A Brief History of Coffee

While the origins of coffee as a beverage are debatable, the story we have been told at Paul Delima is one of our favorites. According to legend, during the 9th century there was an Ethiopian goat-herder named Kaldi. Kaldi noticed that his flock became energetic after eating the bright red berries. Trying them for himself he felt a burst of energy and brought some of the fruit to a local monk, explaining what he'd seen. The monk disapproved of their use and threw them into a fire, making it the first coffee roaster. The aromatic result was recovered from the fire and soaked in hot water.


The earliest recorded evidence of coffee drinking and knowledge of the coffee tree comes from the mid-fifteenth century in the Sufi monasteries of Yemen in Southern Arabia. Mokha, Yemen would become a large coffee marketplace and where the sought after Mokha beans, which today we call mocha, were found. Those first plants in Yemen can trace their origin to Ethiopia, giving credit to the often debated theory that most coffees are descended from a few plants in Ethiopia. India would begin cultivating their own coffee in 1670 when it was introduced to them by the Sufi, Baba Budan who brought it from Yemen.


Coffee would continue to spread in the centuries to come but it wasn't until the 18th century, around 1720, when the cultivation of coffee would find a true home in the Americas as we know it today.


In 1720 a few coffee seedlings were brought to Martinique and within 50 years more than 18,000 coffee trees in Martinique allowed the spread of the crop to Haiti and other parts of the Caribbean.


The bourbon tree (not the liquor) produced a unique coffee bean on an island in the Indian Ocean now called Reunion. This unique coffee would create such progeny as the famed Santos coffee of Brazil and Oaxaca of Mexico. These coffees were so good that they were taken from Brazil and were introduced to Kenya and Tanzania.


Americans have a special connection to Coffee, because our country was born from a revolution incited by among other things, the taxation of tea. This would lead to one of the revolution's most famous acts of defiance, destroying tea in what we now call the Boston Tea Party. Many Americans began drinking coffee instead of tea as a way of distinguishing themselves as patriots and that would become the foundation for our countrywide love of coffee.


Coffee also has a troubled history that should never be overlooked. The indigenous people in many growing regions have long suffered fates that none envy. The combination of growing a commodity traded crop and the relics of European colonization created troubling consequences even in what we consider modern times. We as roasters of coffee, and you as consumers, need to put forth more effort, time, and indeed more money to make sure we're dealing with a commodity, that lines up with our principles and your ideals. Please feel free to contact us with any questions regarding the practices of Paul Delima Coffee and we'll do our best to answer them as thoroughly as possible.