Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Costa Rica Vignette: The Discovery of Coffee

Costa Rica is known for it's coffee. But coffee wasn't originally grown in Costa Rica. In fact, for many years, Costa Ricans didn't know what to do with the plant. It just sat around and looked pretty on the countryside until some European showed that it'd be a good way to make some money.

So, who first discovered that coffee could be a delectable drink that can give you a burst of energy to jump start your day and keep you moving when you're sluggish? Here a retelling of the tale I learned:

Once there was a young African goat farmer. Each day he would guide his goats across the mountain ranges, allowing the to graze on whatever plants were available. Life was simple, and each day passed with little activity.  
One day, however, he noticed one of his goats was a little more active then the rest. She bucked and kicked her back heels up a lot. She nipped at the other goats. And she always seemed ready to play, instead of lazily grazing like the rest of the herd.  
The goat herder was confused and slightly alarmed by this anomaly. At first he feared that the devil must have possessed one of his goats, and was ready to throw her off a cliff and rid himself of the terror. But he soon realized she wasn't the only one. A few other of the goats had begun to pick up on the crazy behavior.  
Being a goat farmer was all he knew how to do, if he threw them all off a cliff, what would he do? How would he continue to survive? So he decided to watch these group of goats a little bit more carefully, while he prayed silently.  
After a few days, the young goat herder noticed something different about these goats. The tended to graze a little further away from the rest of the herd, and the plants they were eating had little brown bean-shaped fruit spouting on them. The goats, it seemed, not only at the green leaves, but also ingested the curious fruit that grew on the plant.  
Intrigued, the goat herder decided to try one. It was a bit bitter, but he enjoyed the overall crunch and texture. Gathering some more, he decided to roast them over his morning fire. Soon a rich, heavenly smell began to rise from the fire. Pleased by the smell, the goat herder decided to suck on few of the roasted beans, dropping the rest into his cup in attempts to flavor his morning tea.  
Having enjoyed both culinary experiences, the goat herder added a new task to his day. As the day passed, the goat herder followed his goats' lead, gathering the beans from the plants along their grazing path. He was excited to share his new findings with those in his village at the end of the day. As he gathered, though, he began to notice that he too was feeling a bit strange. More energetic, more lively. He wanted to jump, skip, and sing from the mountaintops. He was drowsy like he usually was after lunch.  
He felt he could herd his goats for the next week without resting. There was only one explanation for this sensation: it was the beans. They gave the goats an abundant amount of energy and were making him feel just as manic.  
He knew he'd discovered something monumental that would change the day of every working man (or woman) forever. He began collecting the beans and planting them behind his house. He harvested them and sold them to his neighbors. Soon the village began trading them with other villages. The kingdom began trading with other kingdoms. Until thousands of years later, almost everyone has had coffee and many rely on it's rich smell and flavor to help them kick start their day and provide that extra boost of energy.

 And that was how coffee was discovered.

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