The Story Behind Coffee’s Discovery In Ethiopia

As oftentimes happens, stories from hundreds or thousands of years ago get mixed up when told today.  The story of coffee is no different.

When the origin story cannot even get the discoverer’s name correct (was it Kaldi or Khalid?), and cites the year this happened as sometime “around 750 AD,” then that is a sure sign that this story has seen some changes occur over time.

Most herders are very in tune with their animals, and as the story goes, Kaldi/Khalid one day noticed his goats were more exuberant than usual when part of his flock ate these red berries.

kaldi-full

Thinking, “hey, why don’t I eat random things that my goats who eat anything just ate?” Kaldi/Khalid figured he would eat the bright red berries as well.  And, of course, Kaldi/Khalid thought it would also be a good idea to eat this strange berry/cherry looking thing’s seed.

Well, he did, he noticed that he got peppier as well.

a-monk-tried-the-coffee

Thrilled with this discovery, he brought the red berries to a local Islamic monk.  The Islamic monk disapproved (he must’ve been a future Mormon, with his coffee foregoing ways), and the monk promptly threw the berries into a nearby fire.

As the story goes, the red berries began to cook and released an enticing aroma.  This aroma was so good, that they apparently thought nothing of raking the berries from the fire (now roasted seeds, ie coffee beans), and then deciding to grind them up and put them into boiling water.

monks

Now, who thinks a story like that sounds far-fetched?

In other versions of the story, Kaldi finds that his goats are dancing after eating the berries.

kaldi-coffee

Other stories have the local monks not throwing them in the fire at all, but rather consuming them and staying up all night praying with a fervor and energy they had long sought after.

These early reports of where coffee came from are not very well substantiated though, as we mentioned earlier.  Some reports have this not occurring in Ethiopia at all, but rather in Yemen, and by people of other names and slightly different stories.

The claim that coffee originated in Yemen may not be far off, as the first actual evidence of coffee drinking and knowledge of the coffee tree does indeed come from Islamic monks in Yemen in the 15th century.

arab-coffee-house2-300x244

By the 16th century there are reports of coffee across the Middle East, and shortly after in parts of Europe.

Either way, the origin of coffee has always been interesting to me, and has placed extra reverence for Ethiopian and Yemeni coffee whenever we provide it.

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