There are many legends and stories that centre around coffee. Because it has a long and fascinating history. It is a story that began around 900-1000 A.D. and still continues today. And, as happens in many cases, stories. Legends and traditions entwine with reality, creating and recounting stories that are more or less true.
One of the most well-known, if not the most famous is that of Kaldi, a shepherd in Yemen. Not seeing the arrival of the goats he was tending, he decided to go to look for them. He found them, most agitated and full of energy, and made curious by their behaviour, he followed them, noting that they seemed to be attracted by the small red fruits of a bush that grew widely in the area. He took some of the “magic” berries to a nearby monastery, where the abbot, thinking it was work of the devil, threw them in the fire. The berries began to emit an intense aroma, and were then recovered. The monks, as they did with other fruits, prepared a decoction, and after drinking it noted that it kept them awake also during the prayer vigils. They soon learnt to use the different parts of the plant (leaves and berries) to prepare the black, hot beverage that we know today.
Another story tells of Omar, known for his gifts of healing through prayer. The dervish, banned from his native town of Mocha (Yemen) and isolated in a cave in the desert, was almost dying of hunger when he saw some red berries sprouting from the nearby bushes. He picked them, and since he found them too bitter and hard, he roasted them then boiled them. After drinking the water they had cooked in, he felt stronger, and decided to also give some to an elderly, feeble pilgrim, who miraculously resumed his walk to his home. When news of the healing reached Mocha, Omar was recalled to the town with all honours.
Another tale recounts how Archangel Gabriel helped Mahomet against a sudden sleeping disease that struck him. About to be overcome during a political attack, after a few sips of this “divine infusion”, not only did he immediately regain strength and health, but he felt so well that he was able to unsaddle 40 men and please 40 women.
Some scholars affirm that it was coffee, that bitter beverage, defined by Homer as useful “against sorrows, grievances and memory of pain”, that Helen added to the wine to dry the tears of the guests at the table of Menelaus.
An Arab monk, Sheik Ali Ben Omar, who remained alone during a journey to Mocha, town in which he accompanied his maestro Schadeli, who died along the way.? An angel appeared and he was encouraged to continue toward that town where a dreadful plague was raging. Here, with his prayers to Allah, he managed to heal many of the sick and even the daughter of the king, with whom he fell in love. However, the King sent away the monk who, forced to live in the solitude of the mountains, to stave off his hunger and thirst, had to invoke the help of his maestro, who sent him a magnificent bird with feathers of many colours and a suave song.? Awoken and uplifted by the melodious song, Omar approached to admire the bird and, when he reached the place he saw a bush covered in white flowers and red berries: the coffee plant.? He gathered some of the berries and made a medicinal decoction that he often offered to pilgrims that he received in his refuge. News spread of the magical qualities of the beverage, the monk was received in the kingdom with honours.
A last legend tells of an enormous fire that spread over a vast territory of Abyssinia, covered in wild coffee plants, that diffused the aroma of what was considered a gigantic natural coffee roasting over many kilometres.