No one knows exactly how or when coffee was discovered, although there are many legends about its origin.
An Ethiopian Legend
Coffee grown around the world can be traced back centuries to the ancient coffee forests of the Ethiopian plateau. There, legend has it that goat herder Kaldi first discovered the potential of these beloved beans.
The legacy of coffee dates back centuries to the ancient coffee forests of Ethiopia. There, a goat herder named Kaldi first discovered the potential of coffee beans.
The story goes that Kaldi discovered coffee after noticing that after eating berries from a certain tree, his goats became so energetic that they did not want to sleep at night.
Kaldi reported his findings to the abbot of the local monastery, who made a drink of berries and found that he kept him alert during the long hours of evening prayer. The abbot shared his discovery with the other monks of the monastery, and the knowledge of the energizing grains began to spread.
As the word moved east and coffee reached the Arabian Peninsula, a journey began to bring these beans to the globe.
The Arabian Peninsula
Cultivation and trade in coffee began in the Arabian Peninsula. Until the 15th century, coffee was grown in the Yemeni district of Arabia, and until the 16th century, it was known in Persia, Egypt, Syria, and Turkey.
Coffee was enjoyed not only in homes but also in the many public cafes - called qahveh khaneh - that began to appear in cities in the Middle East. The popularity of coffee houses was unmatched and people frequented them for all kinds of social activities.
Not only did the owners drink coffee and engage in conversations, but they also listened to music, watched performers, played chess, and kept up to date with the news. Cafes quickly became such an important center for the exchange of information that they were often referred to as the "Schools of the Wise."
With thousands of pilgrims visiting the holy city of Mecca each year around the world, knowledge of this "Arabian wine" has begun to spread.
Coffee Comes to Europe
European travelers from the Middle East have brought back stories of an unusual black drink. By the 17th century, coffee had made its way to Europe and was becoming popular across the continent.
Some people have reacted to this new drink with suspicion or fear, calling it "Satan's bitter invention." The local clergy condemned coffee when they came to Venice in 1615. The controversy was so great that Pope Clement VIII was asked to intervene. He decided to taste the drink for himself before making a decision and found the drink so satisfying that it gave him papal approval.
Despite such controversy, cafes quickly became centers of social activity and communication in the big cities of England, Austria, France, Germany, and the Netherlands. "Penny universities" have appeared in England, so-called because, for the price of a penny, you could buy a cup of coffee and have a stimulating conversation.
Coffee began to replace the usual breakfast drinks - beer and wine. Those who drank coffee instead of alcohol started the day alert and energized, and not surprisingly, the quality of their work was greatly improved. (We like to think of this as a forerunner of modern office coffee service.)
By the mid-17th century, there were over 300 cafes in London, many of which attracted customers with the same idea, including merchants, shippers, brokers, and artists.
Many businesses have grown out of these specialty cafes. Lloyd's in London, for example, appeared at Edward Lloyd's.