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The history of coffee and where it is produced

Brief History of Coffee
Coffee is an ancient crop, with farming of coffee having begun around 3,000 years ago. There are several legends surrounding coffee, with stories of its consumption in the ancient Arab world, in countries like Ethiopia and Yemen. Coffee is believed to have originated in Kaffe and the hilly areas of Ethiopia around the 9th century. However, the first verifiable evidence of coffee drinking and use is around the 15th century, in Sufi monasteries in Yemen.

By the middle of the 16th century, coffee had been introduced to the rest of the Middle East and even Turkey and northern Africa. The first coffee shop, Kiva Han, was started in 1457 in Constantinople. The Ottoman Empire saw increased consumption of coffee for religious purposes.

Coffee seeds were first exported to Yemen from Ethiopia and was also smuggled into India by the end of the 17th century. Coffee then spread to Italy and the rest of Europe, where it was endorsed even by the Pope in 1600s. It quickly became popular throughout Europe as a drink fit for aristocrats.

Coffee is not indigenous to the U.S. and was introduced to the Americas in the early 1700s, as a result of the boom in global trading. The United States first encountered coffee during the Colonial period, and witnessed a huge spike in demand for it during the Revolutionary War. Since then, coffee demand has grown at a staggering pace within the U.S.

Where is Coffee Produced?
Coffee production is largely concentrated in the emerging markets, namely the hot areas of Africa and Asia, and the tropical highlands of the Western Hemisphere.

The world’s total coffee production in 2011 was 8.46 million metric tons. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, Brazil is the top producer and exporter for coffee by a wide margin (2.7 Millions of Metric Tons in 2011), followed by Vietnam, Colombia, Indonesia and Peru. Brazil and Colombia together account for more than 40% of the world’s coffee.  They produce mostly Arabica coffee while Vietnam is the leading producer of Robusta Coffee. The United States produced only 3,450 Metric Tons of coffee in 2011.

Coffee is currently produced by around 70 countries worldwide. For many of the top producers of coffee, coffee trade provides the bulk of the country’s foreign exchange, and is also responsible for a large share of their GDP.  Over a 100 million people in developing countries depend on the cash crop for their primary income, and coffee is responsible for most of the exports of African countries.

How is Coffee Used?
Coffee is the world’s most traded tropical agricultural commodity. In 2009, coffee trade was of 93.4 million bags, worth around $15.4 billion. Global coffee consumption was around 134 million bags, in 2009.

Coffee consumption has risen steadily over the years at around 1.2% annually, and has accelerated at around 2% per annum recently. The demand has grown at a high speed in Japan, which is now the world’s third largest coffee importer. However, the United States and Europe, despite being large coffee markets, have experienced lower growth rates.

Developed countries are the biggest consumers of coffee globally.  Europe drinks more coffee per capita than the rest of the world. Finland has the highest per capita consumption annually, followed by Norway, Iceland and Denmark. Developing nations like China and some coffee-producing South American countries are also experiencing swelling demand for coffee domestically.

The U.S. per capita coffee consumption is around 1.6 cups per day. It is the world’s largest importer of coffee, with companies like Nestle, Proctor and Gamble, Kraft and other roasting companies purchasing around 50% of the world’s annual production of coffee.

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