History of coffee: the birth of the first coffees

History of coffee: the birth of the first coffees

Every morning millions of people start their day with a cup of coffee, but do you know the story behind this globally consumed drink? Discover the mysterious and legendary history of the most consumed drink in the world after water.

The master of the Sufis Ali ben Omar al-Shadili in Ethiopia

There are different stories relating to the discovery of coffee. The first legend suggests that the true origin of the coffee cherry would come from Ethiopia, in the region of Kaffa. The master of the mystical order of the Sufis, Ali ben Omar al-Shadili, also nicknamed the "saint of Moka" would indeed have found berries during an exile in the desert. He would one day have offered a drink made up of coffee cherries infused in hot water, to the captain of an Indian ship. The latter would then have appreciated the flavor of the coffee.

The story also goes that the Yemenis would have taken Ethiopian coffee plants in the 12th century, to carry out a roasted coffee trade in the Harrar, a veritable market place and historical center of the development of Islam.

The Khaldi shepherd and his goats in Yemen

Coffee farm in Yemen

If the real origins of the first coffee are unknown, another legend also feeds popular beliefs. It is that of the Kahldi shepherd of Abyssinia in the 8th century. The story goes that the first coffee was arguably grown in Yemen after being discovered by a shepherd who used to graze his goats in the Djebel Sabor, in the highlands of Yemen.

It was then that he noticed one day that his animals seemed much more lively than usual, that they were frolicking and jumping everywhere, day and night. After observing them for several days, he noticed that they were feasting on small red berries that looked like cherries. These came from a shrub: the coffee tree.

Intrigued, the shepherd then made the decision to bring his famous treasure back to the monastery of Cheodet to tell the monks of the city about his remarkable discovery. The monks decided to boil the cherries from the coffee tree in water to drink the beverage.

Some time later, the monks Sciadli and Aydrus, in charge of the harvest of coffee kernels were surprised by the rain and placed the damp coffee branches in the hearth of the fireplace to dry them during prayer. When they returned, the roasted cherry pits had spread a delicious smell in the room. The monks decided to reduce the cherries to powder before infusing them in hot water. And that's how the first would be born roasted coffee.

Coffee has a somewhat vague origin

A coffee tree and its fruit

The history of the origin of coffee remains relatively unclear even if everything suggests that it is in Ethiopia that the first coffee plant was born in 850 AD, Koffea Arabica.

As in all legends, we will surely never know what the true origin of the coffee cherry is. Some see the root and origin of the word coffee in Kaffa, name of a historical region in Ethiopia, others in qahwa (wine in Arabic) or even in ka et afa (contraction of "God" and "plants of the earth").

If it is difficult to know which is the most authentic story and to precisely locate its origin, that caffeine drink nonetheless remains the most consumed with nearly 400 billion cups of coffee drunk each year, that's over 1 coffees every second across the world!