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Ethiopian Origins of Coffee

The most popular legend of coffee in Ethiopia usually goes something like this:

One day in a highland area near an Abyssinian monastery, a goat herder from Kaffa named Kaldi was herding his goats. The goats began to jump around—almost dancing—and bleat loudly, which was strange behavior for his herd. Kaldi found that a small shrub (or a cluster of shrubs, according to some legends) was the source of the excitement. Deciding to try the bright red berries for himself, Kaldi also felt the coffee cherries’ energizing effects.

Amazed at this discovery, the goat herder filled his pockets and rushed home to tell his wife. Calling the find “heaven sent,” she advised Kaldi to share the berries with the monks.

Kaldi did not receive the warmest of welcomes at the monastery. One monk referred to his coffee beans as “the Devil’s work” and tossed them into the fire. According to the legend, the aroma that wafted up from the roasting beans caught the monks’ attention. After removing the beans from the fire and crushing them to extinguish the embers, they attempted to preserve them in an ewer filled with hot water.

This newly brewed coffee had an aroma that attracted even more monks. After trying it, they experienced the uplifting effects for themselves. They vowed to drink it daily as an aid to their religious devotions and to keep them awake during prayers.

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