This is the first time any human being has experienced caffeine and Kaldi promptly loses his mind. He’s inspired, energised – part of the story is that he starts composing poetry – and he can’t wait to share it with everyone back in the village.
Following some cherry picking and strenuous goat wrangling, Kaldi arrives back in town and takes his discovery straight to the local holy man. He is convinced that this experience is spiritual and needs it explained. The monk is sceptical, but intrigued enough by Kaldi’s vivid description to try some of the crop.
This is the second time any human being has experienced caffeine, but the monk is a little older and more temperate than Kaldi and starts off slowly and feels the effects as a wonderful new alertness. He continues to slowly try the cherries through the night and finds he is able to pray without rest for hours at a time.
And so the cherries are adopted by the spiritual community of Ethiopia. Word spreads from village to village and soon everyone is harvesting the glossy red cherries. They are mashed up with lard as a kind of energy bar to sustain people undertaking long journeys, eaten whole or steeped in hot water for a kind of tea.
No-one knows who roasted the beans first – it may have been entirely accidental that they were dropped into the fire – but the aroma would have been incredible.
Unroasted coffee beans are almost odourless – aside from a sort of faint grainy smell – hard, slightly chewy and not at all delicious. I don’t recommend trying them. Add heat and they transform, the sugars roasting to reveal flavours like fruit, chocolate, caramel and hazelnut.
So the tradition evolves – the coffee seeds are now roasted over a fire, ground up to a fine powder with a mortar and pestle, then brewed in hot water. Coffee as we know it is born.