Coffee came to Sweden in 1685, but was initially considered mostly a kind of medicine. It wasn't until the middle of the 19th century that it caught on and became a popular drink. Around the same time, an enterprising 26-year-old registered the company "Victor Th Engwalls Handelshus i Gefle". In that year, 1853, Gävle had 9,500 inhabitants and no less than 80 competing retail firms – a tangible result of the city's importance as one of the country's most important port cities.

In 1913, Engwall bought his first own roasting plant to offer customers coffee with a better and more consistent quality than what you got when you roasted the coffee in shops or at home. In 1914, the name Gevalia was registered, but it was only in the 1920s that the name was really established: then it was printed on the red, pre-packaged coffee packets that they started selling.