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The wakeup beverage of choice for my characters in the Carolingian era was beer or ale, not coffee. They had not even heard of it, but the magic bean was just being discovered thousands of miles to the south.

Coffee Berries

Did red berries like these tempt Kaldi and change the way we start our day? (by Stanislaw Szydlo GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Citing a legend, National Geographic says that around the year 800 an Ethiopian goatherd named Kaldi noticed his goats were cavorting among shrubs with red berries. Kaldi sampled a few of the fruits and was soon cavorting himself. Then a monk noticed and picked the berries. He and his fellows liked the alertness.

Coffee was a food and basis for wine in Africa at that time, but its use spread to Arabia and through Muslim countries. Roast beans were brewed into a drink in Arabia around 1000. The elixir finally made its way to Europe in the 17th century, more than 800 years after its discovery.

It’s a good thing coffee replaced beer as a breakfast drink. I (slurp) would much rather see someone guzzling coffee during my morning commute.

For an excellent package of stories about coffee, see the National Geographic microsite, which I found through foodtimeline.org.

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