A Brief History of Coffee

Here at Cup to Cup we are always looking for more fun and fascinating info on the world of coffee. A while back we thought it would be fun to learn more about the history of coffee. We found several great sources sharing coffees history and learned much, but we also found that it took a lot of hunting and skimming to find all the info we wanted.
We wanted to share all of this great info to you our loving and adoring fans, but without the hassle of the hunting and searching that we had to do. So we decided to compile a condensed version of our findings.

We say all this to be clear on the point that this is not an original work. While we wrote the information in our own words, all of the backbreaking work was done by the likes of Mr William Ukers, Mr. Mark Pendergast, Mr. Stewart Allen and a host of others. We hope that reading this article will encourage you to delve into their books and should you wish for more info we would be happy to provide even more of the sources that went into this itty bitty work.

                                                              A Brief History of Coffee

Many foods and beverages that we enjoy today have been around since before history. We have no way to trace their origins or how they traveled around the globe to become the every day luxuries that they are.

Coffee however, is relatively new, making its debut to the world at large around the 16th century. That being the case we have the joy of seeing coffee from its infancy to childhood to the moody adolescent that it is today.

-Goats on Parade
Have you heard the story of Kaldi and his dancing goats? It’s a fantastic tale that’s wonderful in its ridiculousness, which is why we all love it so much. Here’s how it goes:
     Kaldi the Ethiopian goat herder was out in the fields minding his own business when he noticed something strange; when his goats ate the fruit of a specific bush they became lively and danced around. Kaldi gathered up some of the fruit and brought it to the local priests who promptly declared it evil and threw the berries into the fire. The berried burned and brought forth such a wonderful aroma that the declaration of evil was rescinded and the joy of roasted coffee was introduced to the world. Right.

    About the only thing about that story that is verifiable is that Kaldi was Ethiopian. How do we know that? Coffee originated from Ethiopia. That’s right, every coffee bush and bean has its heritage traced back to the country of Ethiopia. So it’s in Ethiopia that coffee starts its amazing and sometimes circuitous journey around the world.

     From Ethiopia coffee made it’s way to the Arabian Penninsula, specifically Yemen. Or it was already there. Details are sketchy, and everybody likes to take credit for things like discovery, but coffee is recorded to being found and used in Yemen as early as the 6th century and we can certainly credit Yemen with making coffee a popular product. The Yemenis were protective of their tasty product and had strict policies of boiling beans in water before transporting it from the port of al-Makkha (where we get the word “Mocha”) to prevent germination. But you can only keep a good thing at bay for so long. One legend tells of a monk traveling to Mecca bringing coffee plants back to India where it began cultivation. But for coffee to make a worldwide trip, it needed a country a little more connected. Enter the Dutch.

-Why We Should all Thank The Netherlands
   During the mid 17th century the Dutch were very interested in the prospects of coffee cultivation and trading and managed to take specimens from Yemen to Holland. By the late 17th century coffee plants were brought from the botanical gardens of the Netherlands to the island of Java (where we get the word “Java”). From Java coffee traveled to its surrounding neighbors in the East Indies where it became and is still today a major agricultural product of the region. Enter the French.

-Why We Should all Thank France
   Cuttings from Java made its way back to the botanical gardens of Amsterdam and were cultivated for further development. France, seeing how well the Dutch did with introducing coffee to their colonies, wanted to give it a go for themselves. After several unsuccessful attempts to bring cuttings of plants to France, a full-grown tree was brought to Louis XIV and placed in the Jardin de Plantes in Paris.

   In the early 18th century Captain Gabriel Matthieu de Clieu transported a single coffee plant, protected in a glass case and sharing Clieu’s water ration, to the island of Martinique in the Carribean. To say that the coffee thrived there would be an understatement. By the end of the 18th century there were over 18 million coffee trees growing in Martinique. From Martinique coffee was introduced to Haiti and the Dominican Republic, as well as Venezuela.

-There and Back Again

   Remember we mentioned circuitous routes? Coffee trees were introduced by the French to the island of Bourbon (now named Reunion Island) East of Madagascar around the same time of Captain Cleu’s harrowing journey. The island was enormously successful in cultivation, and one of the most well known varieties of coffee is named after the island. In 1901 Bourbon coffee made its way to Kenya where it again flourished. From Ethiopia, to Yemen to the Netherlands, to France, to Bourbon, to Kenya, the country directly under Ethiopia. Quite a winding route!

-A Global Effort
   By this time everybody had a hand in the game. We can thank the English for bringing coffee to Jamaica via India. The Jamaican Blue Mountain varietal is the main coffee cultivar found in the country of Papua New Guinea. The Spanish brought coffee to Costa Rica via Cuba, where it had been introduced to coffee from Santo Domingo. Brazil, the largest coffee producing country in the world can thank the Portuguese and an ambitious Belgian priest for its introduction to coffee. America’s contribution to the coffee world are the rare and expensive coffees found in Hawaii, which made their way there from Rio de Janeiro. After its introduction to Kenya, coffee then made its way into the interior of Africa.

-Where to Now?
   Coffee is always looking for new placed to make a home. Some forward thinking individuals are experimenting with coffee cultivation in some of the microclimates in California. Vietnam, the second largest producer of coffee (who knew?) is sharing the love with neighbors in Laos and China. While coffee grows the best in the altitudes just above and below the equator, there is some leeway, and countries previously depending on other crops like corn and wheat are considering coffee as a better investment. War ravaged countries like The Congo and Rwanda are finding healing and economic growth through coffee.
Wherever it ends up it’s pretty safe to say that coffee is here for the long-haul, and we’re all eternally grateful for it.

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Guatemala Origin Trip

First off, we are so sorry it has taken us so long to post up pics about this trip . Secondly, we are woefully behind in posts on this blog. For that we apologize. Our new plan is to post something on here once a month, with the hope of becoming even more regular than that. Keep us accountable and feel free to remind us if we are behind!

We had the great opportunity to visit the wonderful country of Guatemala this past March. Guatemala is dear to our heart. It is where the seeds of Cup to Cup were planted, so going back was very exciting!

Our friends at Thrive took us to visit some farms and the main processing facility for their Guatemalan coffees. We had the opportunity to visit El Tempixque farm and San Sebastian farm. These are pretty large farms in the Antigua region. They work in the Thrive chain by assisting smaller farms in processing coffees as well as giving small farms agricultural advice. Plus they’re really nice people with really great coffee.

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There is a huge difference between understanding the processing of coffee and actually seeing it in person. It was great to be able to ask questions to the mill manager, and get a better grasp of what happens to coffee after it has been harvested.

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We also got to see the small farmer aspect of growing coffee. Venicio is the president of a small farmer group outside of Guatemala City. He took us on a personal tour of his farm.

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Contrary to popular belief, origin trips aren’t about going to a country, walking through the woods and picking an area of land you like, asking for coffee from there and bringing it back in luggage on the plane. Origin trips are about establishing relationships, understanding the hard work the farmer puts in to his product and encouraging him in his work. Any requests that might happen in regards to processing or sorting would generally apply to the next year’s harvest, and coffee tasting rarely happens at the farm itself.

Fast forward to earlier this month where we had the opportunity to visit Thrive and cup from Venicio and his association’s coffee. The coffee is amazing! We are so excited to be carrying it and will be stocking up on a good supply because this is coffee worth sharing.

We also got to cup coffees from other farmers, including Franklin Garbanzo, a farmer we have been buying from for two years now.



We are continually learning about coffee, being blown away by its many aspects and being humbled by the amazing people we get to work with.

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State of the Cup

Once a year, we here at Cup to Cup post a blog about how our past year has gone. This is that time of year.


How was 2013? 2013 was amazing. It was our best year ever. Publicly, personally, strategically, qualityly and more!


This was a year of building new relationships and growing old ones.







New faces this year include Back in the Day Bakery, Coffee Deli, The Thirsty Monkey, and The Foundery Coffee Pub just to name a few!

We are beyond blessed to have such supportive family, friends, customers, and fans. This year Cup to Cup DOUBLED sales and is right on track to double again in 2014. Thank you thank you thank you thank you and thank you! Peace.



Coffee Spotlight: Garbanzo Nuñez Estate

We are so very blessed to be able to buy from some of the best coffee farmers that are out there. One of our newest farmer partners is Franklin Garbanzo, known as Don Franco. Don Franco is the producer of  the Garbanzo Nuñez estate (the Nuñez? Franklin’s wife’s maiden name). We met Don Franco through our friends at Thrive Farmer’s Coffee and are forever grateful for it! One of Thrive Farmers favorite quotes is, “Know who grows.” So we’d like to introduce you.


Don Franco’s farm sits on top of a little mountain in the famed Tarrazu region of Costa Rica. Over ten years ago Don Franco led fourteen farmers of the little valley of La Violetta in building a beneficio in their community. A befeficio is a coffee mill where the coffee fruit is taken and processed into the green coffee that comes to us roasters. Many coffee farmers sell just the coffee fruit or have to pay an additional cost to have their coffee processed, with no control over how the processing is done. By coming together and building their own mill, the farmers of La Violetta now have direct control over how the coffee is processed so that they can ensure they highest quality. It also cuts out a middle man, giving farmers more for their crop.


Don Franco and his daughter at their farm


Coffee flowers bloom only a few days a year, but when they do it’s beautiful!

Franklin describes the first time they operated the mill, “We had to process at night in the cold, wet and mud because the new machine was using all of the electricity available to the village.”  – See more at: http://www.thrivefarmers.com/thrive-farmers/meet-our-farmers/#sthash.rM5vcu22.dpuf

The farmers of La Violetta chose to take another step together and have partnered with Thrive Farmer’s Coffee, allowing them to sell their product directly to the roaster. That’s us! We buy coffee processed at the El Cedro mill that comes directly from Don Franco’s farm.

Costa Rica Tarrazu
We recently had a chance to talk with Don Franco and ask him some questions about his farm, coffee, Thrive, and sustainability. These words come from Don Franco, with a little help in translation.

Cup to Cup: How long have you and your family been in coffee?

Don Franco: I am (Franklin) the third generation of five total, my family has worked about fifty years in coffee.

Cup to Cup: Tell us about the mill in La Violetta and how it got started.

Don Franco: It has been nearly 15 years since the inception of El Beneficio El Cedro. Coffee prices were low, and farmers tried to find a solution, they tried with other crops, but it did not work, the only good crop for these lands was the coffee. Then of all farmers only fifteen decided to found El Beneficio El Cedro, trying to get better prices for their coffee, offering quality, not quantity.

Beneficio sign
Cup to Cup: Tell us about how the land is important to you and what you are doing to preserve it.

Don Franco: The land here, is all, is our life, we work in the land everyday.

What am I doing to preserve it? Nestled in harmony with nature without the use of chemicals that could harm the life of both vegetation and animals.

Cup to Cup: How do you choose the varietals of coffee you grow, and what is your favorite?

Don Franco: We choose the type of coffee plant on our farm, depending on many factors, such as climate, altitude, but above all cup quality, maintaining seed diversity. My favorite is the Gesha variety.

Cup to Cup: Finally, what is something you would like people in the United States who buy your coffee to know? Is there something you think we are missing or don’t understand about the coffee industry?

Franklin: I would like them to know where it is produced and the type of process used, who produces the coffee they are consuming, and be familiar with the variety they are drinking.

Also, to understand the effort that all farm families make to produce the best coffee in the world, and thanks to the coffee our children can go to school and university.

Also I’d like you to understand how little support that coffee agriculture in our country receives.

It’s folks like Don Franco that are making differences right now in the world of coffee, helping farmers improving quality for better prices to help secure their future and that of their children. We extremely happy to be working with Don Franco and hope to have a long relationship!


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Music and Coffee

“Ah! How sweet coffee tastes! Lovelier than a thousand kisses, sweeter far than muscatel wine!”- JS Bach

   Cup to Cup has always been a supporter of music. As you may know, we have a blend made for the Savannah Children’s Choir where half the proceeds of it’s sales go directly to the choir. 

   We were thrilled to take part this morning in a coffee tasting and music performance. Savannah Friends of Music has been supporting classical music in Savannah since 2003 and in that time has raised over $460,000. One of the ways they do that is through their Parties a-la-Carte program. This morning’s theme was Bach’s Coffee Cantata.



We were treated to a fantastic performance of the cantata sung by Kelly Balmaceda, Marcos Santos, and Kyle Hancock.


In addition to the performance, we were proud to introduce a new coffee: Maestro’s Blend. Named in honor of the Philharmonic’s own director Peter Shannon (an avid drinker of Cup to Cup Coffee) we tasted each coffee found in the blend, and then the completed blend itself. 

The Maestro’s Blend is available today online! You can purchase and have it shipped to you, or arrange for downtown pickup at ThincSavannah, which was the gracious host location for us this morning. Half the proceeds will go directly to the Philharmonic. Get some today!


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Boldly Going Where No Bean Has Gone Before

There comes a time in all our lives where bold steps must be taken to advance ourselves to a new level. This week we took such steps.


While doing some early Spring cleaning we came across a collection of green coffee samples. For a better understanding: when coffee roasters are choosing new coffees, they have small amounts sent to them, usually a half pound or less of the coffee or coffees they may be interested in. Sometimes all of those samples are roasted and tasted. Sometimes importers send several samples (even if you don’t ask for them) that don’t get roasted because it’s simply not a coffee we’re interested in buying.


We found our collection of green coffee samples we’ve collected over the past nearly four years (can you believe it?) we’ve been open. What do you do with such a collection? Many roasters will carefully store these samples, using them as references, and comparing varietals and screen sizes of past and future crops. Us? We made one big honkin’ blend out of them.

We took 28 coffees from around the globe, Central and South America, Africa, Yemen, Indonesia, regular, decaf … everything, and thew it all together. 11 pounds of this in that into one glorious creation.


The result? Interesting. We’ll go through a few of our cupping flavor profile notes to give you an idea. Fragrance is the descriptor roasters use to describe the smell of dry ground coffee. The Fragrance of this blend is … it’s like you went to a party with a friend of a friend, and you met a friend of your friends friend and had a conversation with them for about 5 minutes. Afterwards you thought, “He seemed nice. I mean, I wouldn’t want to spend more than 5 minutes with him, he’s a little weird, but was nice enough that I would wave to him if he was walking on the other side of the street.” That’s the fragrance.



We get the aroma when we add water. The aroma is the same as above, but you remembering that while putting on your work boots. So now every time you put your boots on, the smell of them triggers that memory.

Now to taste! Have you ever been to the Dollar Store and saw a box of chocolates there and thought, “Wow, a whole box of chocolates for a dollar!” and then bought them? Then had one and realized why they are a dollar. Then leave them on the dashboard in the sun. Then bring them home and putting them in the back of the cupboard because you can’t just throw them away, you just bought them. Then forgetting about them and finding them 3 years later and taking a bite out of one out of morbid curiosity? Like that. Plus grapes.

While in the end this is not a blend we will strive to duplicate for the masses, we feel like it was a success. For science if for nothing else.



Want to give it a try? Next time you place an online order, leave a note in the comment section and we’ll send you a sample! Peace.

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Overwhelmed by Awesome

It can be difficult as a coffee drinker to know what coffee to choose. You can go to the store. You can buy online, you can go to your local roaster. And then when you find something great you keep buying it. You want to support who you have bought it from and continue that purchasing relationship. But what happens when you want to try another coffee? Another region? Another shop? Do you keep buying what you love and will always love, or do you set it aside for a bit to try new things and give them a chance? Are you worried you will hurt the feelings of who you buy from if you stop buying from them for a while?

Roasters go through this same process. Right now at Cup to Cup we are absolutely thrilled with every coffee we have. Thrilled to pieces and more! We have worked very hard to establish and build our strong relationships and are working hard with our new relationships as well and are looking forward to seeing them grow. At the same time, there are coffees we have carried in the past that we love but don’t carry right now. And there are coffees we see we would like to take part in, to have available, to share with you, that we can’t carry right now because our offerings list is overflowing and the bags of beans are piled high in our tiny little roastery.

This is a wonderful problem to have, but a problem nonetheless. How does a coffee roaster maintain its fantastic relationships and continue to grow them year after year and manage to avoid stagnation as well? Always having the same thing can lead to boredom from the customer (no offense to you, but it’s true).

Seasonality is a thought and still has its merits. Coffee is a seasonal fruit and coffees from different regions grow at different times of the year giving us a chance to provide the freshest crops available for each season. But with the advent of protective packaging like Grainpro bags, this is becoming less of an issue as well preserved green coffee can last and taste super fresh all the way until the next harvest of that coffee arrives. Also, having an all Centeral American coffee lineup with no balance of other regions can take away from the variety of offerings customers want and expect out of a roaster.


What’s the answer? We don’t know. But we do know we love the coffees we have right now the the people we buy them from. And we know we are always looking for new coffees and relationships and continuing to grow interest in our customers to all aspects of coffee. A difficult task, but one we are excited about and happy to have you join us in. Peace.

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