Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Discovery of Coffee

These legends about the early discovery of coffee are excerpted from "Coffee; its history and also its remarkable growth in the world of commerce (1898)"

In the Bibliotheque Nationale at Paris is an old manuscript which contains the statement, that the use of coffee was known as early as 875 A. D., over a thousand years ago. But this manuscript is not explicit, and throws very little light into the haze of romance that surrounds the birth of coffee.

One legend says that when the pious dervish Hadji Omar fell under the ban of the people of Mocha, and was driven forth in the year 1285, A. D., to perish in the wilderness, he roasted some of the berries that grew wild in the thickets, and some of them accidentally fell into the water which he had collected for coffee drinking. He failed to notice it for some time, and when he did, lo! coffee was discovered. He stole back into Mocha, proclaimed his discovery, and the Mochans, who knew a good thing, took him back into favor, and made a saint of him on the spot.

Another story gives credit to the friar of a monastery for the first use of coffee. The friar had great difficulty in keeping his monks awake during devotions, and on being told by a goatherd of the exciting effect, produced on his goats by eating coffee berries, he decided to try them on his charge. He did so with admirable results and thus was discovered the great stimulating effects of coffee, which prepared the way for its world-wide popularity.

A more authentic account is given in a manuscript published in 1566 by an Arab sheik, which states that the learned sheik Djemal-eddin-Ebn-Abou-Alfagger brought coffee from Abyssinia to Arabia, in the neighborbood of 1400 A. D., and still another treatise places the date at which the Arabians found out its good qualities, about a century after. Some accounts say that it came direct from Abyssinia or Ethiopia to Arabia, and others give the Persians credit for having had the first taste of our familiar beverage, though I believe it was first used by them for medicinal purposes. Certain it is, however, that the introduction of coffee into the Mohammedan countries met with a great deal of opposition. One party contended that the roasted berry was a kind of coal, and the Prophet had very sensibly made it a law that coal should not be be eaten by his people. Another party maintained that it was an intoxicant, and as the Koran prohibits the use of intoxicants, it could not be partaken of by the faithful.

However, it was soon discovered that coffee was neither a fuel nor an intoxicating beverage, and so it came into general use. It began to be cultivated in Yemen, in southern Arabia, and for two centuries the entire supply of ihe world came from there. Even today the celebrated Mocha, or Mukha, comes from Yemen.