How Coffee Was Discovered

Everything which has been around for a long time seems to share a common trait: the more distant its origin lies, the murkiest how it was first discovered becomes. The logic is quite straight-forward: since it’s been as old as human history – even before the invention of writing language – the hard facts and historical evidence tend to be quite scarce. As a result, the answer to ‘How X was Discovered’ might heavily rely on legends, speculations, best guesses, rather than well supported rational analysis. This just applies to coffee, the most widely drunk beverage around the world.

So how was coffee discovered? There’re two possible legends or explanations. One of them is The legend of Kaldi, which I’ve read from two sources: one version from Coffee Legends on the Turkish Coffee website – by the way, the website is great and I’ve learnt quite a bit about how to make Turkish coffee from Mario Baker, the creator -, the other version is from The Coffee Dictionary by Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood on my Kindle. The two versions basicly share the same story on the discovery of coffee and are summarized as below :

Mario Baker’s Version

A young Abyssinian (Ethiopian today) shepherd named Kaldi noticed his goats jumped in a playful mood after eating some red berries from a bush. After consuming these bitter berries as well, Kaldi found himself alert and full of energy. So he picked and gave some berries to his wife. She felt the same effect and they thought it was a gift from God. After a few days, Kaldi took some fruits and leaves to a nearby monastery and told his experience to the monks. One of them followed Kaldi for confirmation. Having found it was true, he convinced other monks to cook the fruit and the leaves. However, the beverage was so terrible that they threw the remains into fire, thinking they were devil’s work. But a splendid aroma rose up from the fire and the monks relized the correct way to cook the beverage was roasting and boiling the grains, and by drinking it, they could stay awake for praying all night. Hence, coffee was discovered.

Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood’s Version

An Arab Ethiopian goatherd called Kaldi, found his goats dancing in the forest in south-west Ethiopia around ninth century. Kalti consumed the same bright-red cherry his goats ate and noticed the stimulating effect, dancing along with his goats. He then took the seeds to a nearby monastery. A monk disapproved of their use and threw them onto a fire. The resulted aroma was so enticing that the beans were raked from the fire and ground and dissolved in water to create the first cup of coffee.

As you may have noticed, the two versions above share some common grounds while being different from each other in several details. In the version of Mario Baker, Kaldi was married but Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood didn’t mention Kaldi got a wife (maybe that was why he was dancing along with his excited goats which didn’t happen in Baker’s story). Meanwhile, in Colonna-Dashwood’s story, Kaldi lived in the ninth century but this detail was missing in Baker’s version. Each of the two described the rudimentary preparation and cooking way of coffee (though not quite the same) and I sum them up as follows:

  1. The raw coffee (fruits, leaves or beans) was not tasty but invigorating;
  2. After burning in fire and dissolving in water, the cooked coffee turned into something delicious with pleasant aroma.
  3. The discovery of coffee has strong relation to religion (monks from a monastery were included in both versions) and I think it’s enough to say that it is the monks who discovered the proper way to cook coffee (not Kaldi actually).

The other legend – The Legend of Omar the Dervish – was also from Mario Baker’s website which I mentioned above, and it changed tremendously coffee’s origin. According to this legend, coffee was discovered in the City of Mocha in Yemen and its discoverer Omar was not a shepard but someone whose abilities were to cure people by the use of traditional medicines and praying to Allah. His power annoyed the Ruler and he was forced to leave the city. In the desert, he picked some cherries to eat but found they were very bitter, so Omar decided to roast the beans and place them in hot water. After having drunk the liquid to satisfy his hunger and thirst, he suddenly gained enormous strength that lasted for days. Omar then gave his ‘magical beverage’ to patients who came to him for medical treatment and they insisted Omar’s survival in exile is a religious sign. So Omar was summoned by the Ruler to return to Mocha. Religious authoroties proclaimed him as Saint and the plant and the black drink were named Mocha to honor this event.

Though the legend of Omar seems rather different from Kaldi’s – for instance, the motherland of coffee was moved to Yemen from Ethiopia -, the three general conclusions shown above apply well to the story of Omar: the raw coffee was roasted and mixed up with water to produce a tasty drink and it was closely connected to religous backgrounds (monks or religous authoroties). Coincidence or not?

Which legend is true? Kaldi or Omar? Or both?

Hello, World!

Welcome to Jinw. This is my first post.

Yes, I changed the default “Hello world” sample post suggested by WordPress. And I’ve got a good reason to start my writing this way.

Computer programming has been one of many on-and-off hobbies of mine for not a short period of time. More than a decade, I guess. To be honest, I forgot almost everything I’d learnt along the way. However, my interest for programming just stays, somewhere very deep in my heart and not very easy to identify its exacly location. That’s enough for my little background. But I think there’s also enough reason for all of these words. The name of this post is probably the first computer program you’ll learn to write in almost every language: C, C++, Java, Python… You name it.

So, not a bad name for my very first post. And as my promise, I’ll keep writing in the near future. What to write you may ask, well, it depends since my interest list contains a lot of items that sometimes just surprised myself: photography, music, novels, films, coffee, whisky, and the list just gets bigger and bigger. The common element that unites and unifies my writing, as it’s already been explained on the home page, is my language. No matter what words I write or what photographs I take, it will inevibly be my way to think about something and hopefully tell you a good story.

More specifically, there’re two more things needed to be further clarified: First, I write in English and it is not my native language. It happens to be the available and by far the optimal tool for communicating my thoughts and ideas with you guys. I’m still learning, practising, and improving every day to do a better job. So please allow me to make mistakes here and there sometimes and I promise things will get better and easier for you to read. Thank you for your kindness!

Secondly, right now other than words, the only medium I know how to use to tell a story is photography (maybe one day I’ll sing you a song or draw you a portrait). To be more precise, it is analogue photography that I’m referring to. Every photo you’ll see on this website would be taken with a film camera, developed and scanned by myself into digital files with as few as possible tweaks in Adobe Lightroom and uploaded here. Why bother with taking film photos and digitalise them instead of shooting digital pictures in the first place? Well, the reason behind this laboursome process asks for another dedicated post and I’m working on that. So, long story short, film photos only. Oh, and they’re black & white only and you won’t find any color photos – film nor digital – on my website. The explanation would also be covered in the upcoming article.

And another thing to say: Every post (including this one) will be under constant editing and modifying and deleting all the time, if I think it’s necessary to do so. In my honest opinion, that’s the beauty of Internet: To paraphrase loosely from some others, you can always rewrite. And I think whenever you can do something, you will end up doing it. Why not make this declaration before hand? Just in case one day you find what’s been read has undergone some utterly serious changes. Don’t be surprised.

Such a relief to write down these things. Finally it’s done.

Hello, World!

I’m coming.

My language begins.