chemist had a patent on how he produced instant coffee making coffee drinking easier for many
  • There were several applicants for the invention of the first espresso machine. However, Luigi Bezerra patented his machine in 1901, and he is often referred to as the inventor of the espresso machine that made it possible to prepare several similar coffee cups in a very short time.
  • The innovation of brewing high pressure espresso, making the drink look like we know it today, goes back to Achille Gaggia in 1945, an Italian company producing coffee machines.
  • In the 1950s and 1960s, espresso bars started to spread everywhere. 

IV. Coffee in the 21. century 

  • The main pioneer we can blame for the growth of specialty coffee that we can see around the world today is clearly Starbucks.
  • The company was not only the first one to raise coffee prices but also made coffee a popular drink that was being consumed outside of home.
  • Today’s focus on specialty coffee highly influences how coffee shops brew, sell and serve coffee.
  • Coffee drinking is nowadays intertwined within different cultures around the world and can be rather seen as an expression of self than a simple morning stimulation. The different variations offered by today’s coffee shops seem endless, covering coffees for every taste.

Coffee species – Arabica & Robusta

Although there are over 120 species of coffee trees, only two coffee plants are famous: coffea arabica and coffea canephora (we commonly refer to the latter one as Robusta). Arabica makes up most of the coffee produced each year: While Arabica accounts for 75% of coffee production, it is only 25% for Robusta. The following table serves to give a more holistic overview of the differences between Arabica and Robusta:

Arabica Robusta
Species coffea arabica coffea canephora
Quality Superior Inferior
Cultivation 75 % of the world’s coffee production 27 % of the world’s coffee production
Main growing countries Latin America Africa, Indonesia, Vietnam
Growing Altitude 600 – 1000 m up to 600 m
Acidity Profile Low High
Caffeine content Low High
Ripening Process    
Price High Low
Shape Oval & flat, S-form seam Round, straight seam
Colour Green Brown
Aroma Fine and sweet (often chocolatey & fruity) Strong & bitter

How does a coffee plant look like?

The Coffee Tree

Arabica & Robusta

  • Arabica trees all look similar and consist of thin trunks with numerous branches. However, depending on the type of coffee variety, the trees vary in amount, color and usury of the fruits. Moreover, different varieties have different leaves.
  • Many coffee producers choose their varieties depending on their yield and resistance to diseases.

The Seed

  • Most coffee farmers plant their beans in soil rich nurseries for 6-12 months before planting them on farms.


  • Most coffee trees have one harvest a year and it takes up to 9 months until the fruits are ripe and ready to harvest. Unluckily, coffee berries don’t ripen uniformly, making the harvesting process for farmers more complex.

The Coffee Fruit

Have you ever wondered how a coffee cherry looks like?

Coffee Fruit

  • The size: the size of a coffee fruit can be compared to the size of a small grape.
  • The colour: all coffee cherries start out green, go through yellow and and develop a deep red when ripe.
  • The seed: the seed makes up most of the fruit’s volume and is surrounded by a protective outer layer, called “parchment”. Most often, coffee beans contain two seeds.

Coffee Varieties


Typica is one of the oldest of all varieties and has been cultivated, for centuries. In general, the cup quality with its sweetness and body is outstanding.


Typically, the coffee from Bourbon plants are very sweet and complex. It’s plants are quite fragile and are often of less cherries than other varieties.

Mundo Novo:

Mundo Novo, mainly grown in south America, is a very strong and fruitful plant with a good quality cup. However, it is quite vulnerable to major coffee diseases.


Caturry stems from Bourbon. However, even though closely related, Caturra has less clarity than Bourbon. It is well known for its acidity and a low-to-medium body. Those trees are mainly grown in Brasil, Colombia, Costa Rica and Nicaragua.


Caturai cherries are of standard quality and mostly grown in central America. The cultivation of this plant can be very labour intensive, as its plants are quite vulnerable to coffee leaf rust.


This coffee comes from Central America and is of very good cup quality. Its plants are typically tall, have very big leafs and are very susceptible to coffee diseases such as coffee berry borer, coffee leaf rust and nematodes.


Geisha is well known for its exceptional high quality cup which explains its very high prices. It is grown in very high altitudes, mainly in Panama and Malawi.


The SL-28 is widely grown in Kenia, Malawi, Uganda and Simbawe. The plant has large leafs, is very tolerant to drought and is of exceptional cup quality. Unluckily, it is highly susceptible to major coffee diseases. 


This plant is highly yielding and mainly found in Kenya. It is of exceptional cup quality but very susceptible to coffee berry borer.


The coffee coming from the Pacas plant is of standard quality and mainly found in Central America.

Villa Sarchi:

Villa Sarchi is a Bourbon related variety with a bean size below average. However, it can adapt to very high altitude conditions and is able to resist strong winds. Both, its cup quality and yield potential are quite good.


Pancamara is a bean of very good cup quality that comes from El Salvador. The yield potential is good but also this variety is high susceptible to coffee leaf rust.


A tall Typica variety that stems from India, where it has widely spread. A common selection of this cultivation which is primarily found in Tanzania and Zanzibar  is known as K7.


This coffee variety is commonly known as “Jember” and is the most widely planted coffee in India and Southeast Asia. S795 was found to be one of the first varieties being resistant to coffee leaf rust.

From Bean to Cup:


Harvesting is an important step that highly influences the quality of coffee. The following section serves to give an overview on different harvesting methods: 

  • Machine harvesting: Machine harvesting is the process of driving machines down the coffee rows that shake the trees until the fruits drop down. Many farms are located in steep areas which makes machine harvesting quite difficulties. Where there is flat land however, many farmers apply that technique. Machine harvesting is a very cost effective way to harvest coffee cherries but comes with many negative side effects. On of the main problems is that machines don’t distinguish between ripe and unripe cherries, thus harvesting both. Sorting the cherries (separating the ripe from the unripe cherries) is therefore an important step to take afterwards.
  • Strip picking: Strip picking is a common harvesting technique that is often applied in hilly coffee farm areas, where machines are unable to operate. It is defined a the movement of striping all cherries off a branch with a strong pull. Similar to machine harvesting, it is a quite quick way but still results in a mixture of ripe and unripe cherries being chosen. Thus, strip picking cherries requires sorting too.
  • Hand picking: hand picking is the most precise way to harvest cherries and is often used for high quality coffee. When hand picking, farmers carefully choose to pick only ripe cherries, leaving the unripe fruits behind. However, hand picking is a quite exhausting process which requires lots of patience.

Sorting the Beans

Sorting the beans is a necessary step after harvesting that aims to separate the unripe fruits from ripe cherries. In low labor cost countries this process is done by hand. In more developed countries however, floating tanks are used to sort the cherries. In floating tanks, unripe cherries float on the top of the tank while ripe cherries sink down to the bottom where there are being pumped out for further processing. 


Processing is the step after harvest. In processing, the goal of most farmers is to avoid mistakes that may reduce their monetary value.

Natural process/dry process:

the natural process is the oldest method of processing coffee and is mainly used in countries with limited access to water.

  • Step 1: ripe berries are separated from unripe cherries by hand.
  • Step 2: ripe cherries are spread out on a surface to dry in the sun. While drying, the farmers regularly turn the cherries to avoid fermentation, rotting or mould.
  • Step 3: Once the coffee is dry it is traditionally stored for 30-60 days. This will improve the aging process of beans and will thus prepare the beans for shipping.
  • Step 4: After storing the beans, they are mechanically hulled to remove the protective outer layer, called the parchment.
  • Step 5: the beans will now be examined and graded, defect beans will be sort out.
  • Step 6: last but not least, the beans will be bagged for export.

Wet process:

the wet process is more expensive than other ways of processing beans. Its main goal is to remove all of the flesh from the beans before it will dry.

  • Step 1: to separate ripe from unripe beans after harvest, the beans are placed in water tanks where ripe and heavy beans sink to the bottom of the tank, while unripe beans float on the top.
  • Step 2: the second step is all about separating pulp from bean. This is done by putting the freshly harvested beans through a pulping machine.
  • Step 3: after depulping, the beans are put into a clean tank or through water where the rest of the flesh will be removed by fermentation. Once the fermentation process is over, the beans will be washed so that any further leftover will be removed.
  • Step 4: the coffee will now be spread out on a surface to dry in the sun.
  • Step 5: after drying, the coffee is traditionally stored for 30-60 days. This will improve the aging process of beans and will thus prepare the beans for shipping.
  • Step 6: once the coffee is dry, the beans are mechanically hulled to remove the protective outer layer, called the parchment.
  • Step 7: the beans will now be examined and graded, defect beans will be sort out.
  • Step 8: last but not least, the beans will be bagged for export.


  • Coffee is most often bagged into jute bags as they are cheap, accessible and environmentally friendly. Depending on the country of origin, the jute bags are either bagged with 60kg or 69kg of coffee.


  • Usually, coffee is transported on shipping containers, that can carry up to 300 bags of coffee. Although container shipping is relatively cheap it comes with the disadvantage of exposing the coffee to heat and moisture, damaging the quality of coffee.

Sizing & Grading

Coffee Trade

  • Usually, the price that is paid for coffee is quoted in USD per pound in weight ($/lb).
  • Jute Bags are commonly the units of purchase.
  • The global price for commodity coffee being traded on the stock exchange is called the C-price.
  • The C-price represents a minimum price for coffee that a producer would be willing to accept for his coffee.
  • As the C-price does not reflect the cost of production of coffee, producers might end up losing money. While trying to find answers to that problem, the fair trade movement came into life.

Fair Trade:

Fair trade is a tool that guarantees to pay the farmer a base price of USD 0.05/lb premium above the C-price.

Speciality Coffee Industry

There exist a couple of terms that speciality roasters use to describe their way to source coffee: 

  • Relationship coffee: This term is often used when the roaster has an ongoing relationship with the coffee producer. Typically their relationship concerns topic such as developing higher quality coffee and sustainable pricing.
  • Direct trade: direct trade refers to the process of buying the coffee directly from producers without including any third party or middlemen such as importers or exporters of coffee.
  • Fairly traded: this term refers to a purchase of coffee with high levels of transparency, traceability and fair prices paid. 

OROMO’S advice to consumers when buying coffee:

To make sure that a fair price was paid, consumers should pay attention to the traceability of the coffee. Coffee roasters should discover information on how they source their coffee meaning that at least the producers name or the name of the farm, cooperative or factory should be available to consumers.

Coffee Roasting

The roasting process is defined by a couple of key stages:

  • Stage 1: The first stage is defined as the “drying stage”. At this stage, the coffee beans absorb heat causing the water that is contained in the beans to evaporate. Changes in smell or look cannot be noticed in this stage.
  • Stage 2: The second stage is defined as “yellowing”. The water has now been driven out of the beans causing the beans to take on a brownish colour. In addition, the beans begin to expand at this stage making them lose their skin.
  • Stage 3: The third phase, known as the “first crack”, is described as a stage at which the browning reactions start to build up gases and water vapour inside the beans. If the pressure gets too strong, the beans start to crack, causing a popping noise and almost doubling the volume of the beans. Afterwards, delicious coffee flavors start to develop.
  • Stage 4: When roasters decide to continue the process after the first crack, they go over to stage 4 which is defined as the “roast development” stage. At this stage, the roaster can not only determine the colour of the end product but also the balance of acidity and bitterness. As the roast continues, the level of acids in the beans are typically degrading while the level of bitterness is increasing.
  • Stage 5: Stage 5 is known as “the second crack” at which the oils will be pushed to the surface of the coffee bean. As the majority of acidity will be lost at this stage, new flavors, namely “generic roast flavors”, start to develop. After Stage 5, the roasting process should be stopped as the coffee beans are likely to start catching fire.

Types of coffee roasters

As coffee tastes best when it is freshly delivered, it is most often roasted close to where it will be consumed later. There are different types of coffee roasters. However two of them, the drum roaster and the hot air roaster are most commonly in use.

Drum roaster

Drum roasters were invented in the beginning of the 20th century and are able to roast at slower pace. The roaster can easily control both, the heat that is applied to the drum as well as the flow of air inside the drum.

Hot air roaster

Those machines heat up the beans by pumping hot air through the machine. Typically, the roast process is shorter when using hot air roasters compared to drum roasters.

Tangential Roaster

Tangential Roasters are similar to drum roasters but within those machines, built in shovels are evenly mixing the coffee beans while heating. Faster roasting speed can be achieved.

Centrifugal Roaster

Those machines allow very large quantities to be roasted at very quick speeds. In centrifugal roasters, beans are heated by putting them inside a big spinning cone. Roast times can even be as low as 90 seconds.

Buying and storing coffee

Strength guides:

  • traceability
  • golden rules for fresh coffee
  • how to store coffee at home
  • freshness
  • staling
  • resting coffee
  • packaging coffee

Tasting and describing coffee

Tasting Traits:

  • Sweetness: sweetness is typically a very positive trait in coffee and most coffee drinkers think the more sweetness, the better their coffee.
  • Acidity: the acidity trait describes the degree of acid inside a cup of coffee. Highly acidic coffees are often considered as unpleasant and too sour. However, coffee specialists associate high acidity with good quality and interesting flavors.
  • Mouthfeel: mouthfeel is also known as “body” or “heaviness” and describes the physical characteristics of coffee as it settles on the tongue. It is the feel of the coffee coating the tongue and whether it is oily, grainy or watery.
  • Balance: A balanced coffee is one in which the different flavors harmonize with each other. It is a well-mixed cup of coffee where none of the flavors dominates another.
  • Flavour: this term relates to the tastes of the different flavors inside a coffee and to how pleasant those tastes are.

The role of water for coffee

Brewing coffee:
Judging the result
  • change grind
  • change brew ratio
  • change brew temperature
  • change brew pressure

Steaming milk

Creating great milk foam, one that is elastic and pourable, is not an easy task. To get it right, one need to focus on two thing: creating bubbles and heating the milk to the right temperature. 

Which milk to use?

To create bubbles, it doesn’t matter whether we are using whole milk or skimmed. What matters is the protein content in the milk.

A milk steaming guide:

Step 1: make sure to get rid of any condensation inside the steam wand.

Step 2: now take a steaming pitcher and pour cold milk into it. Make sure not to make the pitcher more than 60 % full.

Step 3: take your pitcher and align it so that your steam wand is pointing diagonally into the milk.

Step 4: now put the tip of the steam wand just a centimeter below the surface of the milk and turn it on to create bubbles. You will hear a hissing noise. After just a few seconds, dip the steam wand deeper into the milk so that no more bubbles will be created. Be careful not to hit the side of the pitcher.

Step 5: turn off the steam wand as soon as the milk has reached the right temperature (between 60 – 63 degrees celsius) and clean the steam wand with a clean towel.

Step 6: now take the pitcher and tap it on a flat surface to break remaining bubbles. Pan the pitcher to balance the texture.


Espresso: Espresso is a coffee of italian origin and serves as a base for a wide variety of other coffee drinks. It can be defined as a small, strong coffee, made by forcing high water pressure through ground coffee bean. Typically, an Espresso is of thicker consistency than coffee brewed by other methods and has some crema on top.

Ristretto: Ristretto means “restricted” or “shortened” in Italian and can be described as a very small and strong cup of espresso coffee that is made by using less water for the same amount of ground coffee. To make sure that the brew time remains long enough, the coffee grind should be finer.

Lungo: The Lungo (Italian for “long”) is the opposite of an Ristretto. It is done by using the same amount of coffee ground with with much more water, resulting in a larger cup of coffee.

Macchiato: “Macchiato” is an Italian word meaning “marked” or “stained” and refers to an espresso with a small amount of milk foam.

Cappuccino: The Cappuccino originated in Italy and is typically a double espresso topped with a rich layer of frothed milk.

Caffe Latte: A caffe latte is a coffee drink that was invented to make the espresso flavor less intense. Similarly to a Cappuccino, it can be described as an espresso made with steamed milk. Compared to a Cappuccino, however, there is usually more liquid milk in a latte, with the milk being denser and not so “fluffy”.

Flat White: The Flat White is from Australia and has been spread by travellers from all over the world. It can be best described as a small, strong caffe latte that is usually prepared by a double espresso topped with hot milk and a little foam.

Americano: Americano originated when American soldiers, that were stationed in Italy after World War II, wanted to add some hot water to their espresso drinks to reduce its intensity. Today it is typically prepared by adding a double espresso to a clean hot water cup.

Cortado: The Cortado comes from Spain and is typically served in a glass. The usual way to make a cortado is by combining about 30ml of espresso with an equal amount of steamed milk.

Coffee Origins 

  • Coffee is one of the top commodities worldwide and is produced in over 50 countries.
  • Brazil is the world’s largest coffee producer: According to the International Coffee Association, the country produced more than 51 million bags of coffee beans in 2017-18.
  • The world’s second largest producer is Vietnam, closely followed by Columbia.
  • Also smaller countries like Honduras, belong to the top coffee producers: In 2017, the country produced 8.3 million bags of coffee and is thus ranked 6th of the world’s largest coffee producers.

Important terms used in relation to Coffee:

Where does the word “Espresso” come from and what does it mean?

  • “Espresso” comes from the Italian word “esprimere” which means “to press out”. Thus, “cafe espresso” means as much as “pressed out coffee” and refers to the way espresso is made: boiled water forced through pressed coffee grounds.

What’s the meaning of “Blend”?

  • The term “blend” refers to a coffee with beans coming from multiple locations being mixed. Blends are the most widely form used of coffee as it is easier for coffee blends to ensure a harmonious, consistent taste. Typically roasters are using beans from around two to four different locations.

What’s the meaning of a defect coffee bean?

  • While some defects are already evident in raw coffee, other deficiencies only come to light when tasting the coffee.

What is the “C-Price”?

  • The C-price refers to the trading price of commodity coffee on the stock market.

What is “speciality coffee”? 

  • According to the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA), speciality coffee is defined as coffee that is of superior quality with a cup score of 80 points or above. It grows in special geographical areas, with ideal climates and produces
    distinct flavours.

What does “Direct Trade” mean?

  • Specialty coffee is often bought through direct trade. Direct Trade is a collective term for sustainability, environmental awareness and social commitment through the support of the small coffee farmers. Direct trading means buying coffee directly from the producer. Thereby, the coffee roasters avoid both traditional middlemen and organizations that award certifications such as Fair Trade or Bird Friendly.

What do people mean by “cupping”?

  • Cuppings refers to the process of brewing, smelling and in particular tasting coffee used by professional tasters in order to evaluate a coffee’s quality. 

What are the most common terms used for cupping?

  • Fragrance = The aromatic aspects of dry ground coffee
  • Aroma = Aromatic aspects of ground coffee when infused with hot water
  • Acidity = The brightness and/or sourness of coffee
  • Body = The mouthfeel or heaviness perceived on the surface of the tongue
  • Flavor = Defined as taste and aroma, mid-tones of coffee
  • Sweetness = The subtle pleasant sweetness in coffee
  • Clean Cup = The Transparency in the cup, should be free of off-flavors and defects
  • Balance = The overall rating of coffee, no one parameter should dominate
  • Aftertaste = The duration of positive flavor attributes in coffee
  • Overall = The overall rating of the coffee

What’s the difference between Varieties and Varietals?

  • While coffee variety refers to the subspecies of plant just as Typica to Arabica, “varietal” refers to the brewed liquid in your cup.

What’s the roast profile?

  • the roast profile is described as the speed at which a coffee passes through the different roasting stages while roasting.

Some more interesting knowledge on coffee:

Where does the word “coffee” come from?

  • The term “coffee” originated in the late 16th century: it stems from the Arabic word for “wine” namely “qahwah” which later became “kahveh” in Turkish, then “koffie” in Dutch and eventually “coffee” in English.

How many calories are in 1 cup of coffee?

  • A simple cup of brewed coffee has less than 5 calorie. However, as soon as you add some extras such as sugar, milk and flavorings, the amount of calories within your coffee can quickly increase.

Finland and Sweden are home to the most coffee lovers

  • According to the International Coffee Organization, only two nations top more than 10kg coffee per person per year: Finland and Sweden. The Finns drink the most coffee with 12.5 kg every year. For comparison, the Germans just drink half as much.

Coffee drinkers tend to live longer 

  • Accordings to a Harvard Health Publishing report, coffee drinkers that drink about two to three cups per day tend to live longer. Due to the fact that researchers observed a lower risk of early death also among decaf coffee drinkers, they assume that the coffee bean and not the caffeine is the decisive element causing the longevity effect.

Is coffee unhealthy?

  • Like many foods and nutrients, too much coffee can be unhealthy and cause problems, in particular in the digestive tract. However, studies have shown that drinking up to four cups of coffee a day is totally fine.