From Kyoto to Your Cup: A Brief History of Cold Brew Coffee

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In this blog post, we’ll explore the history of cold brew coffee, from its origins in Japan to its modern-day popularity. So grab a cup of joe, and let’s dive in!

The History of Cold Brew Coffee

Cold brew coffee has been around for centuries2, with its earliest origins traced back to ancient China.

According to legend, a Chinese emperor discovered the refreshing taste of cold-brewed tea when a few tea leaves accidentally fell into his cup of cold water.

The practice of cold-brewing tea and coffee then spread to other parts of the world, including Japan and the Middle East. But the history of cold brew coffee doesn’t end there.

A Coffee Store Front In Kawagoe, Japan
A coffee store front in Kawagoe, Japan | Photo by Kentaro Toma on Unsplash

Cold Brew Coffee in Kyoto

In the 1600s, in the bustling city of Kyoto, Japan, something new was brewing. The Dutch3, known for their trading prowess, brought coffee to the region, and the locals quickly became enamored with the new beverage.

However, brewing coffee traditionally required heat, which was not always safe or practical. Fortunately, the Japanese had already mastered the art of cold-brewing tea.

It quickly became a sensation when they applied this same method to coffee. The locals called it “Kyoto-style coffee,” which became especially popular during the summer.

The process involved steeping coffee grounds in cold water for several hours, which resulted in a smooth, less bitter taste than the traditional hot-brewed coffee.

This innovation would eventually pave the way for the rise of cold brew coffee centuries later.

History Of Cold Brew Coffee
Cold brew coffee | Photo by Fernando Hernandez on Unsplash

Modern Cold Brew Culture

Cold brew coffee has taken the world by storm, and it’s no longer just a simple beverage; it’s a way of life.

The rise of this culture has been remarkable, leading to an entirely new level of coffee consumption.

In fact, you can find countless brands of bottled cold brew in almost every grocery store in the US and other parts of the world.

And from ready-to-drink bottles to DIY cold brew kits, there are tons of options for those who want to make cold brew at home or drink some on the go.

The cold brew culture has also given rise to a new range of products and accessories. Cold brew coffee makers, specialty mugs, and even beans specifically roasted for cold brewing have all become a part of this culture.

Ready To Drink Starbucks Cold Brew Coffee
Ready to drink Starbucks cold brew coffee | Photo by Joseph Gonzalez on Unsplash

From trying out new recipes to exploring different brewing techniques, the culture offers endless possibilities for coffee lovers to explore and enjoy.

Cold Brew and Sustainability

Cold brew coffee also has an eco-friendly side that is worth exploring. With the growing concern for sustainability and environmental consciousness, cold brew coffee has become a popular option for those looking to make more sustainable choices.

One of the most significant ways cold brew coffee promotes sustainability is by reducing energy consumption.

Unlike traditional hot coffee, cold brew coffee doesn’t require any heat during the brewing process.

It uses far less energy, making it an environmentally friendly option. In addition, the cold brewing process is a slower method that requires more time but less power.

Another aspect of cold brew coffee that promotes sustainability is reusable filters. Cold brew coffee can be made using various filters, including metal mesh or cloth filters, which can be washed and reused.

This reduces waste and eliminates the need for disposable paper filters that can harm the environment.

Also, cold brew coffee grounds can be composted, which is an eco-friendly way to dispose of them.

A Gardener Adding Coffee Grounds To Their Soil
Using coffee grounds in gardening | Photo by GreenForce Staffing on Unsplash

Coffee grounds contain valuable nutrients like carbon and nitrogen4, that can enrich the soil, making them an excellent addition to a compost pile.

This reduces waste and helps create a sustainable cycle of coffee production and waste management.

Top 3 Light-Roast Coffee Beans for Cold Brew

If you want to expand your coffee horizons, I highly suggest giving cold brew coffee a try. And, if you’re already a fan of cold brew coffee, let me suggest 3 of my favorite whole-bean coffees that are perfect for cold brew.

Check out my review of Spirit Animal Coffee, one of my top contenders! Click here to read more.


When did Starbucks start carrying cold brew?

When Did Starbucks Start Selling Cold Brew Coffee

Starbucks began selling cold brew in their cafes in 20155. Since then, it’s become a staple beverage and has inspired the super popular Nitro Cold Brew.

New Orleans Cold Brew History

In New Orleans, hot chicory coffee used to be the standard, but Phyllis Jordan, founder of PJ’s Coffee, changed that in 1978 when she created a sunny place for people to gather over coffee and conversation. One of her suppliers introduced her to the Toddy Coffee Maker, which allowed her to make cold-brew iced coffee that soon became popular in New Orleans. Poppy Cooker first reported this info for BizNewOrleans.

When did cold brew coffee become popular?

In 1840, the Mazargan, an iced coffee infused with lemon, became a popular drink. By the 1930s, the cold brew process was reinvented in Cuba, and iced coffee began to gain popularity across the United States. In 2015, Starbucks started selling cold brew, and since then, it’s taken the world by storm.


So there you have it, a brief history and overview of cold brew coffee. I hope this article has given you a decent look into the history of cold brew.


  2. Callow, ChloΓ« (2017). Cold Brew Coffee: Techniques, Recipes & Cocktails for Coffee’s Hottest Trend. Octopus Books. ISBN 978-1-78472-368-2
  3.  Hof, Karina (August 13, 2015). “Dutch Coffee: Batavia’s Slow-Dripped, Cooled Down Take On A Classic”Sprudge.
Avatar Of Kelsey Todd
With over two decades in the coffee industry, Kelsey is a seasoned professional barista with roots in Seattle and Santa Barbara. Accredited by The Coffee Association of America and a member of The Baristas Guild, he combines practical expertise with a profound understanding of coffee's history and cultural significance. Kelsey tries his best to balance family time with blogging time and fails miserably.

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