Category • Best Coffee Buying Guide

A Brief History of Coffee

FreshGround | June 8, 2022

Most of us enjoy a hot cup of coffee in the morning when we get to work, but we rarely stop to take a minute and think about where our coffee has come from. In fact, coffee has a fascinating history steeped in legend. It all began back in the ninth century in Ethiopia.

In our latest blog, we look at the history of coffee from its humble beginnings to today. Now we have a coffee shop on every corner and coffee is the second-largest traded global commodity after oil.

Where it all started…

The story goes that there was a goat herder named Kaldi in Ethiopia. He accidentally discovered the energising effects of coffee after his goats got excited after eating coffee cherries. Kaldi himself also felt energised after eating the coffee cherries. He then went on to share them with monks at a nearby monastery. The monks threw the coffee cherries onto a fire and roasted them. They added them to water and that’s how the first cup of coffee was born! However, there’s much speculation as to whether this tale is totally true. However, one thing that we do know is that coffee did indeed originate from Ethiopia.

Coffee travels the globe

From Ethiopia, it’s believed that coffee made its way North. It was first discovered in Yemen back in the 15th century. Coffee then continued to travel across the world as people began to feel its energising properties. Coffee didn’t reach Europe until around the 17th century. According to prolific diary writer, Samuel Pepys, England’s first coffee house opened in Oxford in 1652. By 1700 there were up to 8,000 coffee houses in England. These were lively and sociable venues and would attract a diverse clientele. Today there are over three times that number of coffee shops in the UK with an estimated 24,000.

Who drinks the most coffee?

Whilst we love a warming cup of coffee here in the UK and drink approximately 95 million cups per day, our consumption is actually far lower than in other countries and we don’t get a mention in the top ten.

These are the top ten countries for consumption of coffee per capita:

  1. Finland
  2. Norway
  3. Iceland
  4. Denmark
  5. Netherlands
  6. Sweden
  7. Switzerland
  8. Belgium
  9. Luxembourg
  10. Canada

Valuing a great coffee experience

Around twenty years ago, if you ordered a coffee in a café, you’d likely get a cup of disappointing instant. But all that began to change with the introduction of quality coffee shops. People began to see the value of a great cup of freshly made coffee, and coffee chains began to gather momentum in the 90’s.

Since FreshGround was founded in 1982, we’ve also witnessed a huge growth of people enjoying a quality coffee experience in the workplace. More and more people are investing in office coffee machines to provide teams with a perfect cup of happy.

Get in touch

If you’re interested in providing your team with a quality coffee experience at work, please contact us on 020 7553 7900 or email