Friday, March 10, 2006


I love coffee. I think we all know that by now. And today, one of my favorite food blogs, Accidental Hedonist, has a little on the history of coffee. So, for all you caffeine junkies out there:

Quite fun fact: Not only is coffee the world's most traded foodcommodity. It's also the world's second most traded commodity period(with petroleum being the first).

One of the many discovery stories of the bean goes as follows: Theancient people of Ethiopia were a collection of nomadic tribes, ratherthan one centralized government or even a series of a city states. Theywould take their flock of animals from place to place, looking for thebest place for their domesticated animals to feed. A goatherder tookhis flock into a new area, and found that his goats were a bit morefrisky than normal. Upon inspection, he found them eatingbrownish-purple berries. Tasting the berries himself, he discoveredthat he could watch his flock without becoming sleepy. He introducedthe berries to the local imam who verified the ability to keep oneselfawake with the berries. The imam, in turn, gave the berries to hisflock (so to speak) in order to keep them awake during his sermons. Thebean, through time, became an ingrained part of several religiousceremonies.

What the bean wasn't used for was in drinks. Instead it was eaten rawor in a paste format, probably mixed with the leaves of the coffeeplant. It's a fair bet that this was not only used in religiousceremonies, but also taken before battles.

Now the goatherder story is nice and family friendly, but it's probablytaking a fair amount of liberties with the truth. It's also just aslikely (if not, more so) that people who were familiar with theeuphoric effects of khatwere looking for a new buzz, so to speak. Khat is a plant in which a'high' is obtained by chewing on the leaves of the plant. It is notoutside the realm of possibility that a single khat addict foundthemselves eating the leaves of many dozens of plant products to see ifany of them had an affect similar to khat. When they discovered thecoffee plant, they noted the affects of the coffee leaves and beansupon their system, and things progressed from there into the hands ofthe local imam.

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