The history of coffee goes at least as far back as the tenth century, with a number of reports and legends surrounding its first use. The native (undomesticated) origin of coffee is thought to have been Ethiopia. The earliest substantiated evidence of either coffee drinking or knowledge of the coffee tree is from the 15th century, in the Sufi monasteries of Yemen. By the 16th century, it had reached the rest of the Middle East, South India, Persia, Turkey, Northern Africa. Coffee then spread to the Balkans, Italy and to the rest of Europe, to South East Asia and then to America.

The first coffee plantation in Brasil occurred in 1727 when Lt. Col. Francisco de Melo Palheta smuggled seeds, still essentially from the germ plasm originally taken from Yemen to Batavia, from French Guiana. By the 1800s, Brazil’s harvests would turn coffee from an elite indulgence to a drink for the masses. Brazil, which like most other countries cultivates coffee as a commercial commodity, relied heavily on slave labor from Africa for the viability of the plantations until the abolition of slavery in 1888.

Brasil became the largest producer of coffee in the world by 1852 and it held that status ever since. It dominated world production, exporting more coffee than the rest of the world combined, from 1850 to 1950. The period since 1950 saw the widening of the playing field due to the emergence of several other major producers, most notably Colombia, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia and most recently, Vietnam, which overtook Colombia and became the second-largest producer in 1999 and reached 15% market share by 2011