The Mystery of Coffee’s Name

How caffeinated do you like to be? Coffee has gotten some bad press in the past, including myths that it would stunt your growth or cause heart problems. But recent research generally puts coffee in the clear, with potential health benefits outweighing the risks. Who doesn’t love to have a vice transformed into a virtue?

A classic part of coffee’s mystique is the name “coffee” itself. The uncertainty around its etymology spans continents.

History shows that it was the Italians who introduced coffee to the rest of Europe as caffe. This word derives from the Turkish kahveh, which in turn stems from Arabic qahwah, short for qahhwat al-bun, meaning “wine of the bean.” This poetic phrase led to the misunderstanding that qahwah also meant “wine.”

However, some researchers suggest that the story of coffee’s name goes further, originating from the Ethiopian region of Kaffa, which is one of the historic homes of the bean. In Kaffa, coffee is called buno, and in Arabic the raw bean can be known as bunn. Returning to the lovely “wine of the bean,” qahhwat al-bun, both Ethiopian words are present.

Whether the name came from Kaffa or qahwah, coffee’s mystique tastes delicious to us. To close, here are the definitions of a few lesser-known coffee drinks! See if you know how they’re made, and what they taste like.

Café-brûlot
Café royale
Macchiato