LearningThe Bean

Where It Started

The Coffee Plant, Ethiopia, and a Goat Herder Named Kaldi

The earliest origins of the coffee plant can be traced back to the ancient highlands of Ethiopia, specifically in the region known as Kaffa. According to historical accounts and popular legends, it is believed that coffee was first discovered there around the 9th century.

One of the most well-known stories recounts the discovery of coffee by a goat herder named Kaldi. Legend has it that Kaldi noticed his goats displaying unusual levels of energy and liveliness after consuming berries from a particular tree. Intrigued, he decided to try the berries himself and experienced a similar invigorating effect. Word of this discovery quickly spread, leading to the cultivation and consumption of coffee in the region.

This discovery marked the beginning of coffee’s journey across the world. The coffee plant, known by its scientific name Coffea, belongs to the botanical family Rubiaceae. It is an evergreen shrub that produces small, cherry-like fruits containing the coffee beans. These beans, once processed and roasted, are ground and brewed to create the flavorful and aromatic beverage we know as coffee.

From its origins in Ethiopia, coffee cultivation and consumption gradually spread to the neighboring regions of the Arabian Peninsula, including Yemen and the Red Sea coast. Coffee gained popularity in these areas, with the creation of specialized coffee houses where people would gather to drink coffee and engage in social and intellectual discussions.

Over time, coffee made its way to the Ottoman Empire, where it continued to flourish. The Ottoman Turks played a significant role in introducing coffee to Europe, particularly through the city of Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul). Coffeehouses began to emerge in European cities, becoming vibrant hubs of social activity and intellectual exchange.

As coffee’s popularity grew, so did its cultivation. Coffee plantations were established in various regions around the world, including the Americas, Asia, and Africa. Each region’s unique climate, altitude, and soil composition contributed to the development of distinct coffee flavors and characteristics.

Today, coffee is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world, enjoyed by millions of people in diverse cultures and communities. From its humble origins in Ethiopia to its global presence, the coffee plant has left an indelible mark on our taste buds, social rituals, and cultural traditions.