Stories about coffee


The relationship between man and the coffee plant has its origins in the most remote antiquity in history. This bond, as is typical of popular culture, has been sealed by numerous myths and legends, which have sanctioned its cultural and social importance. So, the link between coffee and sociability is an ancient one: since the 1700s, some shops took on characteristics that made them shine for their affinity with literary and political academies. Intellectuals found themselves in front of a cup of coffee to exchange ideas and opinions and the shops became their sounding board.

Today, it is no longer a question of the elite, sipping a coffee becomes a moment of pause in private, as at work, an informal meeting in which to take a well-deserved break from the frenzy of the world. Bring the cup to your lips, for those few seconds, the chatter goes out and the taste that invades the palate is perfect for recharging.

Qahwa(coffee) is of Arab origin, a drink extracted from some seeds that caused stimulating and exciting effects on humans.

The ancient legend on the discovery of coffee

According to an ancient legend, the ancestors of the current “Oromo” (African ethnic people) were the first to discover the energizing potential of coffee. Nevertheless, no historical traces have ever been found that can confirm this hypothesis, much less in the period prior to the seventeenth century. However, according to this story, the discovery of coffee would be attributable to “Kaldi”, a shepherd of Ethiopian origins who lived in the 9th century BC; he would have noticed an evident state of excitement in his goats that ate on the fruits of the coffee. The trick was reported only in 1671 in an apocryphal text but, despite the uncertainty of the historical period, it is instead shown that the first domestic coffee plants were grown in Harar, Ethiopia.

Omar Sheikh – another legend on coffee

Other stories, reported in the manuscript “Abd-Al-Kadir”, attribute the discovery of coffee to “Sheikh Omar”. According to ancient history, Omar was known for his healing abilities through prayer. Exiled from Mocha, a port city of Yemen, he lived in a remote cave in the desert, near “Ousab”. Hungry, Omar chewed some berries that grow on shrubs near his home but found them excessively bitter. He then tried to toast the seeds to improve their flavor, but in vain. 

He therefore tried boiling, to soften the coffee beans and, from this last process, a brown liquid with a fragrant and pleasant aroma was obtained.

When he drank it, Omar felt revitalized and energized for many days. Thanks to the expedient of the “miracle drug”, Omar once again reached Mocha and was therefore sanctified. From Ethiopia, the coffee plant was introduced into the Arab world through Egypt and Yemen, thus joining the more modern history of the crop we know today.

More short legends about coffee

Less well known is the legend about Mohammed: it is said that one day when the Prophet felt very ill, the Archangel Gabriel came to his aid by bringing him a potion sent directly by Allah. The drink was as dark as the Holy Black Stone of Mecca, commonly called “qawa”. Mohammed, drinking it, immediately felt much better and reanimated himself he left for his great deeds.

A latest legend tells that an immense fire spread over a vast territory of Abyssinia, covered by spontaneous coffee plants, spreading the aroma of what could be considered a gigantic natural roasting company tens of kilometers away.

Further legends trace the origins of coffee back to the plateaus of Abyssinia, where, it seems, its true origins lie. Be that as it may, the reports of several travelers testify that the use of coffee was widespread throughout the Islamic East at the end of the sixteenth century.

In the West, coffee spread through Venice, where, it is thought, the first “Bottega del Caffè” was opened in 1640, although some believe that one was previously opened in Livorno. In any case, success was immediate and coffee, both as a drink and as a local, spread to every Italian city. The spread of coffee around the world was facilitated by a struggle of interests between those who wanted to keep the exclusivity of the precious plants and those who wanted to obtain a part of the profits they provided.

In 1690 a command of Dutch sailors landed on the coasts of Moka, in Yemen, and managed to seize some plants: after a few years, the first plantations flourished in Java and Sumatra. Later, coffee spread impetuously throughout Central and South America where, especially in Brazil, the largest plantations in the world still exist today.

In short, there are many and particularly ancient stories of the myth about the coffee plant and its fruits, which testify how this, since the most remote past, has represented an important part of the culture of man and his peoples.