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What Is Coffee? History, Types, & More

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Coffee is a popular drink made from roasted coffee beans. The beans come from the seeds of the Coffea plant's berries. Keep reading to find out where it comes from, different processing methods, growing regions, and more.

As a coffee enthusiast, I want to know everything about my passion. I put together this guide to help us learn all the basic information about coffee.

Here’s what you’ll find:

This is where the fun begins.

Key Takeaways

  •  Coffee is a beverage made from roasted or unroasted beans
  • There are 4 main types of coffee beans, Liberica, Arabica, Robusta, & Excelsia
  • 3 different types of coffee processing methods include wet, dry, and semi-washed
  • 3 different types of roasts (light, medium, & dark) affect coffee’s taste and caffeine levels

What is Coffee?

Coffee is a beverage brewed from roasted or unroasted coffee beans. These beans are a type of berry harvested from the coffee plant (genus Coffea).

It has a stimulating effect on humans thanks to its caffeine content. A chemical the Coffea plants use to protect themselves against pests.

Because caffeine is toxic to most of them. But it’s not harmful to humans. Unless you intake over 4 cups (32 ounces) of coffee. Then caffeine could lead to health issues

What Is Coffee Made From?

Coffee comes from the seeds of the Coffea plant, which are often called coffee beans. These plants grow berries, and inside the berries, you’ll find the seeds.

To make coffee, farmers harvest the berries, process the seeds to remove the fruit, and then dry them. They then roast the dried seeds to different degrees to bring out desired flavors.

Finally, baristas and folks at home ground and brew the beans and make their drink of choice.

Coffee plants need specific growing conditions, like:

  1. Warm climate
  2. High altitude (2,000–6,000 feet above sea level)
  3. Well-drained soil
  4. Sufficient rainfall or irrigation (40–100 inches per year)
  5. Shade or partial sunlight

We have a lot to cover. We’ll begin with coffee’s history.

History of Coffee

Coffee’s history began in Ethiopia, where locals discovered its energizing effects. They chewed on coffee berries and noticed increased energy levels.

People then experimented with the berries, creating various beverages. The beans traveled to the Arabian Peninsula, where coffee cultivation started.

Yemen became the leading producer. And the beans spread through trade networks.

The 15th century saw the rise of coffeehouses in Arabia. People gathered there for conversation, music, and coffee. These establishments became known as Schools of the Wise [1].

In the 17th century, coffee arrived in Europe.

Europeans embraced the beverage, which sparked the creation of coffeehouses. These spaces served as social and intellectual hubs.

The Dutch, realizing coffee’s potential, began cultivating it in their colonies.

They planted coffee on the island of Java, now part of Indonesia. This started a global coffee trade, with other European countries following suit.

Coffee spread to the Americas through colonization.

In the 18th century, Brazil entered the coffee trade. Eventually, becoming the world’s largest coffee producer.

In the 20th century, coffee consumption grew, leading to the development of instant coffee. The commercial espresso machine also came alive, giving rise to espresso-based drinks. Specialty coffee shops emerged, elevating coffee culture.

Today, coffee is one of the most popular beverages worldwide. Folks enjoy it in various forms.

Types of Coffee Beans

Here are all the main coffee bean types:

Coffee Bean TypeFlavorOriginBest Drink
LibericaBold & smoky with a woody aromaWest & Central Africa, & Southeast AsiaEspresso
ArabicaSweet & nutty with a fruity acidityEthiopia, Colombia, Brazil, Guatemala, & Costa RicaDrip coffee
RobustaBitter & earthy with a grain-like tasteAfrica, Indonesia, & VietnamEspresso & Turkish coffee
ExcelsaTart & fruity with a hint of cinnamonSoutheast AsiaPour-over coffee

Different types of coffee beans compared.

Robusta beans need more caffeine to defend themselves since they come from areas with more pests. Because of this addition, these berries lead to drinks with a more bitter taste.

Arabica beans otherwise have less caffeine than their counterparts. Partially due to them growing in higher-altitude regions where fewer pests live.

These beans have a sweeter and more complex flavor due to their lack of caffeine and bitterness.

Different Types of Coffee Drinks Compared

Let’s compare many types of popular coffee drinks:

Coffee DrinkIngredients
AmericanoEspresso shots, hot water
LatteEspresso, steamed milk, milk foam
Red EyeCoffee, espresso
Black EyeCoffee, double shot of espresso
Dripped EyeCoffee, triple shot of espresso
Lazy EyeCoffee, quadruple shot of espresso
CappuccinoEspresso, steamed milk, milk foam
Manilo Long BlackEspresso, hot water, lemon peel
Flat WhiteEspresso, microfoam (steamed milk with small, fine bubbles)
CubanoEspresso, demerara sugar
Café CremaEspresso, hot water, crema (a layer of foam that forms on top of the espresso due to pressurized brewing)
ZorroDoppio, hot water, steamed milk
CortadoEspresso, steamed milk, small amount of milk foam
Café BreveEspresso, steamed half-and-half
Espresso RomanoEspresso, lemon peel
GuillermoMocha, orange peel
Irish CoffeeCoffee, Irish whiskey, sugar, heavy cream
Vienna CoffeeEspresso, whipped cream, chocolate shavings
GalãoEspresso, steamed milk, foam
MacchiatoEspresso, dollop of milk foam
Long MacchiatoDouble espresso, dollop of milk foam
MochaEspresso, chocolate syrup, steamed milk, milk foam
MarocchinoEspresso, cocoa powder, steamed milk, milk foam
Rápido y SucioEspresso, Mexican coffee liqueur
Freddo CappuccinoEspresso, cold milk, ice cubes, milk foam
Affogato al CaffeEspresso, vanilla ice cream
Café MediciDouble espresso, orange peel, chocolate syrup, whipped cream
Instant coffeeDehydrated coffee beans
Vietnamese coffeeBrewed coffee with condensed milk
Infused coffeeBrewed coffee that extracts flavors from coffee grounds
Boiled coffeeDrinks brewed when boiling coffee grounds
Canned coffeeCans of premade coffee
Vacuum coffee drinksCoffee brewed in a sealed container
Coffee with teaBrewed coffee mixed with tea
Fermented coffeeWhen coffee beans undergo fermentation before roasting

Ingredients in popular espresso-based drinks compared.

Coffee Growing Regions

Not every continent grows coffee. Coffee thrives in specific conditions found in the Bean Belt. This belt stretches between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.

Africa, South America, Central America, and Asia are in this zone.

Antarctica, Europe, and North America are not in the Bean Belt. They don’t grow coffee on a large scale. Some places in North America, like Hawaii and parts of California, produce small amounts of coffee.

However, the following areas account for most of the world’s coffee production:

  • Africa
  • South America
  • Central America
  • Asia

I’ll talk about how much of the global coffee production each area makes up for, in addition to some beans they’re famous for.


Africa makes up around 13% of the world’s coffee production [2].

Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee, has regions like Sidamo, Harrar, and Yirgacheffe. They produce beans with fruity flavors in Sidamo and Harrar, while Yirgacheffe beans have floral tastes.

Kenya is another top coffee country, with regions like Nyeri, Kirinyaga, and Kiambu. These areas grow beans that often boast bright and wine-like flavors, loved by many.

Tanzania has coffee farms on the northern part of Mount Kilimanjaro’s slopes. Here, they grow Kilimanjaro beans. Many know this coffee for its unique taste.

Rwanda and Burundi grow coffee too. Beans from these countries tend to have sweet and citrus flavors, making them a delightful choice.

South America

South America makes up around 46% of the world’s coffee production [3].

Brazil is the world’s biggest coffee producer, making up about 37% of global coffee output. Minas Gerais, São Paulo, and Espírito Santo serve as some of the key growing regions. The famous Sul de Minas beans from Minas Gerais have a smooth and sweet taste.

Colombia, another top coffee country, contributes about 8% of global production. Coffee grown in Huila, Nariño, and Antioquia. Colombian Supremo beans have a mild flavor, while Caturra beans are fruity and bright.

With regions like Chanchamayo and Tarapoto, Peru has a smaller coffee output.

Bolivia’s Yungas region grows the Bolivian Colonial Caranavi bean. This bean has a nutty flavor and citrus undertones.

Central America

Central America accounts for around 10% of the world’s coffee production. Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Honduras lead the way.

Guatemala has regions like Antigua, Huehuetenango, and Cobán. Antigua grows popular Bourbon beans with a wine-like taste.

Costa Rica has Tarrazú, Central Valley, and West Valley. Many know Tarrazú for its Costa Rican Strictly Hard Beans (SHB) beans, which have a bright and fruity flavor.

In Honduras, coffee grows in Copán, Montecillos, and Agalta. Copán is famous for its Lempira bean, which is well-balanced and mild.

Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Panama also grow coffee. They contribute to Central America’s diverse coffee culture.


Asia contributes about 30% of the world’s coffee production. Vietnam, Indonesia, and India are key players.

Vietnam has the Central Highlands, where they grow Robusta beans. These beans are strong and bold, with higher caffeine content.

Indonesia has regions like Sumatra, Java, and Sulawesi. Sumatra is famous for its Mandheling beans, which taste earthy and spicy.

They grow coffee in Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu in India. Karnataka produces Monsooned Malabar beans with a unique, mellow flavor.

Other Asian countries, like Thailand and the Philippines, also grow coffee. They add to the diverse flavors and styles of Asian coffee.

Possible Health Benefits & Risks of Drinking Coffee

Let’s check out the potential risks and benefits of drinking coffee [4, 5]:

Improves cognitive functionInsomnia & sleep disturbances
Enhances physical performanceIncreased heart rate & palpitations
Contains nutrients like B1, B2, B3, magnesium, & potassium *Acid reflux & heartburn
May lower risk of Type 2 diabetesAnxiety & restlessness
Reduces risk of Parkinson’s diseasePotential dependence on caffeine
Protects against Alzheimer’s diseaseBone loss in postmenopausal women
May lower risk of certain cancersStained teeth & enamel erosion
Supports liver healthPossible negative interactions with medication
Reduces risk of stroke
Health benefits and risks of drinking coffee compared.

* Coffee contains trace amounts of these nutrients. Don’t use coffee as a means to supplement these nutrients.

Different Methods of Brewing Coffee

Most of the different types of brewing methods include the following:

Coffee Brewing MethodBrewing Process
Drip CoffeeHot water drips through ground coffee held in a filter, extracting flavors into a carafe
French PressCoffee grounds steep in hot water, then a plunger separates the liquid from the grounds
EspressoHot water forces through finely ground coffee under high pressure, creating a concentrated shot
Pour OverHot water pours over coffee grounds in a cone-shaped filter, allowing gravity to extract the coffee
AeroPressCoffee grounds & hot water mix, then push through a filter using air pressure from a plunger
Moka PotWater heats in a bottom chamber, creating pressure that pushes the water through coffee grounds into an upper chamber
Cold BrewCoffee grounds steep in cold water for an extended period, then filtered
SiphonA combination of vacuum & vapor pressure brews coffee by pulling water through coffee grounds into a separate chamber
Turkish CoffeeFinely ground coffee boils with water and sugar, creating a thick, strong brew that includes the grounds
PercolatorWater repeatedly cycles through coffee grounds using gravity or pressure
Various coffee brewing methods.

Coffee Processing Methods

Here are the differences among different coffee processing methods:

  • Dry processing:
    • Also called “natural” processing
    • Beans dry in the sun with fruit still on
    • Takes longer, usually several weeks
    • Creates fruity, bold flavors
  • Wet processing:
    • Also called “washed” processing
    • Fruit is removed before drying
    • Beans soak in water, then are washed
    • Results in clean, bright flavors
  • Semi-washed processing:
    • Mix of dry and wet methods
    • Fruit partially removed before drying
    • Known as “honey” or “pulped natural” process
    • Offers a balance of fruity and clean flavors

I’ll cover details on these processing methods throughout the following sections.

Dry Processing

In dry- or natural processing, producers lay ripe coffee cherries out in the sun. They turn the cherries frequently to ensure even drying. After drying, they hull the cherries, removing the outer layer and revealing the green coffee beans.

This technique gives the coffee a sweet, fruity flavor profile.

Wet Processing

Wet processing, another coffee production method, removes the outer cherry skin. Then, producers ferment the remaining pulp-covered beans in water. This process loosens the pulp, making it easy to wash away. Finally, they dry the clean, green coffee beans.

Wet processing results in a brighter, cleaner flavor compared to dry processing.

Semi-washed Processing

Semi-washed processing, a hybrid coffee method, combines wet and dry techniques. Producers remove the outer cherry skin and then dry the beans, still covered in pulp. This process retains some fruitiness while adding a clean, bright flavor.

Semi-washed processing offers a unique taste profile, balancing the best of both wet and dry methods.

Coffee Bean Roasting Process Explained

The process starts by heating beans in a roaster. As the heat increases, beans crack, release moisture, and caramelize sugars.

Roasters monitor temperature and time closely, adjusting for desired roast level.

Light, medium, and dark roasts exhibit distinct flavors, highlighting the roaster’s artistry.

Coffee Roast Levels Compared

Let’s compare different roasting levels and how they impact coffee beans:

Coffee RoastTemperature Range (°F)Temperature Range (°C)Average Time to RoastTaste
Light350 °F–400 °F 175 °C–205 °C7–10 minBright & fruity
Medium410 °F–430 °F 210 °C–220 °C10–14 minBalanced & smooth
Dark440 °F–480 °F 225 °C–250 °C14–18 minBold & smoky
Different coffee roasts compared.

Coffee Roasting Effects on Flavor & Aroma

Let’s compare how different roasts affect a bean’s taste:

  • Light roast: retains fruity, floral notes and bright acidity; has subtle complexity
  • Medium roast: balances acidity and body; showcases origin flavors and roast character
  • Dark roast: emphasizes roast flavors, like caramel, chocolate, and smoky notes; muted acidity

Roasting doesn’t affect caffeine levels much. Light and dark roasts have similar caffeine content. But with slight variations due to bean density changes during roasting.


Keep reading to find frequently asked questions about coffee.

How Many Milligrams of Caffeine Is in a Cup of Coffee?

An 8 ounce (237 milliliters) cup of coffee usually has 94-120 mg of caffeine. The actual amount of caffeine will vary by factors such as roast type, bean type, and more.

What Is Vietnamese Coffee?

Vietnamese coffee (cà phê sữa đá in Vietnamese) is a coffee drink that mixes brewed coffee and condensed milk. There’s also Vietnamese egg coffee. It’s identical to the former drink, but with egg yolk added.

What Is Instant Coffee?

Instant coffee is dehydrated coffee crystals or powder derived from ground coffee beans. To brew this coffee, mix it with hot water.

What Is Red Eye Coffee?

Red eye coffee is an express-based drink where you pour an espresso shot over brewed coffee.

How Does the Roast Level Affect the Taste of Coffee?

The darker the roast, the less acidic your coffee tastes [6]. Darker roasts also have less complex flavors than light, since roasters roast the caffeine content out.

Why Does Coffee Make You Poop?

Coffee does make you poop because it may trigger contractions in your intestinal lining and colon.

How Is Coffee Decaffeinated?

Manufacturers warm and soak coffee beans in liquid to dissolve the caffeine coating the beans.


Learning the basics about coffee isn’t enough. If you’re on a journey to make the best-tasting coffee drinks like me, you’ll need to dive deeper into the rabbit hole.

I recommend talking about different types of coffee drinks.

Photo of author


Tim Lee is, as you might have guessed the founder of He is a former barista and a professional web publisher. He has now combined his knowledge and expertise in both subjects to create
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