I don’t know about you, but I like to start my day with coffee. Do you ever wonder how we all got this wonderful brew?
According to the legends I have read, coffee was first discovered — not by humans — but by goats. An Ethiopian goatherd living sometime in the ninth century noticed his flock of goats eating berries from a strange tree. Later he noticed that after eating those berries the goats remained awake at night, and were full of energy. It intrigued him, and angered him as the goats kept him up all night.
Later, he complained to a group of local monks. He brought the berries with him for them to see and try. The monks, in too typical a reaction to something new and different, stated that they were of the devil, and tossed them into the fire for destruction. However, soon the aromatic fragrance of the beans roasting interested one monk not so worried about the devils’ fruit and fished them out of the fire and brewed them with water.
He found they tasted good, and soon they realized that if they brewed the fruit’s seeds into a hot drink, they too could stay awake to pray. The fear of the devil still had not been quelled.
For many years there had been a thriving and vibrant trade between Venice and North Africa, Egypt, and the East that brought a large variety of African goods, including coffee, to Venice. With coffee as a product that made its way to port, Venetian merchants introduced coffee-drinking to the wealthy in Venice, making sure to charging them heavily for the beverage.
It wasn’t immediate that coffee was consumed all over Europe. Coffee finally became widely accepted after an interesting controversy over whether it was acceptable for Catholics to consume the brew. Some in the Church still claimed it was of the devil. However, this argument was at last settled in its favor by Pope Clement VIII in 1600. They brewed him a cup of coffee. All authority and the final answer to the controversy lay with the Pope. He sniffed at the cup of dark aromatic liquid, and sipped at it. It pleased him and thus ended the argument. Coffee had been sanctioned by the Pope and its popularity grew.
The first coffee house in Europe opened in Venice in 1645, and more followed all over Europe. These coffee houses became the centers for men to meet, discuss business and seal business transactions. Lloyds of London was formed within the walls of a coffee house in London.
Next time you feel that craving for a warm, wonderful cup of coffee, remember to thank the hungry goats who started it all.