Coffee has had a long and interesting history since its discovery – it hasn’t always been accepted as an everyday ritual that brings joy, opens conversations and helps snap the brain into action each morning!
After our infamous goat herder, Kaldi, introduced the ruby red beans to the travelling monk who instigated the spreading of coffee globally, there were some historical moments where our now much loved and accepted coffee bean caused some serious frowns from the people in charge and almost didn’t make it!
Mecca in 1511, the Governor noticed the rising popularity of coffee drinking and felt it was surely not desirable to have his people stimulated into radical thinking while sitting together and sharing this new buzz beverage. He was worried also that all the shared moments and meetings to enjoy coffee may encourage his opposition to unite against him. His nervousness about a possible political upheaval led him to stop short the consumption of coffee.
Around this time in Java, priests were sharing bowls of energising coffee during funerals to keep their colleagues awake while praying, which was looked down upon by some of the clergy. The practice of caffeine stimulation was not banned, however was looked down upon in mainstream Javanese religious circles for many years.
As Europe entered The Renaissance in the 15th Century, people were experiencing renewal and rebirth after the tragedy of The Black Plague. As clean water was not abundantly available, many were hydrating with beer and wine only until coffee became available. In Italy in particular, the people were excited by this new stimulating drink and embraced it. In particular intellectuals such as scholars and professors enjoyed its effects. (The clever ones, yes!)
Italian clergymen were quick to notice the arrival of coffee to Italian intellectual circles. Being that the newest drink available encouraged creativity, new ideas and expanded thinking, they proclaimed it a ‘Satanic’ drink before successfully banning it. The ban was active until Pope Clement VIII came into power. This trailblazing Church leader was responsible for reconciling King Henry IV to the Catholic faith, assisted in setting up an alliance of Christian Nations to oppose the Ottoman Empire, adjudicated in a bitter dispute between the Dominicans and the Jesuits concerning Free Will, and presided over a jubilee which saw a large number of pilgrimages to Rome.
Being such a busy guy, it is not surprising he was also the first Pope to ever drink coffee. He came to try the ‘Satanic’ drink just to see what all the fuss was about and declared it delicious. Once the green light was given by Pope Clements, coffeehouses sprung up rapidly all through Italy and further extended throughout Europe.
Later in 1623 Constantinople, the new leader Murad IV placed yet another ban on our favourite morning wake up ritual. He went so far as to list explicit punishments if a person was found to drink coffee. First time offenders were subject to a beating, and if found a second time then they could expect to be put into a leather bag, sewn up and thrown into the Bosporus River. Needless to say, there was no specific punishment outlined for a third coffee related offence.
Sweden took things one step further in 1746. Criminalising not only the coffee and the act of drinking it, but coffee paraphernalia such as cups, bowls and roasting equipment. The Swedes found coffee to be so terribly offensive they would punish convicted murderers by ordering them drink it while being observed by Doctors, studying how long it took for the murderers to die. Death by Coffee. One would think the Doctors would have been better to drink the coffee while doing their study in order to stay focused for the length of time this unusual death sentence would take. I am yet to find outcomes of this particular study, but stay tuned for another blog : Death By Coffee In Sweden in 1746.
Frederick The Great, 1776, chose to highlight newfound coffee drinking in order to increase his country’s beer production and consumption. He made a Royal statement saying that beer was completely superior to coffee, that beer should be enjoyed every morning, and that it was more patriotic to drink beer than coffee. It may be worth researching how productive the people of Prussia were during the 1770’s with such Royal advice!
So next time you make yourself a beautiful cup of coffee at home, or stand in line at your favourite café for your daily latte, remember what has transpired for you to enjoy its refreshing, uplifting and energising qualities… It has certainly been through a journey to become a mainstream, accepted everyday drink to enjoy. We salute you coffee!!!