History of Coffee | Part 1 | The Legend of Kaldi

Humans are storytellers. For centuries we have gathered together around fires, at dimly lit tables, on mountains and in monasteries, and even under bed covers to share stories and pass down lessons. Today, we often share stories over a cup of coffee… So, I find it interesting that the tale I am about to tell you is about coffee itself.

It’s important to note that the truth and accuracy of this story has been of great debate amongst coffee lovers for years and many varying tales have since been told. Therefore this fits into the category of myths and legends. Because of that, I have added a fair amount of creative flare to my retelling. I want to make it less of a history lesson and more of a bedtime story.

Without further ado: This is the tale of a goat herder in Ethiopia and how his overly energetic animals led him to the mighty coffee bean.

Kaldi was a man who spent his daylight hours walking and herding his goats between grazing locations. I like to imagine him with a beard and long hair… The Jesus of coffee perhaps?

Like any other goat herder, he relied pretty heavily on his animals for entertainment during his day, and I like to think I’m right in saying: Goats are a tough crowd.
So, I can’t imagine Kaldi was- as we say now- “living his best life.”

One day he found a patch of grass that had trees scattered all over it. The grass was healthy and inviting.

‘“Brill. Shade,” I imagine he said.

The trees told Kaldi that it was cooler here, and he would be able to rest a little.

So, his goats began grazing and enjoying this uninterrupted meal, while he decided to close his eyes for a few minutes.

It wasn’t long before he was woken by, what I imagine was, a riot of goats. His animals were full of energy, and were playing and bouncing around Kaldi. Kaldi was curious, but the sun was starting to sink and it was time to get home.

Kaldi didn’t get to sleep till midnight that evening: His goats were still full of beans (excuse the pun) and they refused to settle.

Annoyed, tired, but now even more curious; Kaldi decided to take his goats back to that same area.

After a few minutes, the goats began behaving in a similar manner as the night before.
On realising that his goats were eating the cherries from the surrounding trees, Kaldi gathered a handful to take away with him.
That evening he took the cherries up to the local monastery. He thought that the monks would be able to tell him what they were.

Kaldi gave these cherries to the monks who listened to his story and decided that they were a product of satan and should be disposed of by throwing them into the fire.

Unsurprisingly, they started to cook.
Even more unsurprisingly, they smelt amazing. In total awe and intrigue, the monks saved the beans from the fire and decided to add them to water in an attempt to taste what they were calling “the perfume from heaven”.

The monks felt amazing. They felt energised and invigorated. They found that the drink removed any tiredness during the evening prayers and it was therefore a gift from god, rather than a product of the devil. This is what started the long lasting use of coffee as a spiritual aid.

However, word began to spread regarding this magical brew and its popularity and usage began to evolve; Ultimately teasing the coffee industry we know and love today.


Written by Lauren Small