Origin of Coffee

Ethiopia, reputed to be the "birthplace of humanity," also gave us the world's second most-traded commodity--coffee. That is, if legend is to be believed.

According to popular lore, a goat herder by the name of Kalfi discovered coffee in the 9th century. One day, Kalfi noticed that his herd was unusually lively and energetic. A bit of detective work revealed that the goats had been eating strange berries from a nearby shrub. Operating under the premise that whatever is good for the herd is good for the herder, Kalfi decided to give the berries a taste test and the rest is history.

An alternative origin story credits coffee's discovery to Yemenite Sufi mystic Ghothul Akbar Nooruddin Abu al-Hasan al-Shadhili. The multi-monikered mystic made note of a vivacious flock of birds while visiting Ethiopia. Upon tasting the berries that the birds had been feeding on, he experienced their revitalizing properties firsthand. The berries, you guessed it, came from a coffee plant.

Last, but not least, is a tale about Sufi Sheik Abou'l Hasan Schadheli's disciple, Omar. While in exile, a starving Omar ate berries from a shrub, only to find them too bitter to the palate. Undeterred, he attempted to roast the berries to improve their flavor. Unfortunately, the roasting process made the beans too hard to chew. To soften up the roasted beans, Omar decided cook them in boiling water, which produced an aromatic drink with energizing properties. Sound familiar?

While the origin of coffee may be a bit murky, one thing is crystal clear -- this drink has come a long way from its humble roots.