Love Coffee? Thank Muslims for Discovering and Spreading It

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Today is National Coffee Day. Coffee is one of the world’s most popular drinks. But did you know Muslims discovered coffee and helped spread it through the world by way of the Hajj pilgrimage?

The origin of coffee

According to Lost Islamic History, coffee originated from Muslims:

In the 1400s coffee became a very popular drink among Muslims in Yemen, in the southern Arabian Peninsula. Legend goes that a shepherd (some say in Yemen, some say in Ethiopia) noticed that his goats became very energetic and jumpy when they ate beans from a particular tree. He had the courage to try them himself, noticing they gave him an energy boost. Over time, the tradition of roasting the beans and immersing them in water to create a sour yet powerful drink developed, and thus, coffee was born.

The birth of the coffeehouse

You know what else you can thank Muslims for? Your local coffee shop as Muslims were the first to develop coffeehouses, explains Lost Islamic History:

Coffeehouses specializing in the new drink began to spring up in all the major cities of the Muslim world: Cairo, Istanbul, Damascus, Baghdad. From the Muslim world, the drink found its way into Europe through the great merchant city of Venice. Although it was at first denounced as the “Muslim drink” by Catholic authorities, coffee became a part of European culture. The coffeehouses of the 1600s was where philosophers met and discussed issues such as the rights of man, the role of government, and democracy. These discussions over coffee spawned what became the Enlightenment, one of the most powerful intellectual movements of the modern world.

From a Yemeni/Ethiopian shepherd to shaping European political thought to over 1 billion cups per day, this Muslim innovation is one of the most important inventions of human history.

The Hajj pilgrimage spread coffee across the world
The Ka‘bah in Mecca, 1953.

The Ka‘bah in Mecca, 1953.

How did the habit of coffee, a seemingly Muslim phenomenon, get spread to Europe and eventually the entire world? Simple. By way of Hajj, the annual holy pilgrimage to Mecca made by Muslims all over the world. The National Coffee Association writes on the history of coffee:

With thousands of pilgrims visiting the holy city of Mecca each year from all over the world, knowledge of this “wine of Araby” began to spread.

This yearly visit to Mecca is Hajj, the annual pilgrimage that brings millions to the city today. As Muslims came from Europe, they took coffee back with them. Soon, the western world caught on to the drink and the rest, as they say, is history.

So drink on bean lovers and enjoy National Coffee Day. Just be sure to remember your Muslim neighbor and their history when you do.

[Photo of Flat White: flickr / Russell James Smith]