The question, “What do goats eat?” is the lynchpin of a world-changing discovery. There are few rituals more beloved than the morning cup of coffee. Have you ever wondered how we found it? Who discovered it? Would you be surprised to find out it was goats? Move over goat yoga, this is a story more interesting than the fitness fad.
Whether you make it yourself, have it made for you by a loving partner, or pick it up from your favorite barista, the morning cup of coffee is how many of us ease our way into busy days. We have a favorite brand, a cherished mug, and usually some combination of creamers and sweeteners that require no measuring. You feel set for a great day when the coffee is perfect. When the coffee is wrong, look out!
What do goats eat? Kaldi and his hyper goats
Coffee is the second most-sought after commodity in the world. The first is crude oil. (There is an ironic ‘energy’ joke to be made here, but I’ll leave that to Dads everywhere.) Coffee, similar to the world’s other documented miracle, was first discovered by a shepherd. Around 850 AD, an Ethiopian goat herder named Kaldi noticed that his little goats would not sleep after eating certain berries. Thanks to goat hyperactivity and shepherd sleep-deprivation, a desperate Kaldi took the berries to a local monastery where the abbot brewed them into a tea. The abbot, noticing he felt awake during evening prayers, shared the drink with his fellow monks. The origins of the coffee-fueled-all-night-study-session began.
Which is more shocking? That we do know the name of an ancient goat herder at all, or that his name isn’t up there with Elon, Madonna, and Obama?
The largest coffee chain in Ethiopia is Kaldi’s. And adorably, “Dancing Goat” is also the name of popular coffee shops as well as coffee brands. However, aside from these easily missed references to coffee’s humble beginnings, coffee history is largely unknown in daily life.
A Papal blessing for the cup of Joe
The journey of coffee starts well and stays interesting. Coffee took off on the Arabian peninsula throughout the 15th century. We can thank Persia, Egypt, and Turkey for the idea of a coffeehouse. Listening to live music, talking about the news, and socializing over a cup of coffee happened way before Starbucks mass-produced it.
Coffee arrived in Europe beginning in the 17th century. The classic ‘fear of the unknown’ caused many Europeans to find coffee suspicious. The fervently religious responded predictably and immediately linked it to Satan. Fortunately, Pope Clement VIII turned out to be a fan. He bestowed a papal blessing, thus solidifying Catholic faith for centuries –just kidding. (But what if the Pope had been a tea drinker instead?)
The rivalry between tea and coffee in the United States stayed fierce until 1773, with the early colonists favoring tea. However, King George III tipped the scales to coffee with his ill-advised tax, leading to the Boston Tea Party and the very first Dunkin Donuts. (No, not really).
An empire built on flirtation
As the demand for coffee exploded, cultivating coffee as a crop took off. My favorite anecdote is how Brazil ended up with coffee plants. Brazil is the largest producer of coffee in the world. It feels impossible to think of Brazil without coffee. Yet, it might never have happened. If border patrol had been tighter or if the governor’s wife felt more content with her husband -it might have been a very different coffee world.
Sargent Major Francisco de Mello Palheta was sent by the Brazilian government to French Guiana in 1727 to settle a land dispute with the Dutch. Palheta was hoping to pick up a couple of plants to bring back, but the French had no interest in sharing. Driven to desperation, Palheta wooed the Governor’s wife. She was smitten and hid seedlings in a bouquet of flowers that she gave him as a going-away gift. Those seedlings were the inception of the Brazilian coffee industry. (How handsome WAS this guy?)
Coffee -Still Thriving
To answer the burning question, Goats eat just about anything. Coffee-lovers everywhere should be grateful for their undiscerning palate. While Kaldi is to be credited for acting upon his curiosity, I think we all know who the real heroes are in this tale.