Legends of Wood Fire-Roasted Coffee

December 28, 2010

If you haven’t finished your New Year’s toasting, you may consider making a toast in honor of the animals that have changed history. After all, it was a group of bears who discovered aspirin - and that is bear, not Bayer. It was thousands of years ago, when humans started noticing injured bears gnawing on the bark of the white willow trees. Curious to know why, one entrepreneurial-type human, probably looking for a good web-based home business, figured the bears knew a good thing when they saw it. So this guy, most likely by trial and error, found that by making a tea of the bark, it took away the pain from his New Year’s Day headache.


Then, a few years later, in Ethiopia, a shepherd noticed his goats nibbling at some seeds and acting quite animated afterwards. If you’ve ever seen goats jumping around in play, you can imagine how lively these coffee bean-chewing goats must have been to get the shepherd’s attention.  Eventually someone discovered that roasting the seeds before boiling them made for some good tasting drinks.


Coffee legends provide some interesting stories about how roasting of coffee beans was discovered, but no one really knows the truth. The main legends are these:

1.    Survival: This story goes that Muslim Sheik Omar, exiled to an infertile region of Arabia in about 1260, found himself with no food and no fast food joints anywhere. In desperation, he tried making a soup of coffee seeds. To even a starving sheik, this soup was too bitter, so he tried roasting them before boiling. The rest is history, so they say.


2.    Serendipity: According to this legend, a Yemenite or Ethiopian farmer was out in the fields where he had to cook dinner over the fire. Maybe he used branches from the coffee trees for fuel for the fire. Right away he saw how wonderful the beans were when roasted, and, again, the rest is history.


3.    Entrepreneurial: The Turks, who were gaining control of the Middle East, liked the roasted husks of the coffee fruit, which is called qishr. The story goes that they discovered that roasting  the rest of the bean could also be good, and they started introducing the new coffee product – a qishr by-product - everywhere in order to get rid of beans they’d been discarding and make a little extra profit at the same time.


4.    Logical:  Way back before this, people had been roasting seeds and nuts to improve taste and digestibility, so possibly they just figured these seeds should be treated the same way. They roasted them because it fit their paradigm of seeds and nuts.

There are more stories; choose your favorite. Whichever it is, you can enjoy coffee roasted the old-fashioned way, on the  wood fire, by trying one of ROASTe’s wood fire-roasted coffees: Mr. Espresso, roasted on oak; Antica, Martha Stewart’s favorite, which uses beechwood; and Sant' Eustachio il Caffe, wood type unspecified.  Whatever the case, remember to toast the goats, who played a big part in bringing the coffee culture to the world.

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