Coffee comes from the coffee tree, which is covered in dark green waxy leaves, and can grow to an astounding 30 feet in height. The fruit of the coffee tree is known as a cherry and within this cherry is a seed – the coffee bean. Coffee trees thrive in over 70 equatorially situated countries around the world, including nations in Africa, South and Southeast Asia, and Latin America.
Many coffee-producing nations sustain themselves purely on coffee exports. The Exporting Members of the International Coffee Organization are responsible for over 97% of world coffee output. The total coffee sector employment in 2010 was estimated at 26 million people in 52 coffee producing countries.
It is an accepted fact that the coffee tree probably originated in the southwestern Ethiopian province of Kaffa where the trees grow wild in the mountain rain forests.
Coffee was cultivated in Yemen well before the 15th century, and coffee began being regularly consumed in Sufi monasteries around Yemen in the mid-15th century. It is in the Arab world where coffee was first roasted, ground, and prepared in a manner quite similar to the way it is prepared now.
In a – perhaps misguided – attempt to prevent coffee cultivation elsewhere in the world, the Arabs imposed a ban on the export of fertile coffee beans. Eventually, this restriction was circumvented by the Dutch who brought coffee plants back to the Netherlands in 1616.