Posted in Kafevend Blog
Hot drinks legends
Goats try coffee
Many of us will have heard the legend about how coffee was first discovered. An Ethiopian goatherd by the name of Kaldi notices the incredibly energising effect that eating berries from a certain bush has on his herd of goats. Those berries are, of course, coffee cherries and when Kaldi decides to try some for himself he becomes the first person to ever experience a caffeine hit.
An emperor discovers tea
Similarly, a popular Chinese legend provides us with a story to explain the origins of tea. Some four and a half thousand years ago the Emperor Shennong is sitting and contemplating life under the shade of a tree. He has a cup of boiled water to sip from and into it fall some leaves from the tree. Yes, you've guessed it, the tree is none other than the camellia sinensis and Emperor Shennong becomes the first person to savour the taste and benefit from the rejuvenating properties of a cup of tea!
Perhaps less well known is the legend behind the origin of cocoa. Forget goatherds, or even emperors, this particular legend has a god as its central character. The cocoa bean is originally from Mesoamerica, so unsurprisingly the legend stems from Mexico. It concerns one of the chief gods of the Aztec and Toltec cultures. His name is Quetzalcoatl and he's represented as a feathered serpent. The story goes that the Toltecs were having a real struggle to get by; noticing their plight, Quetzalcoatl decides to visit them in human form and teach them a thing or two about how to make the most of their land, grow crops and cook delicious food. He descends to earth on the rays of light from the Morning Star. Recognising his divine nature, the Toltecs build him a palace and he gets to work teaching them all about the best farming methods.
Ultimately, Quetzalcoatl decides that he will give the Toltecs a present; yes, you've guessed it- he gives them a cocoa plant. Unfortunately, the cocoa plant belongs to his twin brother Xolotl, who is a lot less magnanimous than Quetzalcoatl and feels that cocoa should remain a drink for the gods alone and not mere people. Once Xolotl realizes what's happened he seeks out the help of Texcatlipoca, the god of darkness.
Texcatlipoca hatches a cunning plan; disguised as a merchant selling pulque, an alcoholic drink made from the agave plant, he manages to get Quetzalcoatl to accept some on the basis that he's feeling a bit down, worried that the gods might try to get their revenge for his generous gift of cocoa to the Toltecs.
Quetzalcoatl is no different to an ordinary mortal when it comes to the effects of alcohol and he's soon had far too much and acting like a good for nothing drunk. Texcatlipoca's plan has worked; the Toltecs have witnessed this unseemly behaviour and lost all trust and respect for Quetzalcoatl and when Quetzalcoatl comes to his senses again a massive sense of shame causes him to run off. As he goes he notices that all the cocoa plants have shrivelled up and he realizes that the Toltec civilisation is doomed. When he reaches the sea he scatters the last few cocoa seeds he has left and it is said that it is from this parting gift that the lands of Mesoamerica became the cradle of cocoa
for the world.
References:The legend of Quetzalcoatl