The person who thought of the idea of brewing a drink from coffee beans is not known.
However, coffee drinking has been known in the Middle-East since long before our era.
Rhazes, an Arabic doctor, (approximately 900 BC) mentions coffee in one of his writings. A
far nicer story is that of the Arabic goatherd. Different versions are told but the basic
story remains the same.
The legend tells the story of Kaldi the goatherd, who lived in Ethiopia about 300
AD. He noticed that after the goats had been eating red berries from a tree, his goats
were lively and energetic until late in the evening. He tried the red berries himself and
he experienced the same effect. He mentioned this to the monks in the nearby monastery,
who from then on took coffee to stay awake during the nightly prayer gatherings. The
legend also records that these monks discovered by chance that the beans could be roasted
and that a beverage prepared from the roasted beans not only produced the same effect, but
also tasted far better. The coffee beans and
the beverage made from them, were from then on regarded as a luxurious stimulant.
The Arabic historical writer Scheha Beddin (15th century) turns the story around:
Chadely, a Mohammedan clergyman was tortured by guilt; as he fell asleep during prayer
every night. He prayed to Allah for help and was directed in his sleep to the goatherd.
The story sounds too good to be true, but illustrates nicely how people in
the past discovered ways in which products of nature could serve them.
Allthough some conservative religious leaders once believed coffee should be forbidden
as an intoxicant, secular opinions prevailed and coffee's popularity spread through the
Islamic pilgrims carried roasted beans home with them and coffee became the beverage of
choice throughout much of the Middle East. By the 15th century, coffee shops - called
'Kaveh Kanes' - became popular meeting places, launching a coffee culture that eventually
spread to the rest of the world.
Arabian traders tightly controlled the lucrative coffee trade, exporting roasted or boiled
coffee beans only and forbidding export of beans that could germinate. Using this
strategy, they successfully monopolised the coffee trade for two centuries, enjoying
highly profitable exports to the rest of the Middle East and Europe. But the monopoly was
destined to end by the 17th century, when the Dutch succeeded in breaking the closely
guarded monopoly by smuggling a young coffee plant to Amsterdam. They then started to
cultivate coffee in their colonies in the East Indies, primarily on the island of Java.
Imported to India
Legend has it that a Moslem pilgrim named Baba Budan hid seven seeds next to his
belly and slipped out of the country with the smuggled seeds in 1650. He planted them near
his home in Chikmagalgur in southern India. They flourished in the new location and their
offspring still produce about a third of India's coffee.
source: Douwe Egberts