The tale of the discovery of the coffee plant is told in a number of origin myths. In one of the most popular Kaldi, an Abyssinian goat herder noticed his goats acting very excited and animated. He also saw that his “dancing goats” were all eating from the same plant, so he decided to try the cherries and found their wonderful properties of making him awake and active. Excited about his discovery, he filled his pockets with cherries and rushed home to his wife, who then encouraged him to share his discovery with the monks.
The monks were not nearly as enthusiastic about coffee as Kaldi and threw them into the fire, decrying them as “devil’s work.” However, the smell of the roasting beans in the fire was so intoxicating that they raked them out of the fire, crushed them to quench the embers and then stored them in water to preserve them.
The other popular origin stories for coffee take place in Yemen. There are actually two Yemenite origin stories for coffee. In one, the Yemenite Sufi mystic Gothul Akbar Nooruddin Abu al-Hasan al-Shadhile was traveling through Ethiopia when he saw some energetic birds who had been eating berries from the bunn plants (the Ethiopian term for the coffee plant). Feeling tired himself, he decided to try them and, discovering that they invigorated him, he brought the news with him along his travels and back to Yemen.
In the other, Sheikh Omar was exiled from Mocha into the wilderness. On the verge of starvation, he found coffee cherries but because they were too bitter to eat raw, he tried roasting and then boiling them. But, when he noticed how good the liquid smelled, he decided to drink the boiling water instead. Discovering coffee’s magic properties of invigoration, he began sharing his newfound knowledge with others. This knowledge soon spread back to Mocha where they quickly revoked his exile and invited him back to the port city to share his revitalizing drink with the city.