Are Coffee Beans Really Beans?

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Jack, of beanstalk fame, probably had to listen to a lot of angry ranting from his mother when he told her he’d sold their cow for magic beans. Nowadays, some people refer to coffee beans as their “magic beans.” But are they really beans?

Nope. Coffee beans do look like beans, but they are actually the seed of a fruit! The Coffea plant produces a red or purple cherry, and the pits inside the cherries are what we call coffee beans.

It makes me wonder what exactly happened the first time humans discovered that the pits inside these Coffea cherries were something enjoyable. There’s a legend, probably apocryphal, about a goatherder in Ethiopia who noticed his goats had a lot more energy to expend after eating coffee beans. If this goatherder did exist, how long did it take him to figure out that it was the pits of the fruit, and not the fruit itself, that made his goats more active? And how on Earth did people make the leap from chewing on coffee beans for energy to grinding them up and brewing them as a beverage?

I feel like this should be a “Just So Story” that needs to be written. Will you be the one to write it?

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