Adoration of the bush – a.k.a A Brief History of Coffee



“The Powers of a Man’s mind are directly proportionate to the quantity of coffee that he drinks” (Sir James Mackintosh)

This is a story of goats and thieves. An odd start to a blog you may think but there’s logic to it, of sorts. Once upon a time in the land of Arabia Felix (current day Yemen) a goatherd by the name of Kaldi went out to find his AWOL goats and discovered them wide eyed and gambolling around a shiny, dark leafed bush covered in red berries.

Those lucky goats had discovered the joy of coffee beans. They were soon joined in the mad dance by Kaldi and a passing learned Iman. The Iman who discovered it alleviated the monotony of praying all day no end, pinched a bit and shared it with all his fellow monks.

From these auspicious beginnings the good news spread – though not entirely through choice. Rather, like all precious things it was coveted gollum style.

In AD1650, the second thief in our story, an enterprising pilgrim from India by the cool name of Baba Budan, managed to evade the Arabian sniffer dogs by strapping some fertile seeds to his stomach and promptly planted them in the front garden outside his cave in a place by the simply awesome name of Chikmagalgur*. They flourished (it was nice and high) and his hermit friends were delighted by the new arrival.

Though it might appear at this point that coffee was just for those of a religious disposition, the Dutch soon stole a bit and found that it didn’t taste half bad when grown in Java. Coffee became fashionable. By 1715, Louis XIV, stamped his foot in France and demanded he be let in on the game. Finally, the Dutch, to shut him up, handed over a well travelled bush from Mocha, via Java. Louis was delighted with his latest toy, so much so that he built it it’s very own greenhouse and spent a solid day communing with his bush.

And here comes the second to last thief in our story, a man by the dashing name of Chevalier Gabriel Mathiew De Clieu, who stole a bush from the French andsailed off to sea headed to the Caribbean (lucky man). The final chapter of this unbelievable tale takes place at sea where a disgruntled passenger (possibly a Dutch spy) wrestled with the dashing Chevalier and wrenched off a branch in the process. And from thence it spread to Caribbean, South America and on. And here are our story ends…or does it..

Fast forward to the present day and coffee fanaticism is still alive and well as evidenced by this bean worshipper who has created a strangely hypnotic website featuring 171 pages of recently drunk cups of coffee. .

At Book and Kitchen we do our bit to keep the magic of coffee alive with a selection of coffees from all the locations that feature in this wonderful story and to bring it full circle I think I’ll go off and brew myself a Yemeni Single Origin Mocha Sana’ani coffee…