Origin of coffee – Legends and myths

The truth that nobody knows exact details of related the coffee but we know some interesting legends and it is also a fact that this black drink was sent to its world conquering journey by the Islamic culture.

Some records say that an Arabic doctor called Phazes (852-932) used the refreshing plant ‘quawa’ (coffee) as a medicine, and he mentioned it first in his work Al-Haiwi (The Continent). But around 1000, Avicenna –one of the greatest Muslim philosophers in the Middle Ages – also used coffee as a medicine.

Kaldi and the dancing goats

The most popular story about coffee’s origin began in Ethiopia around 850 AD. 
Kaldi, a goat herder discovered his goats became so energetic after eating red berries from an unfamiliar tree.
Later he brought these cherries to the monastery and shared with the monks.They thought it was the work of the Devil and threw them into the fire.
The smell of the coffee beans was heavenly as they roasted. After that, they took it out from the fire and crushed to extinguish the embers.
Realizing their mistake, they placed them in a jar and covered them with hot water for their conservation. Later, the monks drank the brew what helped them stay awake during night devotions.

The myth of Kaldi and his dancing goats have become the source of inspiration for many coffee shops around the world, most notably Ethiopia’s largest coffee chain, Kaldi’s.

Dervish Omar

Omar was a well-known therapist in the city of Mocha in Yemen. His abilities to cure people were including not only the use of traditional medicines but also prayers to Allah. His special powers annoyed the Ruler of the country as well as the Head of the Islam Authorities. They spread evil words about him to the public. He soon faced with a lot of enemies who forced him to leave the city for good and go to the desert outside of the port of Mocha.

He found shelter in a cave but he was starving to death. One day he saw a small bush full of red berries. Omar thought that this plant was a sign of God to save him. He picked some fruits but when he ate them discovered they were very bitter. Omar then decided to build a fire to roast the beans and place them in hot water. The beans were again hard to eat so he drunk the liquid to satisfy his hunger and thirst. He all of a sudden gained enormous strength that lasted for days.

Patients from Mocha came to his cave for medical advice. He gave them to try his new drink as a drug, and they were cured. Soon, stories about this “miracle medicine” spread in Mocha and his followers insisted that his survival in exile is a religious sign.

Omar was asked by the Ruler to return to Mocha. Religious authorities proclaimed him as Saint. The plant and the black drink were named Mocha to honor this event.

A mystic Yemenite Sufi

A Yemenite Sufi mystic Ghothul Akbar Nooruddin Abu al-Hasan al-Shadhili was traveling through Ethiopia , probably on spiritual matters. On this journey he saw some birds that were unusually lively and energetic. He tried these berries too. After he noticed he became so energetic as well. Berries were the coffee cherries.

He was an influential Moroccan Islamic scholar and Sufi. Founder of the Shadhili Sufi order. His journeys around the Arabic peninsula, north and east Africa are notorious.

Besides this short and vague anecdote, there is not much about Sheikh al-Shadhili and coffee. However, he was a true character and important figure during his lifetime (1196 – 1258). This sets the story back to 300 hundred years before the Abd-al-Kâdir manuscript. Therefore 400 years before Kaldi and the goat’s tale.







  • Loga Pillay

    I really appreciate your research and ideas of coffee. We all drink coffee, but we don’t know much about it. Thanks for sharing.
    That’s true, coffee is the most popular drink around the world, north, south, east and west. It is consumed by all class and category of people.

    • Etelka

      Thanks for your feedback! You are right! Lots of people drink coffee but don’t know much about it! I’m happy you liked it!

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