Coffee lore about the discovery of the beverage is fascinating
There was a time when we humans were fascinated by the both the speed and the limitless activity level of squirrels. Then, coffee was discovered, and we could own that speed and that level of activity. Without a caffeine boost, most of us are like sloths. We love coffee so much that we can safely assume that no coffee shop owner in the United States is poor as 150 million Americans drink coffee every day, and an average American consumes 3.1 cups of coffee a day.
Human kind's love for the smell, taste, and energy that coffee offers are so great that people actually created a large body of coffee lore and passed on the legends about the beverage for centuries now. It isn't always easy to separate out the reality from the fiction due to the differing coffee stories regarding its discovery. The best thing would be to discuss them all, and even better would be to brew yourself a cup before you start reading.
Coffee Grew From a God's Tears
Waaq, Waaqo, or Waaqa is a god that some Somalis and the Oromo, one of the largest Cushitic-speaking tribes in Ethiopia, believe in. Ethiopia, being regarded as the birthplace of coffee by most historians, highly prizes the commodity and has a culture that revolves around it. So much that it is the only country that keeps the highest quality of coffee that it grows for its population and exports only the inferior varieties (which are also amazing and popular and loved across the world).
The Oromo people in Ethiopia believe that once Waaq had to convict to death one of his very loyal men. The helplessness made him cry so much that his tears dripped from the sky onto the Ethiopian fields. As the legend goes, coffee then grew and originated from those tears for the first time. To this day, they believe that it grows only after Waaqo secretly sheds tears where they sow the seeds.
Omar's Magical Potion
Omar was a disciple of Sheikh Abul Hasan Schadheli. He lived in the town of Mocha in Yemen, where he was an aide and a healer. He was well known for healing his sick patients through meditation and prayer. The ruler of that time banished him (the reasons are unknown to this day) from the city and thus expected him to die in a cave in the desert out of hunger. The desert is located in the highland areas of the Southern tip of the Red Sea.
Alone, hungry, and helpless, Omar found some red berries and consumed them to survive. He found the berries bitter and ate them after boiling them and also drank the water he boiled them in. The word spread in Mocha that he had survived his banishment by fixing himself a magic potion. Omar was brought back to the city and became a saint. He started to treat his patients through his magic potion (coffee), which healed them of many ailments.
Goats Discovered Coffee
Hundreds of years ago coffee was discovered by Ethiopian goat herder Kaldi and his "dancing goats"
Most people say it was 1500 A.D, while some believe it was the 9th century, when Kaldi, a young Ethiopian goat herder, was herding his goats in the micro-region of Yirgacheffe and saw them eating bright red cherries. He noticed his goats becoming 'magically' overactive, and they did not sleep that night.
Kaldi told the story to the native monks who researched the cherries and ended up making a drink out of it that would help them stay up and active during the nights of prolonged prayers. Some versions of the story also mention the goats starting to dance after consuming the coffee cherries, and thus the discovery of coffee is often attributed to Kaldi's dancing goats.
The Arab who Satisfied 40 Virgins
Arab coffee lore about its discovery states that coffee was first tasted by a human when the angel, Gabriel, brought it to a man in Saudi Arabia. The man drank just one sip and went on to slay 40 enemies and made love to 40 virgins one after the other to their satisfaction.
Other Coffee Legends
There are some other less popular coffee stories as well:
Sheikh Abul Hasan Schadheli was traveling from Yemen to Ethiopia when he noticed some birds eating some berries. He tried the berries himself and felt their vigor and took some with him to Ethiopia, where the natives started growing it.
Coffee was first found in Saudi Arabia, and the rulers banned it from being taken outside of the country to keep it a secret for centuries. Some Indians, however, smuggled the beans to their country from where it spread across the globe.
What We Know For Sure
We can be sure, regarding coffee's history, that it was discovered in either Ethiopia or Yemen in the early 1500s and, during the century, quickly reached Egypt, Saudi Arabia, North Africa, Turkey, and Persia. Italy was the first country in the West to get it, and from there, it spread in Europe. The Dutch then took it to the Americas. In Britain, it was imported by the British East India Company. India and Japan got to taste it in the 17th century.
After the Battle of Vienna, the world's first real coffee houses came into Vienna in 1683. The first German coffeehouse was built in the 18th century in the North Sea Ports of the country. Martinique in the Caribbean was introduced to the elixir in 1720 when Gabriel de Clieu brought coffee seedlings into the city with him. Brazil saw coffee for the first time in 1727. There is a variety called 'Forest Coffee' that is grown wild in the Ethiopian wild forests. The only human intervention it sees is when people harvest it.
Coffee was eventually banned and prohibited in Saudi Arabia for decades as the rulers deemed it as something that promotes wastage of time and liberal thinking. In Europe, in the 17th century, when coffee was becoming more and more popular, a group deemed it as 'the invention of Satan' and coffee was about to get prohibited when Pope Clement VIII was convinced to try it once before passing the prohibition verdict. Thankfully, he found it amazing and gave it Papal consent.