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Who first roasted coffee beans?


The Enigmatic Origin of Roasted Coffee Beans

The art of roasting coffee beans is as ancient as it is integral to our daily lives. Coffee, often hailed as the elixir of the modern world, boasts a rich history that is as captivating as its flavour. In this article, we’ll embark on a journey tracing the origins of this beloved beverage, particularly focusing on who first introduced the world to roasted coffee beans.

A Concise Overview

The first documented instances of coffee bean roasting date back to the 9th century in the highlands of Ethiopia. It’s believed that the discovery was serendipitous when a goat herder named Kaldi noticed that his goats became unusually energetic after eating some berries. Curious about these effects, Kaldi tried the berries himself and experienced a newfound vigour. This story, although legendary, paints a vivid picture of coffee’s roots.

The Legend of Kaldi

The Goat Herder’s Observation

The legend goes that Kaldi, intrigued by his goats’ unusual behaviour, shared this discovery with a local monk. Upon hearing the tale, the monk experimented by boiling the berries to make a drink. He found that the beverage kept him awake and alert during long hours of evening prayers.

Spread to Religious Communities

The monk’s discovery wasn’t kept a secret for long. Word spread rapidly to other monks, and soon, the knowledge of this energising drink extended to various religious communities. The method of preparation evolved over time from boiling the whole berries to roasting and then grinding the seeds inside, which we now know as coffee beans.

“Coffee – the favourite drink of the civilised world.” – Thomas Jefferson

The Historical Journey

Coffee’s Path to Arabia

From Ethiopia, coffee travelled to the Arabian Peninsula. By the 15th century, coffee was grown in the district of Yemen in Arabia, which is where it earned the name ‘Arabian Wine’. This region became the gateway for coffee to reach other parts of the world.

Introduction to Europe

By the 17th century, coffee made its way to Europe, where it was initially met with skepticism but quickly gained popularity. Coffee houses began to emerge, serving as places for intellectual exchange and discussions. This wave marked the beginning of coffee’s association with social interaction.

The Roasting Process

Roasting is integral to transforming the green coffee beans into the aromatic brown beans we’re familiar with. The process is said to have evolved in Arabia. Initially, beans were roasted in pans over open fires. As demand grew, innovation ensued, leading to the development of more sophisticated roasting methods.

Evolution of Coffee Roasting
9th-14thPan roasting over open fire
15th-17thRoasting drums
18th-19thSteam-powered roasting
20th-PresentElectric and gas roasters

Final Thoughts

Today, coffee stands as one of the most popular beverages worldwide. Its journey, from Ethiopian highlands to the bustling coffee shops of modern cities, is a testament to its appeal. While the exact details of who first roasted the coffee bean might be shrouded in legend and mystery, its influence on culture, society, and our daily routines is undeniable.

  • 9th Century: Coffee’s discovery in Ethiopia.
  • 15th Century: Coffee cultivation in Yemen.
  • 17th Century: Introduction to Europe.

As we sip our morning brew, let us acknowledge and appreciate the rich tapestry of history behind every cup.