A Goat Farmer & The Discovery Of Coffee

Have you ever stopped to think about where your coffee comes from? What is the history of coffee and why has it become such an important treat to us all?

Another question you may be thinking is why has it become so popular? Well, to answer that it is worth reading another one of our recent articles regarding the health benefits of coffee - although this is just one of many reasons it is as popular as it is today. 

The very beginning

green coffee berries on a tree

In the beginning there was a goat farmer in Ethiopia and it is them that we have to thank for discovering coffee and allowing us to enjoy it to this day.

Although, many people will dispute this fact and say that the discovery of coffee comes from another source.

However, if you do believe this particular story about coffee then, according to the legend, a goat herder called Kaldi noticed that after some of his goats ate a bright red cherry found on the coffee plant, that they seemed to have a boost in their energy.

Running and jumping around, leaping over the other goats who were eating their usual grass and foliage.

The only trouble with this is that those goats then found themselves unable to sleep at night, as they had far too much energy and instead they continued to bound around.

Deciding that he wanted to know more about these magical cherries (or beans as we know them today) Kaldi tried one for himself.

He was surprised to learn that, just like the goat, he felt full of energy and ready to tackle anything.

He did contemplate keeping this information to himself, but he realised that it was just too good not to share, so, Kaldi decided to share his discovery with the local monks.

The monks did not share in his joy and instead they threw the beans into the fire to get rid of them.

However, as the beans burnt, they noticed that a rather pleasant scent was being emitted, so, deciding that they wanted to actually learn more about them, the monks then dug out the beans from the flames.

The beans were pretty broken and burnt at this time, so, the monks decided to crush them up even further and then add them to water, rather than try to eat them.

They found that when they drank the rather murky brown water that they had a sudden rush of energy.

Rather than bouncing around like goats, this meant that the monks could then stay awake later for an evening mass.

Impressed by what they had found and wanting to help their fellow brothers, they decided to share around this information with other local monks, which then spread the idea of drinking coffee beans.

Now, we cannot be sure that this is the right story of course: and there are tons of theories on where coffee came from in those early days.

However, one thing is for sure, it originated in Africa and it is very likely that this can be pinned down even further to Ethiopia.

The National Coffee Association provide more details on where coffee originated which is well worth a read. 

Harvesting coffee

coffee roasting

Much like the actual origins of ingesting coffee to have an energy boost, we don’t really know where the idea of roasting and brewing coffee came from.

But, chances are that it wasn’t a quick thing, instead it developed over time and certainly took a while to become the huge business that it is now.

What we do know is that coffee, as a drink first started spreading across the Arabian Peninsula, it is thought that the first place to see coffee outside of Ethiopia was Yemen.

However, it spread out throughout the 16th century and by the end it was already in the Middle East, Persia and Turkey.

That said, it only reached those areas in its roasted, boiled or baked form, as those who grew it were keen to ensure that it stayed with them.

A rather clever business choice if you ask us.

However, much like many things that are controlled, yet sought after, it didn’t take long for green coffee beans to be taken away from these growers and smuggled to someone else.

The man who was responsible for this is Sufi Baba Budan and depending on who you ask he either strapped the coffee beans to his chest, or, he hid them in his rather impressive beard.

Either way, he managed to reach his native India and is there that he planted the beans ready to grow.

This is the base from where the idea of coffee plants spread even further afield and reached European shores too.

Lincoln & York provide a more in-depth information regarding coffee roasting and its origins which is a fascinating read also. 

A European approach to coffee

coffee bean shoots which were spread across Europe

When coffee made its way into Europe it was reserved for the rich and noble people, as a luxury item for them to enjoy.

However, whilst it was part of the elite for some time, it soon became something that was enjoyed throughout society and coffee houses started to pop up in cities around Europe.

It was in these coffee houses that anyone could buy a cup of coffee, so long as they could afford to pay the prices of course.

As the demand for coffee increased, so did the supply and more people began to try and search for a coffee tree that they could plant and then have coffee to harvest.

The first people in Europe to do this were the Dutch and the earliest coffee trees grew in the Amsterdam Botanical Gardens.

It did take some time, but the Dutch people decided to hand over some of their clippings to the French King as a gift which then, in turn, led to coffee plants being moved around the world, before being harvested throughout South America, Central America and Mexico.

Where it is still a commodity that is produced in vast quantities before being shipped around the world, particularly in Brazil.

Coffee is now a worldwide phenomenon and it is something that is grown, harvested and produced en masse.

For a full list of the current countries who grow coffee and their capacities, wiki show a comprehensive table on this. 

It is strange to think that it could have come from a simple goat farmer now to be a drink that you can grab on every high street as well as something that you can order as a coffee subscription, just like at Coffee Toms (very soon...). 

If you are a coffee lover and want to know the best ways of brewing coffee at home, why not give one of our recent articles a read? 

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