Like all important things, Coffee has many origin stories and legends that surround its pervasive spread around the world. And like all legends, facts are fuzzy.
How was coffee discovered? The legend goes like this.
A Ethiopian goat herder named Khalid was doing his thing in the hills when he noticed his goats acting strangely. They seemed to be uncharacteristically energetic. He saw that they were eating strange cherry-like fruit from some shrubs near the edge of the field. Curious, he tried some himself, and was amazed at their effect. He stayed up all night, invigorated by the strange food’s power. His mind was active as he contemplated this discovery.
The next morning, he gathered the cherries in a bag and took them to the local priest, explaining their strange powers of energy and clear thought. The priest grabbed the bag and threw it into the fire, saying, “These magic beans are from the DEVIL!”
Minutes passed as the small rectory filled with the fantastic aroma of roasting coffee beans. Finally the priest could stand it no longer and snatched the bag out of the fire, declaring, ” Anything that smells this heavenly must be from God himself. And that’s how coffee was discovered.
During the next hundred years or so, coffee, and especially the seeds were controlled by the Arab and African states where it grew naturally. So how did it spread around the world?
In 1714, King Louis XIV was granted a gift of a coffee tree for the royal arboretum in Paris. One night nine years later, an enterprising naval lieutenant named Gabriel de Clieu snuck in and stole the precious tree to stow onboard. His ship sailed with the tide and was far out to sea before the theft was discovered. After a perilous sea voyage that included a stretch in the doldrums, being boarded by pirates, and nearly being wrecked by a giant storm, the ship landed in Martinique, where he was able to start a plantation that is the ancestor of all the coffee plants in the Americas.
How did Brazil get coffee?
During those early years of the coffee trade, its seeds and secrets remained fiercely guarded. The Portuguese emperor sent Francisco de Mello Palheta to French Guinea to arbitrate a dispute between the French and the Dutch. This was his overt mission. His covert mission was to steal some fresh coffee seedlings to bring back to what would become the largest coffee producing nation in the world. During the week of intense negotiations, Palheta seduced the Governor’s wife. At the end of the week during the celebration dinner, she presented him with a thank-you bouquet of flowers for his “services” to their country. Hidden inside the bouquet were several tiny coffee seedlings! Brazilian Coffee dominance here we come.
If you’d like to know more, visit the National Coffee Association site.
Or read “The Book of Coffee and Tea” by Joel, David, and Karl Schapira. This book has nearly everything you might want to know about either drink. WARNING: Before reading this book, I could just drink any old coffee. After reading this book, I am a coffee snob.
In keeping with my snobbery, I would be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to the best cafe in Syracuse: Cafe Kubal. They roast beans everyday and have a unique and tasty flavor. Each bag comes with the date it was roasted (usually just a day or two before purchase) and a taste description.Example:My current bag of Sumatra Lintong- French Roast. Aroma: sage and thyme accents. Taste: roasted cocoa. Body: heavy. Aftertaste: tobacco