Who Invented Coffee?

Coffee probably originated in the Middle East in modern-day Yemen.
Coffee probably originated in the Middle East in modern-day Yemen.

Coffee is one of the most popular beverages in the world, with over 400 billion cups served annually. In the United States alone, about 450 million cups of coffee are consumed every day. It is estimated that about 107 million people in the country drink coffee every day. The beverage is brewed from coffee beans obtained from a plant species known as coffee. This plant species is native to tropical Africa, having originated from Sudan and Ethiopia. Today, the coffee plant is cultivated in over 70 countries across the globe with Brazil as the largest producer followed by Vietnam and Colombia. There are two types of coffee: Arabica and Robusta. But who invented coffee and how was it invented?

History of the Invention of Coffee

While the coffee plant is native to tropical Africa, specifically Sudan and Ethiopia, drinking coffee as a beverage seems to have originated in Yemen in the 15th century in the Sufi Shrines. It was there that the coffee berries were first roasted and brewed in a way similar to how the drink is prepared today. However, the coffee seeds were exported from East Africa to Yemen via the Somali traders. There are several accounts surrounding who exactly invented coffee. According to one legend, coffee may have been invented by Moroccan Sufi Sheikh al-Shadhili who was traveling across Ethiopia when he observed that certain birds were suddenly full of unusual energy after eating some berries. Upon trying the same berries, the Sheikh also experienced the same level of vitality.

Another legend has it that coffee was discovered by Sheikh al-Shadhili’s disciple called Omar who was popular for curing the sick through prayers. Omar was once expelled to the desert caves near Ousab without any food. One day, he chewed some strange berries from shrubbery but the berries were too bitter for him. He decided to roast the berries to get rid of the bitterness but they became too hard for him to chew. So, Omar decided to boil the beans, resulting in a brown fragrant drink. When he drank the liquid, he felt reenergized and sustained for several days. The stories of the drink reached Mocha and Omar was allowed back and made a saint.

Another legend credits the ancestors of the Oromo people with the invention of coffee. While living in Ethiopia’s region of Kaffa, these people noticed the energizing effect of the native coffee plant. They would consume the coffee and trek for days without feeling hungry. The Kaldi, a 9th century legendary Ethiopian Sufi goatherd in Ethiopia, is also credited with discovering coffee when he observed his goats got excited after eating beans from a coffee plant.

Origin of the Name

The name coffee may have resulted from Keffa Zone, the name of the area where coffee berries were first used by herders either in the 6th or 9th century. Keffa Zone is a region in southwestern Ethiopia. The name “coffee” was included in the language in 1582 through the Dutch word “koffie.” The phrase “coffee pot” was introduced in 1705 while “coffee break” was introduced in 1953.


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