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Coffee: The myth, legend and history

by Michael Gombart, 21 September

The legend of Coffee:

The origins of coffee are steeped in myths and legends. According to legend, Kaldi an Ethiopian goat herder noticed his goats became rather energised and somewhat troublesome after eating red berries growing on what would come to be known as a coffee tree.

coffee tree

Kaldi informed the local abbot of what he had witnessed. The abbot started experimenting with making drinks from the berries. He noticed the drink helped keep him awake through his late-night prayers, so he rushed to inform other abbots. Word of this pick-me-up brew spread quickly and so the world’s love and demand for coffee began.

The legend turns into history:

In the 15th Century, the humble coffee bean found its way into Arabian Peninsula. Shrines started to roast and brew the beans into a drink. By the time the 16th century arrived, the cultivation of the beans was widespread. Coffee farms cropped up in multiple regions across the peninsula.

bean process

With large volumes of pilgrims through the area, especially through Mecca, coffee houses rose to prominence as a meeting place or talking point for news and exchanging ideas.

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It was not long before European travellers discovered the black gold and started to bring it back from their travels. As with anything new at the time in Europe, scepticism and doubt followed the dark brew and its arrival. Thankfully, Pope Clement VIII tried and like the energising brew and gave the drink his blessing. This opened the door and the demand on coffee in Europe.

The expansion of the coffee empire:

With the newfound demand for coffee came the opportunity of newfound wealth. The Dutch (in the form of the Dutch East India Trading Company) were the first to grab the opportunity with what they called ‘Koffie’. After getting their hands on some beans they first headed for India. They had little success in growing the trees here, as the trees require a certain climate to thrive. All along the equator slightly to the north and south is where the tree tends to thrive best. Thus, the Dutch East India Trading Company headed for the island of Java (now Indonesia.) After this proved successful, they expanded their operations to Sumatra.

Coffee Beans belt

The first coffee seeds to cross the Atlantic arrived on the Island of Martinique in the Caribbean thanks to Gabriel de Clieu (A French Naval Officer). This lead to an 18 million strong plantation there. Gabriel de Clieu stole the coffee seeds used for this plantation from a coffee tree planted in the royal botanical garden of King Louis XIV of France. Interestingly those original seeds are the origin point for all the coffee plants across the Caribbean, Central – and South America.

Drinking Coffee

It is easy to appreciate that the coffee we drink today has a full and flavourful history. So, when next you sip on your favourite drink, think of the long and exciting journey behind your everyday tasty brew.


Cuco Coffee’s signature blends encompass beans from Sumatra, Hoduras, Brazil, East Africa and India. If you would like to give them a try, why not get in touch to arrange a free tasting? We now also offer remote tastings and bean trials for offices.

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