Coffee is more than a beverage. It has evolved from an energising drink into an international phenomenon. When the coffee plant, and the beans it produced, was first discovered in Ethiopia in the 10th century, its fame quickly spread throughout the Arabian Peninsula and by the 15th century coffee cultivation and trade was soaring, particularly in Yemen.
Coffee became wildly popular across Europe in the 17th century, with coffee houses springing up and quickly becoming centres of social activity in England, Austria, France, Holland and Germany. Today, coffee is cultivated in over 70 countries, with the largest producers being Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia, Indonesia and Ethiopia.
But coffee beans vary in their size, shape, colour and flavour depending on the region and the conditions in which they were grown. There are over 100 coffee species, but the main commercial varieties are Arabica, Robusta and – to a lesser extent – Liberica.