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The Story of Coffee

Ethiopian Coffee
The Story of Coffee

The story of the discovery of coffee, which is probably apocryphal, goes something like this. In the 9th century AD, in Sidamo in the northern highlands of Ethiopia, a goat herder named Kalidi was attending his goats in the mountains. In the evening he would play his flute and his goats would come to camp for the night. One night he played his flute but the goats did not appear. Kalidi went to investigate and found his goats acting strangely and seemingly a bit agitated. He noticed they were eating a berry from a bush. Kalidi tried the berries and found them to imbue a feeling lightness and alertness. He gathered some beans from the bush and brought them down to his village. After sharing his story and fruit with his wife she thought Kalidi should present his berries to the local Aba (priest). Kalidi went to the church and told the Aba and his attendants about the magical fruit he had discovered. The Aba was skeptical and even thought the coffee beans may have a demonic origin. The prelate reportedly threw some beans in the fireplace and as the beans cooked they noticed a not unpleasant aroma. Someone thought to gather the roasted beans and somehow were inspired to make a hot drink with it and the pleasant effects were noted.


However true the aforementioned story may be, is it is fairly certain that coffee has been consumed and traded in Ethiopia and North Africa since around the 9th century AD. Ethiopia is a major coffee growing county and has been involved in the cultivation and trade of coffee for centuries. It is the opinion of this author that coffee originated in Ethiopia and made its way shortly after across the Gulf of Aden and towards western Europe. The Horn of Africa has been a crossroads of humanity for centuries.

So what is coffee? All coffee is a member of the genus Coffea. The two most popular species are Coffee Arabica (aka “Arabica”) and Coffea Canephora (aka “Robusta”). Arabica is about 70% of the world market and originated in the highlands of Ethiopia. Robusta is at about a 30% share . Arabica is considered to be sweeter and subtler in aroma and taste while Robusta beans have a higher caffeine content. It is not uncommon, especially in Latin America, to see Arabica and Robusta blends in the market. It should be noted that there are, as of this writing, 124 species of the genus Coffea.

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