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Coffee Legend

The history and development of the beverage that we know as coffee is varied and fascinating, involving chance occurrences, political intrigue, and the pursuit of wealth and power. Coffee’s roots are widely debated and like a fine wine, are shrouded in mystery and romance. There are many versions of how this extraordinary beverage came to be. It is not known exactly when the first person learned the effects of the coffee plant and brewed a drink from the berries, but there are two tales about the origins of coffee. The most well-known and well known is the legend of Kaldi, goatherder in Ethiopia. And second, comes from an Arabian doctor called Rhazes, who mentions it as a medicine from about 900 BC.

The legend tells the tale of Kaldi the goatherd, who lived in Ethiopia about 300 AD. He noticed that after the goats had been eating red berries from a tree, they were lively and energetic until late in the evening. Kaldi then took the “magic” berries to a nearby monastery where the abbot, believing them to be the work of the devil, threw them into the fire. This released the aroma of the coffee and the berries were hastily rescued from the flames and the monks learned how to make coffee.

He mentioned this to the monks in the nearby monastery, who from then on took the berries to stay awake during the nightly prayer gatherings. By chance they learned that the beans could be roasted and that a beverage prepared from the roasted beans not only produced the same effect, but also tasted far better. The monks considered coffee to be a gift from God as it helped them to stay awake during prayers. The coffee beans and the beverage made from them, were from then on regarded as a luxurious stimulant.

The name “coffee” does not come from Kaffa (its place of origin) but from the Arab word qahwa meaning wine, coffee or any drink made from plants. In fact when coffee reached Europe at the beginning of the 17th Century it was called “the wine of Arabia”.

Originally the coffee plant grew naturally in Ethopia, but once transplanted in Arabia was monopolized by them. One early use for coffee would have small appeal today. The Galla tribe from Ethiopia used coffee, but not as a drink. They would wrap the beans in animal stout as their only source of nutrition while on raiding parties. The Turks were the first country to adopt it as a drink, often adding spices such as clove, cinnamon, cardamom and anise to the brew.
Coffee was introduced much later to countries beyond Arabia whose inhabitants believed it to be a delicacy and guarded its secret as if they were top secret military plans. Transportation of the plant out of the Moslem nations was forbidden by the government. The actual spread of coffee was started illegally.

The Arabs originally obtained their coffee beans from Ethiopia but by the 14th Century they’d started to cultivate plants, taken during their raids, in the area of Yemen. The popularity of coffee was favoured by the fact that alcoholic drinks are forbidden by the Koran. So coffee was drunk at home and in the qahveh khaneh, the forerunner of today’s coffee houses or coffee-bars.
Coffee was believed by some Christians to be the devil’s drink. Pope Vincent III heard this and chose to taste it before he banished it. He loved it so much he baptized it, saying “coffee is so tasty it would be a pity to let the infidels have exclusive use of it.”

The first quantity of coffee reached the Western world through the Turks who left several sacks of beans behind after their defeat at the gates of Vienna in 1683. The Austrian quickly learned to roast it and make the aromatic beverage which they served with cakes, called kipfel, shaped like crescent moons, in celebration of the defeat of the Turks
Coffee today is grown and loved worldwide, and is one of the few crops that small farmers in third-world countries can profitably export.

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