Food from Angels and Goats
It is said that around the seventh century, somewhere near the Red Sea - whether it was Ethiopia or Yemen is a subject of debate - a herd of goats ate the magenta berries of a local shrub and began to act strangely. In a classic 1935 study called Coffee: The Epic of a Commodity, the German journalist Heinrich Eduard Jacob described their behavior thus:
All night, for five nights in succession - nay, for seven or eight - they clambered over rocks, cutting capers, chasing one another, bleating fantastically. They turned their bearded heads hither and thither; with reddened eyes they gamboled convulsively when they caught sight of the goatherds, and then they darted off swift as arrows speeding from the bow.
Having observed the frisky goats, the imam of a nearby monastery - a sort of medieval Carlos Castaneda - roasted the berries in a chafing dish, crushed them in a mortar, mixed them with boiling water, and drank the brew. When he lay down, he couldn't sleep. His heartbeat quickened, his limbs felt light, his mood became cheerful and alert. "He was not merely thinking," wrote Jacob. "His thoughts had become concretely visible. He watched them from the right side and from the left, from above and from below. They raced like a team of horses." The imam found that he could juggle a dozen ideas in the time it normally took to consider a single one. His visual acuity increased; in the glow of his oil lamp, the parchment on his table looked unusually lustrous and the robe that hung on a nearby peg seemed to swell with life. He felt strengthened, as Jacob put it, "by heavenly food brought to him by the angels of Paradise."