The History of Coffee

The History of Coffee (Part 1)

According to one story, the effect of coffee beans on behavior was first recorded as being noticed by a goat herder from Kaffa Ethiopia in the 9th century named Kaldi as he tended his herd of goats. Over time he began to notice that the goats became hyperactive after eating the red “cherries” from a certain plant when they changed pastures. He tried a few himself, and was soon as “energized” as his herd of goats. The story relates that a monk happened by and scolded him for “partaking of the devil’s fruit.” However the monk soon discovered that this fruit from the shiny green plant could help him and his fellow monks to stay awake during their prayers.

There are earlier accounts dating back to the 6th century that, Arabs and Abyssinian's were already aware of the stimulating effects of coffee. Abyssinian's supposedly crushed the fruit and ate the peels while the Arabs made tea from the dried skin and pulp. Certainly at any time after the 6th century individuals may have roasted coffee for beverage preparation but there is no written record of roasted coffee until about the 13th century when word got around that coffee seeds had an intriguing aroma when burnt.

Another legend gives us the name for coffee or “mocha”. Sheik Abou'l Hasan Schadheli's disciple, Omar was banished to a desert cave near Ousab with his followers to die of starvation. In desperation, Omar had his friends cook, boil and eat the fruit from an unknown plant. Not only did the broth save the exiles, but their survival was taken as a religious sign by the residents of the nearest town, Mocha. The plant and its beverage were named Mocha to honor this event.

There are various fanciful but unlikely stories surrounding the discovery of the properties of roasted coffee beans. What we know with more certainty is that the succulent outer cherry flesh was eaten by slaves taken from present day Sudan into Yemen and Arabia, through the great port of its day, Mocha, now synonymous with coffee. Coffee was certainly being cultivated in Yemen by the 15th century and probably much earlier than that.

How it got from Ethiopia across the Red Sea to Yemen is mainly theory. The most likely scenario is the Ethiopian invasion of Southern Arabia in 525 a.d. The Ethiopians ruled Yemen for around fifty years, plenty of time to establish a growing cycle of tasty little red cherries…

Coffee created a new phenomenon - the coffeehouse. Once visitors from the rest of the world tasted this exciting new brew in the coffee houses of Mecca and Cairo, the spread of “Coffea Arabica”, was rapidly followed.

Protective of their discovery, Arabs refused to allow coffee seed to leave their country, mandating that all beans first be either parched or boiled. In 1650 AD a Muslim pilgrim named Baba Budan from India who was fascinated with the potential of these little red cherries, could not resist sneaking seven seeds out of Arabia by attaching them to his belly. As soon as Bada Budan reached his home, a cave near Chickmaglur in south India, he planted them and they flourished.

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