Is there anyone in the modern world today who can get started in the morning without a hot, strong cup of java? Like many other words in the English language lexicon today, “coffee” is an adaptation of a foreign word. Opinion is divided as to whether it actually originated from the Italian “caffé” or the Dutch “koffie”. However, there is no opposition to the statement that the word entered popular English use in 1598.
The most popular story regarding the origin of coffee may actually be completely apocryphal. First recorded in 1671, it concerns a Yemeni shepherd named Kaldi. It was said he found his goats frolicking energetically around a shrub that bore bright red fruit. He tasted the fruit himself and found that he felt greatly energized and alert. In some accounts, a Yemeni Sufi mystic named Shaikh ash-Shadhili is the main character.
The story goes on to state that Kaldi dutifully reported his find to the local monks. They, in turn, harvested the seeds from the plant and brewed or stewed them into a strong drink that helped them stay awake throughout their long prayer sessions. The use of the fruit soon spread to other monasteries and subsequently, the world over.
However, it is possible that the origin of coffee goes even further back than that. There is anecdotal evidence of the energizing effect of caffeine in Ethiopia the 9th and 10th centuries, while Sufi monasteries in Yemen have recorded knowledge of the drink as early as the 15th century. The now-familiar art of roasting the beans and brewing the drink spread from Yemen to Egypt and North Africa, eventually becoming familiar to the rest of the Middle East by the 15th century.
The drink soon spread to Italy and the rest of Europe. The Dutch, for their part, transported the plants to the Americas and the East Indies, where they are cultivated till today and supply much of the worlds demand. As everyone knows, the Italians elevated coffee-brewing into an art form, far from its simple preparation of crushing the beans with a mortar and pestle that is still carried out in Turkey.