Personal journal of a Christian woman
Coffee History 101
Published on March 9, 2004 By wvjcgirl In Misc


With over 400 billion cups of coffee consumed each year, coffee has become the most popular beverage in the world. (universe) Who gets the credit for discovering this amazingly popular beverage? There really isn’t any concrete evidence of the first discovery, but there are certain legends that have become commonly accepted as true throughout the world. Here is a look at these legends surrounding the discovery of coffee, and the origins of the worldwide popularity of coffee shops that remain to this day.

Coffee is most commonly believed to have been discovered one evening by a goat-herder named Kaldi in the mountainsides of Ethiopia somewhere between 600-800 AD. Legend has it that Kaldi’s goats nibbled the coffee berries from a bush and became exceptionally playful. They stayed up all night jumping around! Kaldi watched the unusual behavior in his goats and tried a few berries out himself and discovered that he had some extra energy as well. (Roast)

The legend claims that as Kaldi was sampling this strange new berry, a monk from a nearby monastery happened to be passing by. Upon hearing Kaldi’s story and observing the feisty goats, the monk returned to the monastery with the berries, crushed them into a powder and poured boiling water over them to make what is believed to be today the first cup of coffee. The monk discovered that by drinking this new drink that we now know as coffee, he was able to stay awake during long hours of prayer. (Roast)

The legend goes that the word spread quickly and this new drink was turning up in monastery after monastery as the monks found their tasty new drink kept them awake through prayers without any side effects. Soon the coffee drink had traveled from Eastern Africa where it was first discovered by a goat herder named Kaldi to the hands of the Arabs, who were the first to cultivate and trade coffee. .The Arabs had a particular interest in this new drink as they were forbidden by the teachings in the Muslim Koran to drink alcohol. This new drink, coffee, was a great alternative and they called it ‘The Wine of Araby‘ (National). It was made by pressing the juice from the coffee berries.

The first reported public merchants for the sale of a prepared cup of hot coffee cropped up in the cities across the Near East. The coffee shops quickly became the place to be. People came to drink the wine of Araby, chat, and enjoy musicians, actors, performers and even chess. (National) They watched dancers, listened to stories from wandering story tellers, and talked for hours.(Roast)

By the late 1700’s coffee had made its way into the streets of London. Over 2,000 coffee shops sprang up in London during this time, and they were known as “Penny Universities” as one could pay a penny to enter and drink coffee. Special coins were designed for each shop, and were made out of brass, pewter, copper and even leather. The new shops drew people of all types, poets, loners, intellectuals and even politicians were found inside. Anyone with a token, or penny, was allowed to come in. That is how they got the name “Penny Universities.“

It was in these Penny Universities in England that the practice that we know today as ‘tipping’ came from. The coffee houses back then were packed tight, dirty and smelly, and very popular. Anyone that wanted a better seat or to be served more speedily placed their money in a small tin jar labeled “TIPS” or To Insure Prompt Service.” (Roast)

Around the same time period, Italy was joining in on the new coffee craze as well. At first there was a great deal of controversy around the new beverage, as some felt that it was “the devil’s beverage.” The Pope decided to try it first before placing that label on it though, and so enjoyed his cup of coffee that it is recorded that he said “Let’s defeat Satan by blessing this beverage, which contains nothing objectionable for a Christian!” With the blessing of the Pope the popularity of coffee spread through Italy like fire, and like Arabia and Europe coffee houses sprouted up throughout the land.(Sovrana)

The first recorded entrance of coffee into America is in the mid-1600’s where it appeared in New York. Tea outshone the new drink called coffee, however, until the year 1773. Most of us connect this date with the historical event of the Boston Tea Party. The heavy taxes on tea caused a birth of a new favorite beverage in America, coffee. (National) It was at this time that coffee was declared the National drink by the Continental Congress. (coffeescience) Coffee has become a multi-billion dollar industry in America today. (coffeeuniverse) Like the Arabians, the Italians, and the Europeans, coffee houses have become the center of social activity in most cities throughout America.

Coffee has sprouted from its humble beginnings in the mountainsides of Eastern Africa to become the most popular beverage in the world!


Coffee Universe. History of Coffee. Link
Training Center Lavazza. Coffee History, Cultivation.Link
Coffee Science Source. Questions About Coffee and Health.Link
Douwe Egberts. The History of Coffee.Link
National Coffee Association of U.S.A., Inc. The History of Coffee.Link
Specialty Coffee Association of America. Fostering Coffee Excellence.<Link
Penny University. Penny University of Yesterday.Link
The Roast and Post Coffee Company. The History of Coffee.Link

This was presented as a 6 minute academic speech.

on Mar 09, 2004

COFFEE!!!!!  Where would I be without the blessed coffee?  Probably asleep on me keyboard LOL!

This had a lot of good stuff in it.  Thanks for posting it!

on Mar 09, 2004
Wow! Who knew, huh?!

This was a very entertaining article; I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Thank you!
on Mar 09, 2004
I remember hearing about the monks liking it for their prayer vigils, had not heard the goat-herder part though.

No harmful effects? Then why won't this damn head-ache go away until after my first cup?
on Mar 09, 2004