Have you ever wondered where coffee came from? The history of coffee is a rather interesting one. There are many legends and stories related to coffee. I welcome you to join me on this expedition of finding out about the origin of coffee. Let’s embark on this adventure together.
Table of Contents
Where Did Coffee Originate?
You’ll find mainly two stories about the origin of coffee. There’s doubt if any of them are true. True or not, the stories are nevertheless quite fascinating. Let’s start with the first one.
The History of Coffee: Different Versions of Different Regions
Here comes the most awaited part of the article. There are many fascinating tales and real stories regarding coffee’s history out there. And, I am sure you will thoroughly enjoy the next sections.
So, what are we waiting for…
Ethiopian Version of Coffee
The Ethiopian story about the origin of coffee starts off like this…
Some eleven hundred years ago, a goatherd by the name of Kaldi lived in Kaffa, Ethiopia, and tended goats. One fine day, as he was herding his goats, he noticed that some of his goats were acting a bit strange, somewhat hyperactive.
He saw that the goats started acting this way after eating a specific type of berry, which was red. He became curious. So he tried one of the berries himself.
To his amazement, he felt much energized after consuming that particular berry. What a fine discovery!
He took some of the berries and went home. His wife saw them and suggested that he take them to the local monastery. So he did that. But the results were not to his expectation.
Seeing the energizing effect of the berries, a monk from the monastery couldn’t fathom its ability. So he did what every man afraid of the unknown does. He termed them to be “the works of the devil”.
After that, the monk threw away the berries into a blazing fire. What happened next caught the attention of the monks. After the berries and the beans got burnt, they spread a distinct aroma. It was to everyone’s liking.
So they picked up the leftovers of the beans and crumbled them. After that, they put the grounds in a cup and mixed water in it. Thus the first-ever cup of coffee came into existence.
Yemenite Version of Coffee
You’ll find multiple versions of the Yemeni origin story of coffee. Let’s go through them one by one.
Somewhere in Yemen, a man named Sheikh Umar, exiled from his land, was walking by some bushes searching for food. He came close to a type of berry and ate it to satiate his hunger.
But the taste of the berries was not to his liking. They were quite bitter. So he put the beans from the berries into a fire to roast them. Once they were roasted, he ground them and put them in a pot of boiling water.
The water became what we know today by the name of ‘Coffee’. It gave him a lot of energy. So he went back to his community and shared with them his discovery. The people became satisfied with what he brought, and his banishment was lifted.
Another version of the story states that Umar deliberately mixed the beans with hot water to make soup. This would make his meal tastier. So coffee came into being.
Another story goes like this…
There was a Yemenite Sufi traveler by the name of Abul Hasan Shazili. When his journey took him to Ethiopia, he found some birds eating a specific berry, which was making them highly energetic. This picked his interest, so he tried consuming them. The berries made him active as well.
Which Story Is True?
Although the stories about the history of coffee I mentioned above are fascinating, it is unlikely that any of them is authentic. This is because you won’t find substantial evidence for these stories. They are only legends and tales. However, that doesn’t nullify them from being true.
Both Ethiopia and Yemen are close to each other, and both of these places are famous for coffee production. Therefore, it’s natural to believe that coffee originated from either of these two places.
The History of Coffee: Reality
You won’t find any reliable document that coffee was introduced before the fifteenth century. Historical evidence says that the first use of coffee was to be found in the early years of the 15th century.
It came from Yemen. But it was not originally found in Yemen; rather it was imported there from Ethiopia. It was drunk by devout Sufis. This helped them remain energetic for long-night worships and rituals.
Gradually coffee had its journey towards the north, reaching Mecca and Medina. Then it didn’t take much time for coffee to spread to the entire middle east, Persia, Turkey, and North Africa. Soon after, it started going places all over the globe.
Hence, it is safe to say that coffee has its roots both in Ethiopia and Yemen.
How the Name Came Into Being Coffee?
The word coffee was originally taken from Arabic qahwa. After going from Arabian Peninsula to Turkey qahwa became kahve. kahve turned into Dutch koffie, which finally became the word coffee we all recognize today.
The History of Coffee: Spread to Different Countries
As we already learned, coffee started its journey from Ethiopia and first entered Yemen. The world was introduced to coffee through Yemen. It spread in the entire Muslim world, including Mecca and Medina. Then it had its journey towards Europe and Asia.
The knights of St. John captured some Turkish Muslim slaves. It was through these slaves that coffee put its first steps in Europe. This was halfway through the 16th century.
It flourished in Austria after a battle against the Turks. They also promoted the idea of adding milk and sugar to the cup.
Coffee entered the UK in the sixteenth century as well. It reached Poland in the 17th century through Ottoman merchants. Germany and France also received it in the seventeenth century and Italy in the sixteenth.
However, the Netherlands was the first to receive coffee among all of the European countries.
You might be surprised knowing that initially, coffee entered India neither through the East India Company nor through any merchant group; rather it was a devout Sufi who first introduced India to this famous beverage in the seventeenth century.
Like India, Japan also got to see coffee for the first time during the 17th century. The Dutch were the first ones to take it there. Initially, coffee couldn’t flourish much there, but in time it achieved quite a lot of popularity. And you will be amazed to learn that now Japan is among the top countries that have the most per-capita coffee consumers.
Another country famous for its coffee production is Indonesia. Guess who introduced coffee to them first. It was Dutch! They got to see coffee in the latter years of the seventeenth century.
If you are a coffee enthusiast, you are probably aware that there are mainly four types of coffee: Arabica, Robusta, Liberica, and Excelsa. Only a few countries produce all of these four types of coffee and the Philippines is one of them. They first obtained coffee in the eighteenth century.
One other Asian country famous for coffee production is Vietnam. They are on the top list of countries that export most coffee.
Coffee was brought to the Caribbean in the eighteenth century. Brazil became a very safe haven for coffee. By the mid-nineteenth century, Brazil had become the number one producer of coffee in the world. Brazil holds this record till today.
The Devil’s drink!
Surprised? Yes, coffee didn’t receive a warm welcome initially as Coffee was introduced to the world primarily by Muslims. For this reason, in the beginning, the western Christians despised and rejected it. It was considered a pagan beverage. Some even termed it The Devil’s Drink.
Only after a while, when its popularity grew, and more and more people started drinking coffee, the affair needed to be settled. So, people took it to Pope Clement the eighth.
Many thought that coffee would be officially banned. But the pope had a different idea in his mind. He drank some coffee himself and found it to his liking. Therefore, his conclusion was in favor of coffee.
However, just in case, as a preventive measure, he baptized the coffee beans so that they can be even safer to consume!
The History of Coffee Houses
Where were coffee houses established first? In the Arabian Peninsula. It was quite natural as coffee literally came out of there and set foot all over the world.
It was in the fifteenth century that coffee houses became a thing. Unlike bars, coffee houses were not for only entertainment and fun. People in coffee houses used to engage in all sorts of intellectual debates and arguments. It was a hub for the intellectuals of society.
As coffee went to Europe in the 16th century, so did coffee houses. But initially, coffee houses in these parts weren’t open for all. For example, the coffee houses in France and Britain didn’t allow women to participate.
Coffee: The Universal Medicine
During the early time of the advent of coffee, people overrated the drink and attributed it to many healing powers. People thought that coffee could heal many diseases including cough, headaches, and even miscarriages.
Either the people overestimated after exploring its energizing powers or just spread the rumors as a marketing strategy.
The History of Instant Coffee
The invention of instant coffee was something revolutionary. Coffee had already gained a lot of fame, and more and more people started drinking coffee. The advent of instant coffee just made it easier for the masses to drink coffee at will.
It was the American-Japanese scientist named Satori Kato who first developed instant coffee in the year 1901.
As a coffee lover myself, it is a pleasure to say that coffee is one of the world’s topmost consumed beverages. The history of coffee as we learned today has added further value to this drink.
This rich drink, with its rich history and variety, is continuously developing. People are diving into this drink now more than ever. And you, my friend, as a coffee lover, have become part of a community of billions around the globe.