Have you ever noticed the word “goat” pops up a lot in the world of coffee?
We have seen “Roaming Goat,” “Lucky Goat,” even *spoiler alert* “Dancing Goat” stamped on many a coffee mug.
There is a reason. A bigger reason than the fact that all those names are just super cute.
Goats play the main character in the story that explains how humans discovered coffee. Or at least the most fanciful character in the tale.
Coffee consumption dates as far back as the 10th century, meaning these tales are straight legend. They were not recorded, there is no unanimous author, and authenticity cannot be confirmed. Like we said, legend.
The most widely told and most interesting version of the tale begins with a goatherd named Kaldi. Kaldi is another one of those words we see pop up everywhere in the world of coffee. Goatherd on the other hand, is not. Don’t over think it, it is just the widely unused goat version of the word shepherd.
One day, Kaldi noticed his goats were chewing on the leaves (some say berries) of what we now know was a coffee plant. Why would he notice that pretty mundane goatherd activity? He noticed because post coffee plant snacking, the goats started dancing. An early 1895 French recording of this tale states that goats began “abandoning themselves to the most extravagant prancings.” Too good French historians!
Usually, folks place Kaldi in Ethiopia. If you talk to someone from Yemen-they will probably place him in Yemen. You may hear someone name drop the locales Mocha or Ousab-just more hot spots in Yemen.
Kaldi then takes these goat dance inspiring berries and shows them to the Islamic monks in his neighborhood. The monks disapprove…dramatically. They throw the coffee berries into a fire and probably toss their heads back and laugh (OK we didn’t read the laughing part anywhere, but you pictured it too, right?).
You know how coffee does that thing where it has an amazing aroma that hits you in a dreamy way? Well coffee did its thing and the aroma from the dramatic fire won the monks over. They raked those roasted coffee beans, ground them up, and went down in history as sharing the first cup of coffee.
Maybe. Maybe the monks walked by the goat dance party and wanted to try some themselves. Maybe the monks were actively searching for a less judgey wine alternative. Maybe they needed something to help keep them awake during evening prayers. Different story tellers have different takes-but more often than not the monks do show up in the story and lead to that very first cup of coffee.
So be like the goat today. Dance a little with your coffee. We’ll dance, too!