Coffee has been consumed around the world for centuries and brewed using countless different techniques, including using just the plant’s leaves to make a beverage similar to tea, or roasting the beans and soaking them in water. The history of coffee is tumultuous and exciting, but because the drink is so ancient, no one knows who first discovered the magical, energizing properties of the coffee plant!
Most historians agree that the practice of using the coffee plant to make beverages originated in Ethiopia, but no one knows exactly when or how. However, most coffee enthusiasts rely on the legend of Kaldi and his dancing goats to explain how people learned to brew coffee for the very first time.
The popular Ethiopian legend is that a goat herder named Kaldi was tending to his flock in the mountains when he began to notice that some of the goats were dancing with excess energy – even the old, grisly ones! He looked around to find what might have made his goats so boisterous, and discovered little red berries growing from a certain shrub. He tried one of the berries himself, and instantly felt renewed energy course through his body, just like his goats! By eating these berries, Kaldi and his goats had discovered the benefits of the Coffea plant for the very first time.
When Kaldi returned to his village, he shared the berries and their power with the local monastery. The abbot made a tea-like beverage with the leaves of the shrub, and the monks found that this brew kept them awake even during their long evening prayers, through which they were often caught snoozing. This discovery is heralded as the very beginning of the beverage we now call “coffee.”
Kaldi’s story is only a legend, but because no one truly knows how the coffee plant was discovered, it is a popular explanation. The legend of the dancing goats helps us imagine how people might have first learned to use the coffee plant to make beverages. Next time you make a perfectly brewed cup of coffee on your automatic drip machine, be grateful for Kaldi’s hungry goats and their historic discovery!