The origins of coffee are rooted in legend almost as if the drink were a magical elixir rather than a stimulating beverage. According to one legend, the stimulating effects of the coffee bean were discovered by an Ethiopian goat herder, when his goats suddenly acted weirdly after consuming the beans. Unsurprisingly Ethiopia claims a very ancient tradition of coffee cultivation and brewing. Genetic studies of Ethiopian coffee plants prove that medieval Ethiopians were the first to domesticate and cultivate coffee. As well Yemen also holds part title to the legend, where coffee beans were imported from Ethiopia, roasted, ground, and consumed as a warm beverage starting in the 15th century. At first they were consumed by the clerics and monks of Sufi monasteries so they could remain alert during nighttime religious devotions. Then the beverage’s fame spread all over the Muslim world, until eventually it spread to Europe and the America’s.
Perhaps the most interesting legend surrounding coffee’s origins is the legend of Omar, the patron saint of coffee. According to the legend, Omar was a follower of the famed Moroccan scholar and writer Abu al-Hasan ash-Shadhili who had the ability to cure the sick through prayer. He traveled to Mocha, a city in Yemen, to administer to the sick and the poor. However many were suspicious of his powers, and he was forced into exile in the wilderness. Starving and with nowhere to go, Omar tried to live off the land. He chewed on the bright red beans of a shrubbery, but found that they were too bitter. He then roasted the beans to try to improve the flavor, but found they were too hard. Then he boiled the roasted beans in water to soften them up. What resulted was a fragrant brown liquid, which upon drinking sustained Omar for days. Omar returned to Mocha with his discovery, where he introduced his new beverage. In return he was welcomed back into the city and made a saint.