All great superheroes have an origin story so why wouldn’t coffee? From filter brews to the Italian espresso, coffee has made its mark as one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world today. But how did we get here?
Legend has it that 9th-century Ethiopian goatherd Kaldi one day noticed his goats behaving erratically after eating the berries of a coffee plant. The same night his goats were so energetic that they did not sleep. In one version of the legend, he brings these berries (which contain green coffee beans) to a holy man. The priest forbids their consumption, referencing their sinful, stimulating properties. Kaldi obeys. He throws them into the fire, but the intoxicating aroma of freshly roasted coffee beans forces him to reconsider. He mixes the scorched remains with water and the first cup of coffee is born.
The widely accepted birthplace of coffee is Ethiopia, a country situated in the culturally and historically rich ‘Horn of Africa’. From here it was the Mufti of Aden, Gemaleddin who sampled the beverage and sung its praise. Aided by Ethiopia’s proximity, word of coffee caught wind and flew northeast to the Arab lands of Yemen and Mecca. It spread like wildfire.
Coffee beans remained confined to the Arab world for centuries until it they were eventually smuggled out into India in the 1600s. Under British occupation, India had various ports which allowed for trading with European countries and thus, the expansion of coffee truly began.
With ports in India, the French and the Dutch were notable early suppliers of coffee beans for the greater Europe region. North America served as the next destination for coffee as the Dutch colonised the new Amsterdam region and brought Kaldi’s 9th century discovery with them. From here, the first coffee houses were born and sprouted across the American continent.
After the Dutch claimed dominance of the coffee market, they allowed seedlings to be bought and spread. A gift to King Loius XV of France in the 18th century would see most of the world have access to coffee; the French spreading it through their colonies to places like the Caribbean. It was the French colony of Guiana from which the coffee bean spread to Brazil.
Brazil is currently one of the largest players in the coffee industry along with other South American countries such as Colombia. These places sport the perfect climate for bean growing and supply much of the world with quality coffee.
Good things take time, which is it took almost 9 centuries for coffee to spread around the world. Spoilt for choice in terms of origins, blends, roasts and brews, perhaps we should remember Kaldi who in the company of sleepless goats, seemed utterly content with some burnt seeds and hot water.
Blog by Urban Roaster, www.KaapiKaapi.com.au
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