Once upon a time, in a faraway land called Ethiopia — or maybe Abyssinia, it was a very long time ago, after all — there lived a young goatherd named Kaldi. By all accounts [and there are many, as the story has been retold many, many times] Kaldi was a very responsible young man, and not one to do foolish things.

Every day Kaldi would set his goats to grazing in the hills that surrounded his village, and every evening his loyal goats would return home. This, of course, would suggest that the goats were the responsible parties. How foolish is it, after all, to just turn your goats loose into the hills every morning? But, back to our story…

One evening, Kaldi’s goats did not return home. The young man, no doubt feeling a little foolish by now, searched for his herd all through the night, and as morning broke he found them, leaping and dancing with reckless abandon and apparent glee round a stand of shiny, dark-leafed shrubs with bright red berries. Kaldi took in the scene before him, amazed. He soon decided it must be the berries that caused such reckless behavior in his otherwise responsible goats, and — forgetting everything his mother told him about eating strange foods from strange places — Kaldi sampled the berries, himself. In no time, he too was dancing gleefully with his goats around the green-leafed shrubs.

Soon, we are told, a wise and learned man passed by — an imam, or monk — trudging sleepily on his way to prayer. The imam rubbed his eyes and took in the scene before him — Kaldi and his goats — dancing gleefully about a stand of shiny, dark-leafed shrubs with bright red berries.

Being both a curious and learned man, the imam gathered some of these berries, himself, and on returning home he studied them. In his experiments with the bright red berries, he roasted them, boiled them and sampled the resulting beverage. He shared what he found with the rest of his fellow monks, and soon none fell asleep at prayers! And so coffee spread from place to place, creating a more gleeful, and wakeful, world.

So what of Kaldi? Perhaps he and his goats are dancing, still.

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