Baba Budan Saheb the Patron Saint of Cafficionado

Marie Von Tropp finds it easy to say let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start with. Obviously she does not know, coffee is the right place to start with. With the wafting fragrance of coffee, the day begins and as the coffee falls into the stomach it triggers a commotions. Ideas begin to move like the battalions of the Kaurava army. Things remembered arrive at full gallop ensuing to the wind.  The light cavalry of comparisons deliver a magnificent deploying charge, the artillery called logic quicken to train their ammunition, shafts of wits emerge as sharp shooter, similes arise and hey presto the paper is covered with ink, on the ink bottle has not toppled on it, but the think tank has burst forth the onslaught of words. Of course these days ink no more spills but words are hammered out.

So like all good south Indian house our mornings were coffee-doodle-do. And my father began every task with an auspicious cup of coffee. I follow the pattern so does my brother Ramachandra, the others are not so spiritually evolved.

One holiday papa decided that it was time we were introduced to the Patron saint of coffee in India, Baba Budan Saheb who resides quietly on a hermitage in the hills of Kemmannugundi in Chikkamagalur, today the hills are called after him as baba budangiri.

coffee as we call it today has evolved from the dutch Koffic which in turn was borrowed from the Ottoman Turks  who called qahwah from the Arabic Kahve or the dark one.

The journey of the coffee began somewhere in the quite recesses of Ethiopia dwelt the ancestors of today’s Oromo ethnic group. The hunters of this tribe consumed a berry as it quelled hunger and provided more energy.

The manuscript of Abd-Al-Kadir chronicles the discovery of coffee to Omar the disciple of Abu al-Hasan al-Shadhali . the narrative talks of Omar who was known to cure people with prayers. He was once exiled Mocha to a desert cave near Ousab for reasons not remembered. He was starving and hence began chewing berries from a nearby shrubbery, but found them to be bitter, to bitter better he roasted them, but then the bean hardened. Omar thought boiling the bean would soften it. Boiling resulted in a brown liquid which revitalized and sustained Omar for days. The story of this Miracle drug slowly reached Mocha, Omar was asked to return to Mocha and was made a saint.

Probably Harar has the earliest known original domesticated use for coffee plant. But coffee was primarily consumed in the Islamic world where it originated and was directly associated with religious practises. Coffee helped the consumers to fast during the day and stay awake during the night during the month of Ramzan. Somewhere along the way it got associated with Muhammad’s birthday. There are legends that ascribe the origin of coffee to Muhammad who brought it to replace wine which Islam forbade.

The Sufi saints of the Mocha in Yemen were very secretive about coffee and did not share the berries and curing with others. However in 1600 when Baba Budan went on a pilgrimage to Mecca, on his way he had to stop at Mocha the port city of Yemen.  Where he had the drink qahwah it was dark and sweet. He found it refreshing and revitalizing. But since the Arabs were extremely protective about their coffee industry, he smuggled 7 beans some say he strapped it to his body, some say he buried it in his beard. Anyway he planted them in his hermitage in chikkamagalur.

Thus began the religion of coffee in southern India.

baba budan shrine
shrine of Baba Budan Saheb.

The quah or the dark one, brewed from the berries of Coffea Arabica and Coffea Robusta came to stay India. They are the silent revolutionaries, think of the impact they have on all of us

“a cup of coffee?” is an ice breaker. Over the second and third cups flow matter of high finance, high state, common gossip and even low comedy. Coffee is a social binder, a warmer of tongues, a soberer of minds, a stimulant of wit, a foiler of sleep if you wish so. From the roadside kaapi to the classic demi-tasse it is a perfect democrat.

Lets evoke the blessing of Baba Budan Saheb from the tranquil hills of chikkamagalur with this prayer o’ magic cup carry me above the traffic jam, keep me civil in the subway and forgive my employer as you forgive me.


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