The History of Coffee and Coffeehouses, 600 CE -2004

Coffee Timeline Coffee Discovered in Ethiopia Coffee in the Arab World Coffee Reaches Europe The Coffeehouse Phenomenom Which is Modern? Bibliography

Abyssinia, 600 CE: Coffee Discovered by Young Goatherd

      It is believed that coffee was first discovered in Abyssinia (present day Ethiopia) in the seventh century. As the legend goes, a young goatherd named Kaldi blew his horn to call back his grazing goats, but they were nowhere to be seen. He began to search for his herd and eventually found them amid the vast forest of Ethiopia’s highlands. To his surprise, the goats were frolicking about on their hind legs, dancing, and bucking each other. Kaldi noticed that they were eating little red berries from a strange tree that he had never seen before. He tried the red berries himself and before long he too was dancing with the goats and reciting poetry, and songs. He thought that he would never be grouchy again.7.

After the discovery of coffee, the Ethiopians, eager for the stimulating effect of the caffeine, consumed it by masticating the leaves and whole berries. But they quickly developed new ways in which to consume coffee. For instance, they made an early form of power bar by grinding the beans and combining the grounds with animal fat. They also made a weak form of tea by boiling the leaves and berries. Coffee "wine" was another innovation; Ethiopians would grind the berries and let the pulp ferment into wine. This sweet drink called kisher, gives the double kick of alcohol and caffeine and is still consumed in Ethiopia today. Kisher is made from the lightly roasted coffee berry husks made into a beverage. It was not until the fifteenth century in Ethiopia that it was discovered that the coffee beans could be roasted, ground, and infused in boiling water.8. The Ethiopians developed an elaborate and labor intensive coffee making ceremony that is a time-honored custom in Ethiopia.

5. Pendergrast, Uncommon Grounds, 7.
6. Pendergrast, Uncommon Grounds, 5. Here the author misstates Rhazes’ origins as Arab when in fact he is Persian.
7. Pendergrast, Uncommon Grounds, 4-5.
8. Ibid



All photographs courtesy of Corbis.

This young Ethiopian goatherd may bear some resemblence to the legendary
discoverer of coffee, Kaldi, who happened upon the coffee plant while tending his goats in a mountainous region of Ethiopia around 600 CE.

A Coffee Tree in an Unidentified Coffee Growing Region.

The Coffee Fruit is refered to as either "Cherry" or "Berry."

A Coffee Tree Branch.

Close up shot of Ripening Coffee Cherries/Berries.

Coffee Roasters, Ethiopia.

.Ethiopian Woman Grinds Roasted Coffee Beans.

A Waiter Pours Coffee, Mombassa, Kenya.