28 Days of Black Excellence

An ongoing series for the entire 28 days of Black History Month that showcases the inventions, the people, and culture that makes people of the African diaspora so excellent.

If, when you first wake up in the morning, before you even put your clothes on or get into the shower, you have to take a few sips of this liquid black gold, you might be aware of the dangers of addiction. Luckily, we’re not talking about crack. Coffee is the lifeblood of most developed societies.

As of 2017, there were nearly 13,000 Starbucks… in America. 27,000 worldwide. We need our coffee.

The origin story of coffee’s discovery is legendary. As the tale goes, a goat-herder named Kaldi discovered coffee in the Kaffa region of Ethiopia. He noticed his goats began to eat berries from a certain tree and became electrified with energy. They wouldn’t sleep at night. So, Kaldi reported his findings to a local monastery, they then harvested the discovery and made a drink from it. Once the monastery learned of its power to keep them up for long hours of evening prayer, the knowledge, and this soon-to-be worldwide addiction spread rapidly through the country and eventually the continent.  

 

At any rate, it took a while for coffee to catch on in the form it’s currently used in today. It is a cherry-like red fruit in its natural state, and the bean is found at the very center. By 1000, people were using the entire bean, including the red fruit as a drink. Now, somewhere around the 13th Century, the coffee trade began…right after people started roasting their coffee beans. Enter Arabia. The Muslim community took a liking to the beverage and even grew their own variation…hence the Arabica bean.

Then the Dutch started their own little hustle in the 1500s. Then Sri Lankans, the people of Java, Ceylon, France, Portugal, and the Americas.

And as I walk outside my Harlem apartment and peer out at the chains of newly-opened, Hipster-owned coffee houses that have themes of coffee instead of flavors, I laugh at where it all began and what it’s become. I wonder what that young herder, Kaldi, if he ever existed, would say now…looking at the industry he inspired. Maybe he’d sit down at one of said Hipster-owned coffee shops and order a large sensual from the barista and enjoy a Saturday afternoon while they make him a cup of the world’s most expensive, sub-par brew. Maybe.

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Alex Miller is a freelance writer living in Harlem. His work has appeared in Forbes, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other places.