Brief History of Coffee

There is no way to prove its veracity, but the most common story starts around 850 AD with a goat herder named Kaldi in Ethiopia. Kaldi saw his goats become hyperactive and sleepless after eating the fruits of a tree. He took the fruits to a monk, who roasted and ground the seeds, and prepared a brew that the monk liked for its aroma and flavor, and that kept him alert during his long boring vigils. The story is nice, but we are more inclined to think that the actual story is more complicated. We don’t have any evidence, but here is our hypothesis.

Our species did not become extinct because our ancestors were extremely sharp-eyed, especially in regard to food. Their life ran on it, and the coffee tree has been in the mountains of Ethiopia since long before a Homo Sapiens appeared there. We know that the fruit (coffee cherries) that contains the coffee seed has a floral taste, although for other people it is somewhat bitter. Some describe it as similar to guava, and others similar to grass! The fruit contains caffeine so it would not be surprising that not only the goats but their shepherds ate them when the hunger tightened and at the same time getting a boost of energy thanks to caffeine.


On the other hand, for thousands of years, the human being has used fire. The collected seeds (before agriculture), or later harvested seeds, could be put to roast. We do not believe that it was a single person. Possibly dozens, for many years and in different places in Ethiopia, after eating the coffee cherries they thought: what do we do with these seeds? Chewing them is not very pleasant and we are hungry. How about we roast them to see what happens? The result pleased some, but not others. Like certain acquired tastes, those who liked it now had a sack full of roasted coffee beans which they could chew, instead of bruised coffee cherries of mediocre flavor.

Possibly dozens of other people, not necessarily a monk, but the grandmothers of the town, experts in making everything that was brought to them edible, saw those seeds of strong flavor and aroma and thought to grind them in their mortar and pestle and prepare an infusion, and voila, the coffee as we know it today was born. Someone added milk because it was very hot, another clarified butter (ghee) and another sweetened it. Possibly hundreds of grandmothers and one or two lethargic monks discovered a drink that the merchants later began to value and to take the coffee beans back to their villages. Maybe to Yemen first, right next to Ethiopia crossing the Red Sea. And from there to the rest of the world.

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