Stories About Coffee

Steve GSeptember 4th, 2007
By: Steve G

Many people love coffee. Correction: A lot of people love coffee. Some people consume coffee for its intriguing flavor and aroma; others consider it a necessity to the beginning of every morning.

People all over the world drink over 1 billion cups of coffee a day, and the US accounts for 20% of that daily consumption. It is interesting that many people consume coffee, but very few know of its beginnings. Coffee is one of the oldest commodities in the world. Its origins can be traced back almost a thousand years.

Coffee in itself has transcended its practical use and has contributed to the cultural landscape in a myriad of ways. It provides a specific social niche that is hard to rival. It is one of the two major beverages to bring about a large number of specialty shops entirely devoted to its consumption (the other beverage is alcohol).

There are several stories that explain the discovery of coffee in different regions. Some could be considered myths or fairy tales. Here are some of the stories about the origins of coffee in certain regions.

The following stories has been compiled from various sources listed at the bottom of the article.

Story of Kaldi

One story of the discovery of coffee dates back to 1000 A.D. There are several variations of this tale, but most of the facts stay consistent.

According to legend, a goat herder named Kaldi from Caffa, Ethopia, realized that his goats did not return home one day. Kaldi decided to go look for his goats. Upon finding his goats, Kaldi noticed that they were acting strangely (apparently they were dancing) after eating red cherries from a certain bush. Intrigued, Kaldi decided to try the berries. Soon, he too was dancing around.

Around this time, a wise man named Aucuba crossed paths with Kaldi. Aucuba was tired, hungry, and on his way to prayers. Curious about the antics of Kaldi and his goats, Aucuba ate the berries from the bush.

Suddenly he was wide-awake and resumed his travels revitalized. Aucuba took some of the berries back with him and mixed the berries with the drinks at his monastery that kept people awake during prayer. Knowledge of this special drink soon spread to other towns, which is how the story of coffee spread throughout the known world.

A different variation of this story shows Kaldi taking the berries to the monastery. The monks believed these berries to be the work of the devil. The monk threw the berries into the fire, which released their aroma. The monk rescued the berries from the fire and eventually created the drink we consume today. The monks considered the drink a divine gift because it kept people awake during prayers.

Baba Budan: Coffee of India

Baba Budan was a respected holy man from India who is believed to have introduced coffee to the country. It is said that during a pilgrimage Baba snuck some seeds out of Arabia.

As legend has it, Baba bound seven beans to his stomach when he left Arabia. Upon his return home, Baba planted the beans in the hills of Chikmagalugur. Eventually these beans took root and coffee plants began to flourish in the region. These trees and their offspring are referred to as "Old Chick." To this day, Old Chick still provides about one-third of India's coffee supply.

College for a Penny

Coffee was first introduced in Italy through apothecaries, i.e. pharmacies, and street vendors. Coffee houses soon began to flourish in London. It was around this time that the coffee house movement became the new trend. Coffee houses soon grew out of their obvious function, and served as places to conduct social or business meetings.

Many people met in these houses to conduct business, discuss politics, and engage in conversation. The coffee house soon took on a new nickname: Penny University. The name basically meant that for the price of a cup of coffee, one could sit for hours and participate and educate themselves in certain fields.

Java and Mocha

Java and mocha have become synonymous with coffee, but where did the terms mocha and java originate from?

The Dutch brought coffee to Indonesia, and the first coffee plant was seeded in an area named Java. As the plants began to flourish, coffee soon became a major export for the area. The two main ports for coffee were in the port of Mocha in Yemen and the port of Java in Indonesia, hence the names.

Sources:

Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World by Mark Pendergrast.

The Joy of Coffee by Corby Kummer.

A wispy cup of coffee.
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