Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee. Coffee was discovered in the Kaffa region (southwestern Ethiopia), hence the name coffee. Only 20% of the coffee in the country is commercially farmed, with the rest coming from smallholder farmers, who harvest coffee mainly in the forests. But let’s dive into the story behind how coffee was first found.
There are a couple different versions of the legend surrounding the discovery of coffee but they all involve goats hopped up on caffeine.
Red Coffee Cherries. Photo by Evan Buechley via Flickr
The first goes something like this: Kaldi, a goat herder, was out one day with his herd. He noticed they were eating bright red berries from a bush and had more energy than usual – they were prancing and dancing! So as any goat herder would, Kaldi picked some of these red fruits for himself. He brought them back to the monastery and showed them to the monks and told them what had happened to his goats. They immediately threw these in the fire, claiming they were Satan’s plant and must be destroyed. But inside the fruit, —- what we now know as coffee beans — started to roast, releasing that amazing, infatuating smell. This lead the monks to proclaim something like “Oh, just kidding. These are actually not evil, they’re good!…” And that’s how coffee was born!
The other version says that after seeing his goats so excited, Kaldi tried some of the fruits himself. He too felt energized and took these suspicious fruits back to the monastery where the monks made a drink and were able to stay awake for long hours for evenings of prayer.
The most popular cafe chain in Addis is called Kaldi’s in tribute to this pioneering goat herder who we can’t help but think about most mornings as we sip our coffee.
See? Ethiopian goats will eat anything!