Did Coffee Originate with Dancing Goats?

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By: Beth Garrison, CEO, Operant Coffee

"With every cup of coffee you drink, you partake of one of the great mysteries of cultural history."  -William Baker, 1891

I love this opening line of Bennet Alan Weinberg's The World of Caffeine.  According to Weinberg and his research, coffee has always grown wild in the highlands of Africa, but its origins and who exactly brewed that first cup of coffee from the Coffea's seeds is unknown.  The ancient history of Egyprtian, Greek, Roman, and Middle Eastern records mention no references to people drinking coffee.  The earliest reference is of the mid-fifteenth centrury Sufi monasteries in Yemen.

One of the first legends of how coffee came to exist is of the myth of Kaldi, the Ethiopian goatherd and his dancing goats.  The legend states that while Kaldi was pasturing his herd, they ate some seeds of a bright green plant (the Coffea).  The flock became energized, and began to dance.  Kaldi then tried some himself, and after feeling its effects, brought some berries to an Islamic holy man.  The holy man was not pleased with Kaldi, and his use of the berries, and threw them into the fire.  The berries roasted, and gave off the amazing aroma of coffee.  Changed by the aroma, the hardened berries were scraped from the embers, ground and brewed in hot water, thus giving us our first cup of coffee.

Despite this amazing story, many refute this legend to be just that, a legend.  It does not appear in early Arab sources, and seems to have originated in Western history.  Regardless, it is a great origin story, and since there are few references to how coffee originated, it is one that can live on in our imagination.

References:

Weinberg, Bennett Alan; Bealer, Bonnie K. (2001). The world of caffeine. Routledge. pp. 3–4

Have a theory on the origins of coffee?  Leave a comment below! 

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