MIAMI - MARCH 3:  Coffee beans pour out of a roaster to be bagged at Colonial Coffee Roasters March 3, 2008 in Miami, Florida. Coffee prices recently hit its highest level in a decade, as continuing weakness in the dollar kept many commodity markets soaring.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Food - Drink
The Historic Origins Of Roasting Coffee Beans
Coffee first grew in Ethiopia and quickly spread as an agricultural crop throughout Africa and the Middle East around the 6th century. When it comes to roasting and brewing coffee, there are several theories surrounding its history.
Many think that the tradition of roasting coffee beans began in the mountainous region of southern Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Historian Ian Berston links coffee roasting to a popular drink in the Southern Arabian Peninsula called qishr, made from boiled and brewed fruit husks, and theorizes that people began experimenting with roasting qishr's coffee bean byproducts.
Roasting, grinding, and brewing coffee was first documented in the Sarawat Mountains in modern-day Saudi Arabia. The 15th-century historian Abd Al Ghaffar observed and wrote about the Sufi mystics roasting beans over an open fire in a metal pan, stirring with a long metal spoon, and drinking coffee to help them stay awake in prayer.
With coffee's popularity rising came innovations, and in the 17th century, the cylindrical coffee roaster operated by a hand crank was developed in Cairo, Egypt. During the 19th century's industrial revolution, large-batch coffee machines appeared, and new components helped roasters track the beans during roasting.
The 20th century brought electricity to roasting, increasing safety and preciseness, and today's digital technology gives coffee roasting more accuracy, and roasters can understand the beans at a chemical level. However, even with the modernization of coffee roasting, in the Sarawat mountains of Saudi Arabia, coffee is grown and roasted traditionally over a fire in a smoky metal pan.