History of coffee
Coffee was discovered around 1,000 years ago in the region now known as Ethiopia. The first coffee shipment to Europe was around 1615.
From the middle of the 17th century coffee houses were opened in all major European cities and became a meeting place for people from all walks of life. This remains very true today.
Coffee is an integral part of our culture and there are many social aspects to drinking coffee, from ‘coffee breaks’ that offer a welcome ‘downtime’ at work, to providing an occasion for friends and family to connect.
The coffee tree is a tropical evergreen shrub (genus Coffea) and grows between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. The two most commercially important species grown are varieties of Coffea arabica (Arabicas) and Coffea canephora (Robustas).
The coffee supply chain typically involves:
The coffee supply chain typically involves:
- processing in origin; this involves removal of the green beans from the coffee cherry – see Figure 1
- local purchasing
- grading and quality control in origin
- green coffee trading (by one or more traders)
Several of these functions may be combined. For instance a farmer may do his own processing and a larger farmer cooperative may do its own grading and exporting. In the case of direct purchasing by the manufacturer, the green coffee trading function is bypassed.
Coffee producing countries
Coffee is grown in around 70 coffee producing countries.
Figure 2: main coffee producing countries 2011-13. Source: International Coffee Organization
Brazil is the largest producer of coffee and the second largest coffee-consuming nation. Its coffee sector employs over five million people and contributes 40% of the world’s total coffee supply.
Vietnam is the second largest producer of coffee in the world, accounting for 16% of global production. It is the main producer of Robustas. Coffee production in Vietnam creates jobs for more than 1 million workers.
Colombia is the second-largest supplier of Arabica coffee after Brazil. 2,4 million Colombians economically depend on coffee production (25% of the country’s rural population).
Indonesia is the world’s second-largest exporter of Robusta. Indonesian coffee is produced by an estimated 1.5 million smallholder farmers.
Ethiopia is the largest coffee producer in Africa. The EU is the primary market, accounting for 60% of sales. Ethiopia’s 1.2 million smallholder farmers contribute over 90% of production.
Coffee, caffeine and health
Coffee is enjoyed by millions of people around the world and is one of the most extensively researched components in the diet. Taken overall, the research indicates that moderate coffee consumption can be part of a healthy, balanced diet for the general adult population and may even confer health benefits.
Coffee is enjoyed for its taste and aroma but also for its mild stimulant effects on body and mind. Caffeine has been well identified as being the active compound in coffee responsible for this effect.
Caffeine naturally occurs in some 60 plant species of which cocoa-beans, kola nuts, tea leaves and coffee beans are the most well-known. It is also used as an addition in some foods, soft drinks and medicines.
The scientific evidence shows that caffeine does not induce dependence, as also confirmed by WHO. Abrupt cessation of caffeine consumption may however lead to withdrawal symptoms in some regular caffeine consumers but these are generally not severe and of short duration.
Coffee is a contributing source of caffeine in the diet, but is mainly consumed by adults. The EFSA Comprehensive European Food Consumption Database shows that coffee consumption by children is negligible and that of adolescents is very limited. A typical cup of black coffee contains 85mg of caffeine. The exact amount will vary depending on brewing method, strength of brew, cup size and type of coffee bean. A detailed overview on the amount of caffeine consumed in popular beverages is available in this info-graphic.
Coffee drinking is inherently self-limiting. Coffee is most commonly consumed as a hot beverage, savored sip by sip over time. The stimulating effects of caffeine become evident to coffee consumers gradually, and they will naturally adapt their continued consumption to their individual tolerance levels.
The effects of caffeine vary from one individual to another depending on genetics, metabolism, smoking habits, how much is normally consumed and (in case of women) pregnancy. It has long been acknowledged that pregnant women should moderate their caffeine intake to 200 mg per day from all sources. Coffee is much more than caffeine. There are many other components in coffee and the interaction between these components may have health benefits.