The ‘Sufi’ Monk

Have you ever heard the word Sufi?

Perhaps it makes you remember Rumi Sufi Poetry which has become the best selling poetry in the Western world, or a meditation circle you’ve once been told about involving the word Sufi.

The word Sufi comes from the Arabic word ‘suuf’ meaning wool. It was this rough wool which Sufis would wear to challenge their comforts of ‘this world’ in the pursuit of the ‘next world’.

Now, let us take you into our world at Sufi Monks, into an aspect of Sufi History, that being the chosen drink of the Sufis, Coffee. The history of the origin of Coffee and the Wine of Arabia starts in 1400 AD in the Port of Mokha, Yemen, located in the south of the Arabian peninsula.

It all starts with me, the Sufi Monk.

Origin of coffee
Ali Ibn Omar al-Shadhili

The origin of coffee is often linked to an Ethiopian Sheppard by the name of Khaldi whose sheep ate coffee ‘fruit’ and became stimulated by them. This story is recognised as the earliest coffee origin myth.

However, it was in Yemen, in the Port of Mokha, where the Sufi Ali Ibn Omar al-Shadhili, roasted coffee beans and brewed the world’s first cup of coffee. This was said to happen around 1400AD, 600 years ago.

The drink was known to be drunk in Sufi gatherings where they would remember God. Coffee would help the Sufis get into high spiritual states. These Sufis then travelled throughout parts of the world and on their journeys, brought coffee beans, thereby beginning the spread of coffee across the world.


The Wine Of Arabia
For most of the history of the Muslim world, alcohol was prohibited for it’s highly intoxicating effects. When Yemeni Sufi monks in the 15th century started brewing and drinking coffee, an altered version was created that had the effect of wine, which was forbidden for Muslims. When this new drink reached the holiest Islamic city Mecca, an argument started between two parties, the first being the sultan’s scholars and the second being the Sufi monks and scholars from Egypt, who argued with proof of it’s non-intoxicating effect. The latter group argued coffee actually helped Muslims perform more prayer and work with it’s permissible stimulating effect.

In the debate, the sultan’s scholars won at first and the Ottoman Sultan Murad IV deemed coffee drinking as immoral. Coffee houses were then destroyed and coffee lovers were deemed as criminals by authorities. However, the course changed for coffee permissibility in 1516, when Ottoman Sultan Selim II made coffee lawful again. It was coffee, which was coined ‘The Wine of Arabia’ that became permissible for Muslims to drink.

3 Waves of Coffee
From the 1400’s Yemen was responsible for the first wave initiation of coffee brewing and drinking. This original coffee movement then sprung forth a worldwide second wave of coffee exports across the globe between the 1600-1800’s across Europe and Britain. We have today the third wave of coffee which is the specialty coffee movement. This is where Sufi Monks invites you to discover the unique tasting qualities of rare Yemeni coffee.

Yemeni coffee today
Around the world small brands like Sufi Monks are reviving Yemeni coffee production and consumption once again. Varieties of high quality Yemeni coffee, which are rare and hard to find, are now being made available to the wider public.
The highlight aspect of this resurgence in Yemeni coffee is the improved livelihoods provided through coffee farms which allow farmers and their families to have essentials in life and education for future generations. Also, by Yemeni farmers turning away from the popular cultivation of the local stimulant plant Qat, coffee production is giving them a more sustainable occupation to earn a living.