Coffee History: 850-1500's

Author: Mike Norton  Date Posted:12 January 2019 

The History of Coffee Part 1: 850-1500's

850AD - An Ethiopian Legend

No one knows exactly how or when coffee was discovered, though there are many legends about its origin.

Coffee grown worldwide can trace its heritage back centuries to the ancient coffee forests on the Ethiopian plateau. There, legend says the goat herder Kaldi first discovered the potential of these beloved beans. 

"Where's my COFFEEE!!!"

The story goes that that Kaldi discovered coffee when he noticed that after eating the berries from a certain tree, his goats became so energetic that they did not want to sleep at night (the dancing goats). Kaldi decided to try some and when he did, he joined the dancing goats and became the happiest herder in Arabia!

Kaldi reported his findings to the abbot of the local monastery, who made a drink with the berries and found that it kept him alert through the long hours of evening prayer. The abbot shared his discovery with the other monks at the monastery, and knowledge of the energizing berries began to spread.

As word moved east and coffee reached the Arabian Peninsula, it began a journey which would spread these beans across the globe.

In 1000AD Physician and philosopher Avicenna Bukhara writes the first known literature about coffee, “It fortifies the members, it cleans the skin, and dries up the humidities that are under it and gives an excellent smell to all the body”. What a guy!

Enterprising Arab traders return to their homeland in 1100AD, now modern-day Yemen, with coffee from Ethiopia. They cultivate the plant for the first time on plantations and create a most satisfying, uplifting drink by boiling the beans in water. They called it "qahwa" meaning “that which prevents sleep.”

Incidentally qahwa, also written as "kahwah", is one of many words Arabs used for wine. You see, in the process of stripping the coffee bean's cherry-like husk, the pulp can be fermented to make a potent, alcoholic beverage with quite a kick in the palate – very interesting! While the Koran forbids wine or other such intoxicants, Muslims enamoured with coffee argue that the brew is actually a stimulant. Who’d have thunk it!!!

In 1453, Coffee is introduced to Constantinople by the Ottoman Empire. They learned how to roast and grind the coffee beans; they also added clove, cardamom, cinnamon and star anise for concocting those flavour variations that are filled by vanilla, hazelnut and pumpkin spice today – those clever guys!

The mufti of Aden whose name is Sheik Gemaleddin, travelled to Abyssinia in 1454 and sees his own citizens drinking coffee, so he joined in and the drink cures him of some unknown affliction and hey presto! His approval helps spread coffee's popularity all the way to Mecca.

Courtesy of "" 

Coffee soon spreads to Mecca and the world’s first known coffee shop, Kiva Han, open there in 1475. Turkish law makes it legal for a woman to divorce her husband if he fails to provide her with her daily quota of coffee – this is still the case in our house… =)

CLICK HERE FOR The History of Coffee Part 2: 16/1700's

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