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A Brief History of Coffee

  Coffee has a history that reaches back 10-12 centuries.  There's little argument that it first grew in the area of Ethiopia or Yemen, but there's no real consensus as to which country gets to claim it.  Several stories (almost undoubtedly apocryphal) came into being to explain how people and coffee met. The most popular story involves a young goat herder in the Ethiopian highlands.  Kaldi, undoubtedly a sleep-deprived student working his way through school by chasing goats, noticed that his goats would run full-tilt-boogie around the fields after they snacked on the fruit of a certain bush.  Kaldi had to try the berries for himself.  This was undoubtedly purely in the interests of science, of course.  When he ate a handful, he discovered that they gave him the pep to stay up overnight and cram for the chemistry mid-terms he'd been blowing off.  As his discovery was too good to keep to himself, Kaldi took a handful of the beans to his religious-studies professor.  The holy man attributed the energizing properties to the devil, as nobody ate those berries back in HIS day.  In his day, he archly informed Kaldi, they didn't NEED any berries to give them pep.  They would study 26 hours a day for every class, after walking to and from the university in the snow.  Uphill.  Both ways.  Under the blistering sun.  And, moreover, they LIKED it!  Anyway, he ended up tossing the berries into the fire.  Dejected, Kaldi slouched off.  Supposedly, a cloud of fragrant smoke billowed back into the room, which caused the holy-man to rake the roasted beans out of the embers, grind them up, soak them in hot water, and slug down the resulting brew.  Anybody else think he might have "experimented" with those berries a couple of times before?  Seriously, if someone brought you a handful of random berries, would that be your first reaction? That said, the story is almost certainly apocryphal, as it showed up for the first time on the already-well-established coffee scene around 1670. While the story of Kaldi is the one that we find the most entertaining, there are also coffee origin-myths that originated in Yemen. In one of the Yemeni myths, a Yemenite Sufi mystic by the memorable name of Ghothul Akhbar Nooruddin Abu al-Hasan al-Shadhili was wandering his mystical way through Ethiopia (yes, this Yemeni myth gives credit to a Yemenite for finding coffee in Ethiopia) when some very perky birds caught his eye.  He noted that the birds had been feasting on the red berries of a familiar shrub.  The tired mystic snagged a handful of the berries for himself, and nibbled them as he walked.  Soon, he too was as perky as the birds, and began spreading the word about the world's first super food. The second most common Yemeni coffee story claims that coffee was discovered by the less-intriguingly-named hermit Sheik Omar, a student of the previously mentioned Sufi mystic.  Sheik Omar, a physician and a priest, had been exiled to the desert near the Ousab Mountain for some non-specific moral transgression that may or may not have involved a "kept" princess.  Either Sheik Omar decided that the possibly toxic red berries he found seemed like a reasonable alternative to certain starvation, or a bird responded to his cries for guidance from his teacher by swooping in with a branch of coffee berries.  Either way, he opted to try to minimize the bitterness of the berries by roasting them in the fire, and then since the roasted beans were tough on the teeth, attempted to stew them in water.  Rather than softening into a bean soup, the coffee brewed up into a rudimentary cup of Joe, and the starving hermit decided that it was better than nothing.  And, of course, man and coffee lived happily ever after when he brought his magic beans back to Moka. The truth is probably less colorful, and like most foods, coffee probably evolved from hungry people doing what they could to avoid starvation.  Roasting may have been deliberate or it might have been the outcome of a klutz like yours truly dropping them into a fire and not wanting to waste food.  It really doesn't matter who or how or why… We appreciate their bravery in being the first to try it out.  Although, the medal for culinary courage really should go to the first guy who tried eggs.  Some guy, somewhere, looked hard at the round white thing that a chicken had just squeezed out of its butt, and thought, "I'll have to try eating that!"
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Micro-Roasted Artisan Coffees