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Wellness Wednesday: Coffee and Its Amazing Journey

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The strong, rich aroma of a hot, freshly brewed cup of coffee has an even richer history—one filled with challenges and triumphs throughout time.

Caffeine stimulates (increases the activity of) your brain and nervous system. Caffeine is a crystalline compound that is found primarily in tea and coffee plants and is a stimulant of the central nervous system. It is also considered to be a superfood with many practical and nutritional benefits.

Legend has it that an Ethiopian goat herder named Kaldi or Khalid discovered the plant around 850 CE.

The story is that Khalid saw his goats eating the bright red berries of the coffee plant, and they began jumping around energetically. Kaldi then chewed on the fruit, and he too felt the energy and alertness that he witnessed his goats experiencing.

Some say that this origin story is more legend than fact, but there is consensus among scholars that the coffee plant first appeared in Ethiopia. The story then goes to Yemen, where it is said that it became popular among Sufis. The Sufis would boil the grounds and drink the brew (roasting the beans is said to be a later development the Persians introduced). Sufis used it during long nights of prayer.

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Coffee mainly spread through trade and was sometimes left behind as spoils of war on battlefields. There were attempts to ban the potent drink in both the Islamic and the Christian world.

Around the 17th Century, coffee was a dominant and favored drink until Sultan Murad IV made it illegal in the Ottoman Empire, and consumers faced capital punishment. The sultan was fearful of the influence and gathering at coffee houses. Coffee drinkers often discussed ideas and solutions to problems which could and would, at times, end up sparking revolts against those in power.

Coffee was considered the devil’s drink by Pope Clement VIII in the Christian community.

He is quoted as once saying: “This satan’s drink is so delicious that it would be a pity to let the infidels have exclusive use of it.” He later chose to baptize a bag of coffee beans, making it lawful for Christians worldwide to consume the beverage.

There are countless stories on the prohibition or attempted banning of the mysterious drink. There are also numerous accounts of people utilizing the full-bodied elixir to reach their spiritual aspirations and group think ideas to change the world for the better.

This brief journey through the history of coffee is a small reminder next time you’re sipping on a fresh cup of hot coffee that it went through a lot to get here, as I’m sure you have too.

Words by Kaba Abdul Fattaah.

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