Staresso: Coffee's origin story

Staresso: Coffee's origin story

Culturally, coffee is an important part of Ethiopian and Yemeni history. This cultural significance dates back to the 14th century, that is, coffee in Yemen, but perhaps also in Ethiopia. Depends on who you ask. When the coffee was found. First in Ethiopia or Yemen. Usage is a subject of debate, and each country has its own myths, legends, and facts about the beverage's origins.

Ethiopian coffee origin myth

In Ethiopia, the most popular myth about coffee usually goes something like this:
One day, in the highlands near the Abyssinian monastery, a shepherd from Kaffa named Kaldi was tending his goats. The goat began to jump around and bleat loudly, which was strange behavior for his flock. Caldy found that berries on a small bush were what made the sheep excited. Caldy decided to try the bright red berries for himself, and he also felt the refreshing effect of the coffee fruit.

randoms sheep with randoms dude eat coffee beans

Surprised by the discovery, the shepherd filled his pockets with coffee fruit and hurried home to tell his wife. She called the discovery "God-given" and suggested that Caldy share the berries with the monks. But Kardi did not get a warm welcome at the monastery. One monk called his coffee beans "the devil's work" and threw them into the fire. According to legend, the aroma wafting from the baked beans caught the attention of the monks. After removing the beans from the fire and crushing them to extinguish the embers, they tried to preserve them in a kettle with hot water. This newly brewed coffee had an aroma that attracted more monks. After trying it, they experienced the exhilarating effect for themselves. They vowed to drink coffee every day as an aid to their religious faith and to stay awake while praying.

The history of coffee in Ethiopia

The legend didn't appear in writing until 1671, and most accounts place Caldi's date at 850, so it's hard to say how much of it is truth and myth. Kaldi's story does coincide with the popular belief that Ethiopia began growing coffee in the 9th century (Yemeni accounts point to an earlier date). The legend didn't appear in writing until 1671, and most accounts place Caldi's date at 850, so it's hard to say how much of it is truth and myth. Kaldi's story does coincide with the popular belief that Ethiopia began growing coffee in the 9th century (Yemeni accounts point to an earlier date).

Some historians further believe that the custom of chewing coffee beans was brought from Kafar to Harar and Arabia by enslaved Sudanese. It is assumed that the enslaved Sudanese learned this custom from the Gala tribe in Ethiopia. In some areas of Kaffa and Siddharma, the tradition of drinking ground coffee in ghee still exists. Some people in Kaffa also add melted ghee to their brewed coffee to add flavor and make it more nutritious.
Around the 10th century, several indigenous tribes in Ethiopia ate coffee in something similar to porridge. Gradually, the consumption of coffee decreased and coffee beans became better known as a beverage. Some tribes ferment coffee cherries into a kind of wine, while others roast, grind and boil coffee beans into a liquid decoction.

The custom of brewing coffee became the most common form and spread to other places. When it spread to the Islamic world in the 13th century, coffee was brewed more intensely, similar to herbal decoctions. In this form, it is promoted as an effective medicine and a powerful prayer aid. Ethiopian, Turkish and Greek coffees continue these brewed coffee traditions.

The origin myth of coffee in Yemen

There is also a myth about the origin of coffee in Yemen, where a doctor and priest named Sheikh Omar was exiled to a desert cave near Mount Ousab. Omar was exiled because he decided to "keep" the princess after practicing medicine for her, and he was exiled by the king as punishment. After a period of exile, on the brink of starvation, Omar discovers the red berries of the coffee plant and tries to eat them. However, he found them too bitter to eat raw. He threw the berries into the fire, hoping to take away their bitter taste. This basic "toasting" technique causes the berries to harden and become unsuitable for chewing. Then Omar tried to soften them. As the roasted berries boiled, he noticed the pleasant aroma of the growing brown liquid and decided to drink the decocted beverage instead of eating the beans. He found the drink invigorating and shared his experience with others. The story of Omar's uplifting drink soon spread to his native Mocha. His exile was lifted and he was ordered to return home with the berries he had found. After returning to Mocha, he shared coffee beans and coffee drinks with others, who discovered that coffee can "cure" many diseases. It wasn't long before they hailed coffee as a miracle medicine and Omar as a saint. A monastery was built in Mocha to honor Omar.

Introduction of coffee to Europe

By the 17th century, coffee had spread to Europe and became popular throughout the continent. Some reacted to the new drink with suspicion or fear, calling it "the bitter invention of Satan." When coffee came to Venice in 1615, local clergy condemned it. The controversy over coffee was so great that even Pope Clement VIII was asked to intervene. He decided to taste the drink himself before making his decision and quickly liked it, so he gave the Pope's approval. Despite this controversy, cafes quickly became centers of social activity and exchange in major cities in England, Austria, France, Germany, and the Netherlands. By the mid-17th century, there were more than 300 cafes in London.

The new world

In 1714, the mayor of Amsterdam presented King Louis XIV of France with a coffee seedling. The king ordered it to be planted in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Paris, and in 1723, a young naval officer named Gabriel de Clieu obtained a seedling from the king's plant. After a series of challenging voyages, including terrible weather, vandals trying to destroy the seedlings, and attacks by pirates, he managed to safely transport the seedlings to Martinique.


Once planted, the sapling not only thrived, but over the next 50 years it is thought to have spread more than 18 million coffee trees across Martinique. Even more incredibly, this seedling is the mother of all coffee trees throughout the Caribbean, South and Central America. The famous Brazilian coffee is attributed to Francesco de Merleau-Palchta, who was sent by the Emperor to French Guiana to obtain coffee saplings. The French were reluctant to share it with him, but the wife of the governor General of France was charmed by his good looks and sent him a large bouquet of flowers before he left - with enough coffee seeds buried inside to start an industry worth billions of dollars today.
Missionaries and travelers, traders and colonists continued to bring coffee seeds to new lands, and coffee trees were planted all over the world. Plantations have been established in both magnificent tropical forests and rugged mountain plateaus. By the end of the 18th century, coffee had become one of the world's most profitable export crops. After crude oil, coffee is almost the most popular commodity in the world.

But at the end of the story, don't forget...

         It all started with one sheep.



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