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Coffee Chains: All The Largest Coffee Chains You Need To Know

Walk down any street in any city, the world over, and it won’t be long before you pass by a coffee shop. In just a couple of decades, these establishments have become famous coffee chains and recognized by young and old alike. They have become an intrinsic part of our lives and culture.

A large part of our social and business lives will revolve around these Temples of Coffee as we play out all different scenarios inside these famous coffee chains.

So how did we get to this position? Where did all these different coffee shops come from? And how did we get to drinking coffee at all?

A Brief History of the Coffee Shop

The humble coffee bean has been around for 600 years and first appeared in Sufi temples in Yemen, Southern Arabia. Within the next 100 years, the coffee bean had spread through the Middle East, North Africa, and into Europe.

But it would be in the capital of the Ottoman Empire, Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul), that the first coffee shop appeared in 1475. It would also be the Ottoman’s influence that saw Europe’s first coffee shop, which opened in Venice, in 1645.

Within five years, the coffee craze had moved to England where the first establishment opened in Oxford, in 1650. In just 25 years by 1675, there were a total of 3,000 coffee shops spread over England. The craze for coffee was in full swing!

What is the second biggest coffee chain in the world?

Coffee is a popular daily staple. In fact, over 2.25 billion cups are consumed globally on a daily basis. Due to its popularity, we all know that Starbucks is king in the coffee game. But which coffee chain is the runner-up? It’s safe to say that Tim Hortons bags the silver.

Tim Horton is a Canadian-based cafe, donut shop, and fast-food restaurant which was founded in 1964. It ranks as the 3rd largest coffee chain with a presence in 14 countries and 4,949 locations worldwide. The chain generated $3 billion in gross annual sales revenue and plans on expanding heavily in Asia.

Within the coming years, they plan on aggressively investing in marketing in order to boost their product and branding strategies, with the goal of improving stakeholder experience and obtain a larger foothold in the market.

The due recent decline in sales and the Covid19 pandemic, these aggressive strategies are necessary to keep the company on top and competitive.

Frothy Coffee Conquers the World

It would be in the 1930s when the coffee bean took a dramatic turn and began its world domination. All caused by a man Snr Achille Gaggia living in Milan, in 1938 who would build the very first espresso machine.

This invention would turn coffee making on its head and quickly spread. By the early 1950s, espresso had swept across the rest of Italy and into Europe.

Espresso Coffee
Espresso Coffee

Not surprisingly, it would be an Italian named Pino Riservato, who opened the first espresso bar in the UK. The Moka Bar was located in Soho and opened in 1952 and within four years, another 400 coffee bars had opened their doors.

Cappuccino (or sometimes referred to as “frothy coffee”) would be the English coffee of choice. It was big business.

It wouldn’t take long before the coffee craze spread across the ocean and into North America. The first coffee shop to open was in San Francisco, in 1957 called “Cafe Trieste“. Alongside Italian immigrants enjoying their espressos, there would be the famous beat Poets of the time. Allen Ginsberg and Bob Kaufman supping on a brew.

It wouldn’t be long before these coffee bars had popped up in Greenwich Village and other places too. So though coffee and espresso had become commonplace around the world (fun fact: Seoul, South Korea has the most coffee shops with over 10,000 of them in the city), it had still not become a dominant industry, as it is today.

So let’s take a look at 10 of these most famous coffee chains and see some of their humble beginnings. Their food menu is as famous as their coffee with a whole variety of hot food as well as the usual pastries and doughnuts.

McCafe Coffee
McCafe Coffee


Maybe it wouldn’t be such a surprise to find that the hamburger giant. McDonald’s had stepped into the coffee arena. But the origins of the Golden Arches coffee shop are not in America but in Australia.

A separate business venture, that was founded by Ann brown, that was tied up with a regional branch of McDonald’s saw them open their first branch in Victoria, in 1993.

The rich-tasting coffee variations they offered, proved very successful, and further branches were opened around the country. Its business was even doing better than the burger outlet itself and it is still the best-selling coffee chain in Australia and New Zealand.

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It now spans the globe and reports are unclear, due to the rapid expansion, but there are anywhere between 5,000 to 15,000 branches.

Lavazza Coffee
Lavazza Coffee


Not just a famous coffee chain but a famous coffee of itself. This classic Italian brand began in Turin 126 years ago, in 1895, and is probably more well known for its coffee beans and espresso machines. But they do have coffee shops around the world, in 90 countries, selling their rich Italian roast coffees.

The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf
The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf

The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf

This famous coffee chain has old origins, as well, when it started in Southern California, in 1963. Beginning with coffee drinks, they began to branch out to other beverages, including tea, their ice blended drinks are the predecessor to Starbucks’ frappuccino.

Starbucks even tried to buy them out in 1991, though Mr. Hyman, the owner refused. In later years he sold the Asian arm of the company to two Singaporean brothers who rapidly grew the franchise through South East Asia. The company was eventually sold to the Filipino fast-food giant Jollibee, in 2019.

Their coffee, slightly stronger than Starbucks, would sell alongside similar beverages to their Seattle rival and offer a wide selection of hot food too.

Tully's Coffee
Tully’s Coffee


A famous coffee chain from Seattle that has fallen on hard times. It began in 1992, up in the Northwest, and was growing at the same time as Starbucks was expanding. A shop mainly focusing on their coffee products, it offered brews that were a little stronger, than their crosstown rival, but still a smooth beverage.

Financial issues would cripple the company in later years and stymie any growth they were hoping for. As other brands were opening more branches. Tully’s was closing them down and now they only have around 300 branches all told. Other than America, they have a strong presence in Japan.

Gloria Jean's Coffees
Gloria Jean’s Coffees

Gloria Jean’s

This famous coffee chain began life as a small venture in Long Grove, Illinois in 1979. But a couple of Australian advertising execs discovered the blend and decided to bring it home with them. After licensing the coffee brand, they began opening coffee shops around the country and later around Asia too.

At present, they have 460 stores in Australia as well as 1,000 in 39 countries. Though some stores offer food, they are more known for their coffee and ice blended products.

Caribou Coffee

Beginning with just one branch in Minnesota, in 1992 they have rapidly grown to over 600 branches worldwide. Now under German ownership, the brand has quickly become very successful with its menu of similar items to other rival coffee houses, which include a selection of bakery items and hot and ice blended beverages.

So here are the ‘Big Ten’ in famous coffee chains but maybe, you have some other coffee shops you like more. We were not able to discuss another Northwest brand, Seattle’s Best Coffee, or the hipster brew from London, Cafe Nero.

Maybe you know of a little coffee shop that rocks your world? For myself, I love a little coffee shop in Juneau, Alaska, called Hawaiian Coffee which made the best and creamiest cafe latte ever.

Maybe you like the latte from one store and the caramel macchiato from another? But who makes the best ice blended drink?

Let us know and tell us what you think! If famous coffee chains aren’t something you’re that interested in, try sampling the best independent coffee shops. Mandoe Media have put together a list of the best cities to try independent coffee.

About Rencel Leyran