3rd
Jun
2013

Posted in Kafevend Blog

So much in life we take for granted, especially the everyday, the unexceptional, the downright mundane. Then every so often we look at it through different eyes and wonder why. Thus, I'd never really stopped to consider our word for coffee, beyond the fact that it's very similar to the word in other European languages.

So we have: caffè in Italian, café in French, Spanish and Portuguese. Then there are all the 'k' variations including: kaffe in Danish, koffie in Dutch, kaffii in Icelandic, kava in Lithuanian. Looking further afield we find it's the same story: kopi in Indonesian, koohii in Japanese, ka-feh in Hebrew, kafei in Mandarin, ikhofi in Zulu

I could go on, but it would be somewhat repetitive because the word would appear to have the same route across the globe. You'll remember from a previous blog, if you didn't know already, that coffee's roots go right the way back to Ethiopia. The official language there is Amharic and the word for coffee is buna (pronounced boona)! Regional variations include bunna, bun and buni, but nothing resembling coffee, café or the like. How can we all be so far from the original? What kind of Chinese whispers game can have occurred? Well, it turns out there's a simple explanation after all.

The birthplace of the wild Arabica coffee beans, that Kaldi famously discovered when his goats got revved up on caffeine, was the Kaffa region and so the world would seem to call one of its favourite drinks for the place it originated in, rather than by the name its very first consumers labelled it with.

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