Get To Know Your Coffee

The Birth of Coffee

Junior Racine
April 18, 2019

The Birth of Coffee

The Birth of Coffee

There is an old legend that is said to tell the tale of the origin and birth of coffee as we know it today. Here, written for your pleasure, a short story, and twist about how we came to love and enjoy coffee.

Kaldi the Goat Herder

There was once a goat-herder named Kaldi, who lived in 9th century Ethiopia. One day, walking behind his heard in the Kaffa Kingdom mountain, he noticed his flock of goats behaving rather... excitedly. He could see them in the higher hills, running around frantically as though they had no care in the world... less so than usual - for Kaldi, was a good shepherd.

Discovery of the Cherries

The man thought this behavior was something that should be investigated and so he went to see what had riled up his usually docile, happy beasts. What he saw was curious indeed, there was bush like trees covering the mountainside, dawned with little red cherries. Now, this wasn't a usually strange thing, of course, his animals often feasted on the berries that covered the bushes in the wild. This was good - the butcher always paid a mighty sum of birr for the healthiest, fattest ones. But, could this be the source of such joyful energy?

These cherries seemed to have effects that were more than the average sugar rush. So, like the good shepherd that he was, he tried a cherry for himself. The cherries weren't any different than what one would expect from red fruit, they were sweet. So, he sat with his excited heard and ate, glad for the meal. Maybe they would have no effect, he thought, for everyone knows "the true strength of man is greater than of any beast" he muttered to himself.

The Coffee Trial of Fire

Some time had passed, and he decided that it was time for him to take the flock back to his village, the sun was setting beyond the horizon and predators were amiss. That’s when it hit him! Like the rushing force of the Blue Nile, he felt a thrust of energy pulsate through his body. He felt like a renewed man! He felt as though if he were to run, he could run forever. Nothing could get in his way, he could leap over boulders and mountains with a twitch of his ankle. "Food of the Gods! Such power! Such exhilaration!" he exclaimed.

Coffee meets the Monks

He gathered his flock as quickly as he could, for the elders should know of this. Word traveled quickly, the village was already buzzing with excitement about news of the aphrodisiac treasure discovered by Kaldi the goat-herder. The elders brought Kaldi and his berries of power to the monastery, for they would know what to do. But alas, the monks, always cautious in their actions, dashed away their hopes of reaching the high heavens and told them that the cherries were not to be consumed by man, "You seek to bring the fury of the Gods!" they condemned. The monks banished the cherries into a nearby fire, for fear of punishment by those that held sacred dominion over them.  

As the berries sizzled and crisped in the fire, the room was filled with an aroma so magnificent, so divine, it took the lot by surprise. Everyone huddled around the fire, breathing in deeply, very deeply, their nostrils tingled with sensations none had ever known. Then, suddenly, the monks dashed away into a dark corner of the monastery halls to congregate on what this could mean.

"Perhaps... we were too brash… could this be a blessing...?" the youngest asked timidly.

“Hold your tongue or I will feed it AND your thoughts to the rats! Perhaps the elder might suggest a thing to do?” another said.

As if by decades of unison practice, they all thought with one mind, no words were needed. The eldest of all the monks nodded, and the others understood. They ran back and took out what was left of the cherries, now a browner, darker and harder version of its former self for only the burnt seed remained. They crushed them in a cup and poured boiling water slowly over them... the clear water had turned to gold…

And the rest is history.

The Ethiopian name for coffee is bunn. The Dutch word koffie is pretty much the same name we all use today which was originally derived from the Ottoman Turkish word, kahve which was borrowed from the Arabic word qahwah.

The Arabic word qahwah was used primarily to refer to a certain kind of wine that could suppress hunger. When translated and traced, the word qahwah means power or energy.

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