Where does coffee come from?

Where does coffee come from

Coffee, our favorite drink that we can't live without. We can hear something about it in the Netherlands. Every day, about 6.5 million liters of coffee are drunk in our little country.

Did you know that we as Dutch people drink about 150 liters of coffee per person per year?

I get it though, it helps you start the day, you can end a nice meal with it and if you have the right coffee it's just super tasty!

But it doesn't grow here... How did we come to love that great drink and where exactly does it come from?

First of all, I'll make a short trip to the history of coffee and then come back to the 'coffee belt', the symbolic belt around the equator. Coffee beans are only grown in those regions.

The origin of coffee

The coffee plant was discovered in the 10th century in Ethiopia, where goat keeper Kaldi noticed that his herd of goats started dancing very happily after snacking on a certain shrub.

Only in the 15th century did this plant spread towards Yemen and ended up in the Middle East, where the coffee culture that we still know today originated.

From the 17th century, more and more Europeans started importing coffee beans from Arabia and coffee houses soon opened up in the major European cities.

The Netherlands has made coffee popular

In the end, it was the Dutch who succeeded in shipping the seeds of the coffee berries to the Indian colonies. Soon a very profitable coffee trade flourished and more and more coffee plantations appeared on the Indonesian islands.

Read also: The history of coffee beans

The coffee belt

The coffee plant, especially the Arabica plant, is a sensitive plant that needs a very specific living environment to thrive. It has to be nice and warm, it has to rain a lot and the soil has to be very fertile.

But it must not freeze. Only in a very specific area around the equator are these ideal conditions, which is why this area is also called the 'coffee belt'.

You can see exactly how this is done in the image below  belt runs and what the coffee producing countries are.

The coffee belt

Top 5 coffee producing countries

Currently, coffee grows on four different continents and in more than 40 countries. The largest producers are Brazil and Vietnam, followed by Colombia and Indonesia, with Ethiopia coming in last.

See below how much coffee is produced in these countries per year.


Production (in tons)











Source: https://www.atlasbig.com/en-us/countries-coffee-production

The coffee plant

Coffee beans come from the coffee plant. A kind of shrub that can grow very large. Coffee farmers trim them short to keep the harvest as workable as possible.

These plants grow branches full of coffee cherries, which contain the coffee seed that we call coffee beans. The two most famous types of coffee beans are the Arabica and the Robusta.

Coffee berries dried Photo: The Coffee Quest

Arabica coffee beans

Arabica coffee beans are the most popular coffee beans said to be the very first coffee plant ever. The arabica coffee beans are oval in shape, have a striking middle section and are often larger than Robusta beans.

Due to its complex flavors and present acidity, the Arabica coffee bean is loved by coffee connoisseurs because they have a sweeter and softer taste, with notes of fruit, flowers, chocolate and nuts.

Arabica coffee beans are generally more expensive than Robusta coffee beans. This is because this delicate bean is very demanding on its habitat and weather conditions, and it needs considerable heights to grow (between 500m and 2500m above sea level).

Also read: 100% arabica, what exactly is this?

Robusta coffee beans

Most Robusta coffee beans grow in Africa, Vietnam and Indonesia. Robusta has much lower acidity levels and therefore tastes less sweet.

Due to the lack of complexity and stronger flavours, the Robusta coffee bean can have flavors of wood and burnt rubber.

Traditionally, the Robusta coffee bean is popular for espressos because of the richer taste and firm crema layer that you get with these coffee beans.

Robusta coffee grows much lower (up to 1000m above sea level), produces more and faster fruits than the Arabica plant and has more berries per coffee bush.

Because these coffee beans are much less sensitive to diseases and weather conditions, they grow more easily and are generally a lot cheaper than Arabica coffee beans.

In addition, the Robusta beans also contain a lot more caffeine than Arabica beans, sometimes up to twice as much! This also explains why they have fewer natural enemies.

Where do decaffeinated coffee beans grow

Decaffeinated coffee beans do not exist, because caffeine occurs naturally in coffee beans.

Decaffeinated coffee is made through a process of washing the caffeine out with water. The coffee beans are then dried again so that they regain their normal moisture content.

Despite the fact that the coffee beans can be called decaffeinated after this process, a very small amount of caffeine always remains in the coffee bean.

Read also: Decaffeinated coffee aka decaf, how do you make it?

Read also: Decaffeinated coffee, everything you need to know.