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When Was Coffee Introduced to Asia? Facts & FAQ

asian man drinking coffee

Making a fresh cup of coffee is a morning ritual for millions in America. What many don’t realize, however, is that coffee wasn’t developed in the U.S. but in several other countries, especially countries in Asia. Those include Japan, India, China, the Philippines, Turkey, Israel, and the other 48 countries in that region. From there, this important and hugely popular drink made its way around the globe one county at a time.

If you want to learn more about when coffee was introduced to Asia and how it happened, read on. We have the facts, a FAQ, and more info below that will make great reading with your morning cup of Joe!

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India’s Coffee Beans Were Borrowed from Arabia

If you look at the history of coffee in Europe, North America, and South America, much of its history is shrouded in mystery because coffee wasn’t native to those areas of the world. Instead, once introduced to coffee, travelers and adventurers from Europe and the Americas “borrowed” coffee beans and absconded with them back to their home countries.

That’s exactly what happened in Asia when an Indian man named Baba Budan went to Mocha, a port city in Yemen. At the time, Mocha was known for being the center of coffee in the Arab world, receiving the beans and shipping them to all other parts of Arabia. Budan was introduced to the magical, energy-providing drink and quickly fell in love with coffee.

Amazingly, Budan taped several coffee beans to his chest and smuggled them out of Mocha, a crime that could have landed him in trouble. Exporting grain or seed out of the country was strictly forbidden. He brought the beans back home and planted them in Chikmagalur. Chikmagalur is a small, hilly town where conditions are almost perfect for growing coffee beans. The conditions we so good that Arabica and Robusta coffee beans grew incredibly well. The rest of the story of coffee in India, as they say, is history, with the plant becoming a huge benefit to India’s economy.

arabica vs robusta coffee beans
Image Credit: Left – Arabica (willyvh, Pixabay) | Right – Robusta (Vietnamese_coffee, Pixabay)

How & When Did Coffee Arrive in Mocha, Yemen?

While Baba Budan’s story is interesting, the big question many have is how coffee arrived in Mocha. After all, it became so popular there that the word mocha was forever attached to coffee, and today, it is a drink made by mixing coffee and chocolate.

Not surprisingly, coffee arrived in Mocha thanks to a person who drank it in another country, loved the stuff, and brought coffee beans with them back home. A religious leader named Aldhabbani discovered coffee in Ethiopia. At the time, around the 15th century, coffee wasn’t known as coffee but instead was called qahwa.

Aldhabbani didn’t just enjoy coffee but also believed that it had curative powers. Also, unsurprisingly, qahwa helped the cleric stay awake and focused during long hours of prayer. Over several years, clerics from other countries began to take note of Aldhabbani’s newfound abilities, and qahwa began to spread to other countries, including Turkey, Egypt, Persia, Iran, and Afghanistan.

When Did Coffee Arrive in Vietnam?

The French introduced coffee in Vietnam in the early 19th century. By 1950, in an amazing twist, coffee processing plants in Vietnam began to open that produced instant coffee, which was heavily imported to the UK. About ¼ of the instant coffee sipped in England still comes from Vietnam today.

Not only that but coffee helped reinvigorate Vietnam after the war ended in 1975. At that time, nearly 90% of Vietnamese people lived under the poverty level. Today, thanks mainly in part to coffee, less than 10% of the people in Vietnam are impoverished.

making coffee using Vietnamese Phin
Image Credit: mallikamp, Shutterstock

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Coffee FAQ

When Was Coffee Introduced to Malaysia?

Chinese immigrants to Malaysia started bringing coffee to the country in the late 1800s.

Indonesia’s Love Affair With Coffee Began Around 1700

That’s when the Dutch East India Company brought seeds to the country for cultivation.

Is Coffee a Fruit or A Vegetable?

Coffee is a fruit because coffee beans come from coffee cherries. The beans, which are the seeds of the coffee, are found inside the cherry, which is edible in its raw form.

Which Country Drinks the Most Coffee?

Finland takes the prize as the world’s largest consumer of coffee. The average person in Finland drinks 4 cups of Java per day.

Finland flag in coffee beans
Image Credit: Per Bengtsson, Shutterstock

Which Asian Country Drinks the Most Coffee?

Japan is the winner in this category, with China bringing up the rear in 2nd place.

Do Coffee Cherries Taste Like Coffee?

No, coffee cherries taste like fruit since they’re sweet. They have been favorably compared to mango, watermelon, and apricots.

To Which Country Can Coffee Trace Its Heritage?

Ethiopia is said to be the cradle of coffee civilization.

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Final Thoughts

Coffee was introduced to Asia over several hundred years, reaching some countries like India in the 1500s and others closer to the 1900s. It was so popular that people kept smuggling coffee beans back to their home countries, mostly from Arabia, and planting them.

As the years spread and coffee’s amazing benefits became known, it became one of the most popular drinks on Earth! Coffee even replaced tea as the drink of choice in many countries, including Japan.

Featured Image Credit: Panumas Yanuthai, Shutterstock


Greg Iacono

Greg Iacono is a self-taught writer and former chiropractor who, ironically, retired early due to back problems. He spends his time writing scintillating content on a wide variety of subjects. Greg is also an accomplished video script writer known for his ability to take a complex subject and make it accessible for the layperson. Before retiring from chiropractic, Greg had clinics in 3 different countries, including the U.S., Belgium, and Peru. When not writing, Greg spends his time traveling, riding his motorcycle, and doting on his 7-year-old daughter, Valery. He also has a massive Lego city he built with his son, Alex, and is very proud of his daughter, Catherine, an accomplished graphic artist.

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