The Seed to Cup Journey: Origins of Coffee

Welcome to the Journey.

In these installments, we are going to follow the journey of a coffee seed all the way from its first days of being planted to when it ends up in your cup. I’m going to tell you what happens at every step and explain the benefits of Organic and Fair Trade practices along the way.

Are you ready to begin? Great.

The first step on this journey is how we all came to be addicted to the stuff in the first place. As with most things, the history of coffee is not entirely known, so we humans have done what we always do and filled in the gaps with a legend.
Gather around the campfire, because I’m about to tell you the spooky urban legend of the origins of coffee.
I’m just kidding! It’s not spooky at all! This story is actually quite amusing and fun! 

Sometime around 575 AD or 615 AD or any of the years in between give or take 50 years on both sides (thanks, everyone, this is super clear). Coffee was discovered in either Ethiopia or Yemen, depending who you ask. I say Ethiopia, but that’s just because that’s what I first heard.

Kaldi and his Goats

Up in the mountains of Ethiopia there was a young goat herder named Kaldi. Remember this name. This is the man you can thank (or blame) for your addiction to caffeine. Anyway, our friend Kaldi was herding his goats up in the mountains when he noticed they were acting strangely. They were dancing and jumping and seemed to have a lot of energy. “What is going on?” Young Kaldi thought to himself. He investigated and noticed that the goats behaved in this way only after they ate these mysterious red berries from some specific shrubs. “What are these magic energizing berries?” He thought. He collected some and tried them himself. (which is really unfortunate, because they probably didn’t taste very good). That night, he couldn’t sleep! He was kept awake all night buzzing with energy (been there, my friend).

Coffee and the Monks

The next day Kaldi returned to the mountain and gathered a whole bunch of these magic berries, and did the only logical thing and brought them to his local monastery.
“Monks!” He said, “I have discovered magic berries, they make my goats dance, and they gave me inexplicable energy!”*
The monks looked at Kaldi and scoffed!
“Silly boy!” The head Monk said, “These berries are clearly the work of the devil!” He took the berries from Kaldi and threw some into the fire. The berries burned and Kaldi returned to the mountains with his goats.

But the monks praying around the fire noticed something odd. A delicious aroma was rising from the fire. If these berries smell so good, they can’t possibly be evil! I’m sure anyone who has ever smelled freshly roasted coffee will agree with the ancient monks!
The monks used the remaining berries and gathered more and more to make soups. They believed that the energy-giving-berry-soup (read: coffee) gave them more of the energy they needed to spend more time praying and therefore be closer to God.

So now what?

Coffee soon spread all over the world (more on that next week), and into your kitchen or local coffee shop. Sometimes I wonder if these monks or if Kaldi knew that this discovery would be as pervasive as it is today.

What do you think? Have you ever heard this story before? Or do you know a different story of the origins of coffee? Drop a comment and let me know!
And don’t forget to check back next week for the next part of the journey!

*All of the dialogue is mostly speculation. I was not present for any of these events because I wasn’t alive in 575 or 615 A.D. and I have never been to Ethiopia (or Yemen for that matter).

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