Who first made coffee?

The earliest credible evidence of coffee-drinking as the modern beverage appears in modern-day Yemen in southern Arabia in the middle of the 15th century in Sufi shrines where coffee seeds were first roasted and brewed in a manner similar to how it is now prepared for drinking.

The Yemenis procured the coffee beans from the Ethiopian Highlands via coastal Somali intermediaries, and began cultivation. By the 16th century, the drink had reached the rest of the Middle East and North Africa, later spreading to Europe.  (Wikipedia)

Culturally, coffee is a major part of Ethiopian and Yemenite history. This cultural significance dates back as many as 14 centuries, which is when coffee was (or was not) discovered in Yemen (or Ethiopia... depending on who you ask). Whether coffee was first used in Ethiopia or Yemen is a topic of debate and each country has its own myths, legends, and facts about the beverage's origin.

One day in a highland area near an Abyssinian monastery, a goat herder from Kaffa named Kaldi was herding his goats. The goats began to jump around—almost dancing—and bleat loudly, which was strange behavior for his herd. Kaldi found that a small shrub (or a cluster of shrubs, according to some legends) was the source of the excitement. Deciding to try the bright red berries for himself, Kaldi also felt the coffee cherries' energizing effects.

Amazed at this discovery, the goat herder filled his pockets and rushed home to tell his wife. Calling the find "heaven sent," she advised Kaldi to share the berries with the monks.

Kaldi did not receive the warmest of welcomes at the monastery. One monk referred to his coffee beans as "the Devil's work" and tossed them into the fire. According to the legend, the aroma that wafted up from the roasting beans caught the monks' attention. After removing the beans from the fire and crushing them to extinguish the embers, they attempted to preserve them in an ewer filled with hot water.

This newly brewed coffee had an aroma that attracted even more monks. After trying it, they experienced the uplifting effects for themselves. They vowed to drink it daily as an aid to their religious devotions and to keep them awake during prayers.

Yemen also has a coffee origin myth as well as a well-founded stake in the beverage's actual history.

The Yemenite Sufi mystic Ghothul Akbar Nooruddin Abu al-Hasan al-Shadhili was traveling through Ethiopia, presumably on spiritual matters. He encountered some very energetic birds that had been eating the fruit of the bunn plant (known elsewhere as the coffee plant). Weary from his journey, he decided to try these berries for himself and he found that they produced an energetic state in him as well.

The second coffee origin myth from Yemen claims that coffee originated in Yemen. The story is centered around Sheikh Omar, a doctor-priest and a follower of Sheik Abou'l Hasan Schadheli from Mocha, Yemen, who was exiled to a desert cave close to the mountain of Ousab.

According to one version, this exile was for some sort of moral transgression. According to another version, Omar was exiled because he practiced medicine on the princess in the stead of his master (who was on his deathbed). After curing her, he decided to "keep" her (interpret that as you wish) and he was exiled by the king as punishment.

After some time of exile and on the verge of starvation, Omar found the red berries of the coffee plant and tried to eat them. One version of the story says that a bird brought him a branch bearing coffee cherries after he cried out in despair for guidance from his master, Schadheli.

However, he found them to be too bitter to eat raw. Hoping to remove their bitterness, he threw the berries into the fire. This basic "roasting" technique hardened the berries, making them unsuitable for chewing. Omar then attempted to soften them. As the roasted berries boiled, he noticed the pleasant aroma of the increasingly brown liquid and decided to drink this decoction rather than eat the beans. He found the drink to be revitalizing and shared his tale with others.

In another version of the story, Omar found the raw beans to be delicious and decided to make them into a soup. When the roasted coffee cherries were removed, the "soup" became something closely resembling the drink we know of as coffee.

The story of Omar's invigorating drink quickly reached his hometown of Mocha. His exile was lifted and he was ordered to return home with the berries he had discovered. Returning to Mocha, he shared coffee beans and the drink of coffee with others, who found that it "cured" many ailments. It was not long before they hailed coffee as a miracle drug and Omar as a saint. A monastery was built in Mocha in Omar's honor.

 

The country is especially famous for its Harrar coffee, which is grown in the highlands of the Eastern part of Ethiopia on small farms.