So here’s the history of coffee, if you’ve ever wondered. Let’s begin with the most important bit. Coffee is an African plant. It actually originated from Ethiopia. Legend has it that the guy who discovered the magic of caffeine in coffee was a goat herder named Kaldi who was from the Ethiopian Province of Kaffa.
As Kaldi walked over the mountain pass, he watched his goats as they ate the red berries off one of the plants in front of him. A little while later, he noticed that his goats were buzzing around, focused on another level. Intrigued by what he had just witnessed, Kaldi picked some of the berries off the same branch and ate them. Initially he felt nothing. He was now very confused about what he had seen in his goats earlier. But over the next couple of minutes, as the caffeine started to infuse with his blood in his veins, Kaldi too began to get an extra source of energy.
Kaldi was so fascinated by what he had just encountered that he decided to take a couple of the coffee berries to the monks on the top of the mountain. The monks ate the beans and also felt the same energetic effects. The monks continued to use these berries for months as a stimulant to keep them awake during long prayers. They initially combined it with melted animal fat to make protein energy bars. Over time, the monks began to roast the beans and combine the grounds with hot water to make, what we know today as coffee.
Word of the caffeine creation spread through the lands towards Mecca and Medina. Plants travelled across the Red Sea and coffee propagation began in Yemen in the 15th Century. The Arabian traders and leaders of the time decided to ban the export of fertile coffee beans so they could keep control over the plant. However, sometime in the 17th Century a pilgrim named Baba Budan got hold of some fertile coffee beans. He snuck himself out the country with the fertile beans in his bag and that was when coffee began to spread around the world.
From Yemen, Baba Budan smuggled the coffee seeds onto a boat that he boarded to India. Coffee was then introduced to Europe after the Dutch stole a plant from Mocha in Yemen. Coffee then expanded quickly with plantations popping up in Ceylon, Java, Timor, Samatra, Celebes and Bali. The coffee plant then continued to expand at a rapid rate, popping up in locations all around the equatorial belt. Coffee then made itself over to the Western continents with the French introducing it to the Caribbean, the Portuguese to Brazil and the Spanish to the rest of South America. Coffee found a new home in South America with 60% of the world’s coffee still being produced within this region.
Since coffee grabbed Kaldi’s heart early in 6th century, it has grown rapidly into the hearts of everyone. Although coffee can only be grown on the equatorial belt, it has grown into a global phenomenon, consumed all over the globe. So much so that it’s become the second most traded commodity in the world, topped only by oil.
Writer: Sebastian Daniels