Coffee had a strong hold on the world’s palates and economies long before Starbucks made it a hot commodity. According to legend, the beverage was discovered by an Ethiopian shepherd who observed that the beans gave his goats more energy. Yemeni monks were the first to systematically cultivate the coffee plant and create a beverage from roasted coffee beans. In the 16th century, it was enjoyed as a recreational beverage in Persia, Syria, Egypt, and Turkey, where it had become popular in the 16th century. Originally, it was used by monks to stay awake during long hours of prayer.
However, the Arab world maintained a strict monopoly on the plant, prohibiting the export of anything other than roasted Arabica beans in order to prevent coffee trees from growing outside Yemen. If any coffee plants or fresh beans were to leave Yemen, the culprit would face the death penalty. The majority of these pre-roasted exports to Europe passed through the World Trade Centre for Coffee, which was located in the Red Sea port of Mocha.
In the 16th century, an Indian Sufi monk named Baba Budan made the pilgrimage to Mecca and stopped in Mocha on his way back. As was the custom for pilgrims passing through the port, he was offered a cup of qahwa to ease the arduous journey. The flavor was so intoxicating that he vowed to bring the miraculous drink back to his homeland.