When Was Coffee First Grown?
A legend says the coffee plant first grew in Kaffa, a province in south Ethiopia, where it was discovered by a goatherd called Kaldi. Ancestors of today’s Oromo people in a region of Kaffa in Ethiopia were the first to recognize the energizing effect of the coffee plant. However, no direct evidence that has been found earlier than the 15th century indicating who among the African populations used it as a stimulant, or where coffee was first cultivated.
The story of Kaldi, the 9th-century Ethiopian goatherd who discovered coffee when he noticed how excited his goats became after eating the beans from a coffee plant, did not appear in writing until 1671 and is probably apocryphal. Kaldi’s goats were reported to have skipped and pranced in a strange manner after feeding on an evergreen plant. The goatherd, so the story goes, tried some of the berries himself and excitedly dashed to the nearest town to tell of his find.
Another legend attributes the discovery of coffee to a Sheikh Omar. According to an old chronicle (preserved in the Abd-Al-Kadir manuscript), Omar, who was known for his ability to cure the sick through prayer, was once exiled from Mocha in Yemen to a desert cave near Ousab (modern-day Wusab, about 90 kilometres (56 mi) east of Zabid). Starving, Omar chewed berries from nearby shrubbery but found them to be too bitter. He tried roasting the seeds to improve the flavor, but they became hard. He then tried boiling them to soften the seed, which resulted in a fragrant brown liquid. Upon drinking the liquid Omar was revitalized and sustained for days. As stories of this “miracle drug” reached Mocha, Omar was asked to return and was made a saint.
Another theory is that the word coffee is probably derived from the Arabic qahwah. It was in Arabia that coffee seeds were first roasted and brewed, in a similar way to how it is prepared now. Coffee was used by Sufi circles to stay awake for their religious rituals.[ Other early accounts say Ali ben Omar of the Shadhili Sufi order was the first to introduce coffee to Arabia. According to al Shardi, Ali ben Omar may have encountered coffee during his stay with the Adal king Sadadin’s companions in 1401. Famous 16th-century Islamic scholar Ibn Hajar al-Haytami notes in his writings of a beverage called qahwa developed from a tree in the Zeila region.
Certainly coffee was introduced into Europe from Arabia during the 16th and 17th Centuries. Coffee became more widely accepted after it was deemed a Christian beverage by Pope Clement VIII in 1600, despite appeals to ban the “Muslim drink.” The first European coffee house opened in Rome in 1645. The first licence to sell coffee in the United States was issued to Dorothy Jones of Boston in 1670. The coffee houses of this time became famous meeting places for discussion. As the drinking of coffee became more popular, its production spread to Java, Haiti, Dutch Guiana, Brazil, Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Mexico, Colombia, the Hawaiian Islands and, Africa.