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Where does coffee come from?

Discovery of the coffee bean

Origin in Kaffa

Numerous tales tell the story of the discovery of the very first coffee bean and it´s very uniquely invigorating effect. According to a story written down in 1671, coffee was first discovered by the 9th-century Ethiopian goat-herder Kaldi. While roaming the countryside of the Ethiopian kingdom Kaffa with his goats, he noticed, that his goats started behaving erratically when eating the fruits of a mid-sized, dark green shrubbery with yellow and red berries.

Following his curiosity, he took some of those stimulating “magic berries” with him to the next monastery to have its effects explained to him by the chaplain. Declaring it a devilish temptation, the chaplain furiously tossed the berries into the fire. Shortly after, the unique and aromatic smell of roasted coffee rose from the fire, beguiling the monks. They quickly saved the beans from the fire and, sooner or later, brewed the very first coffee.

An alternative tale tells the story of the prophet Mohammed. One day he was overwhelmed by sleep while giving prayer. Quickly, Archangel Gabriel descended from the sky, bringing some fresh coffee to Mohammed, so he could continue with his prayers. The very same day, Mohammed threw 40 men out of their saddles and slept with 40 women!


Reinvention in Arabia

Today, there are about as many different stories about the discovery of coffee, as there are varieties of coffee. What we know for sure is, that coffee has been used by various cultures for quite some time. In Kaffa, people started eating coffee berries around one thousand years ago. They either ate raw coffee berries or processed them into a stiff dough made from animal fat and fleshed coffee beans.

Even though Kaffa is understood to be the place of the coffee´s birth, the Ethiopian province´s name is not responsible for the naming of coffee. In Ethiopia, coffee isn´t actually called coffee but rather “buna”. What is thought today is, that Arabic words like “kachve” (giving strength) or “qawah” (Wine, Drink) established European words like “coffee”, “café” or “Kaffee”. In Turkey, coffee is still called by the Arabic word “Kaveh” to this date.

About 1000 years after Christ, it wasn´t Ethiopians or Italians, but the Arabs, who became the very first to start roasting and grinding coffee beans to brew them up with hot water. They also became the first to cultivate coffee plants and build their first plantations in Yemen. From the discovery of the very first specimen of Coffea arabica all the way to its refinement to Italian Espresso as we know it today, coffee conducts a long, successful and very interesting journey.