The Triumph of Coffee

It’s been demonized, outlawed, died for, warred against, prohibited by religious leaders, banned, globally traded, taxed, survived for centuries and brewed by all cultures, both blamed for disease and lauded as disease fighter. Coffee has had quite a history and The Guardian’s Oliver Thring just wrote a concise synopsis of the intrigues against coffee since the ninth century. Thring starts by pointing out that world leaders might look at the example of the “war on coffee” and its lack of effect when they attempt their wars on drugs. After all, such wars failed with coffee and he thinks the wars on drugs are equally ineffectual. He goes on to give more details of coffee’s discovery by the Ethiopian goats and their shepherd. According to one early account in a French mid-1600’s text, it was an imam who first threw the beans in the fire because he thought they might be a dangerous temptation for many. But the aroma was so delicious he raked the beans out of the fire and put them in hot water to brew. The rest is history, and its highlights are recounted by Thring. The conclusion of the matter is that coffee has succeeded against great odds, and will continue to be the third most consumed drink in the world, behind water and tea. Despite the current demonizers of the brew who try to ascribe harmful health effects to it, it’s highly unlikely that many of the 90% of Americans who drink coffee with let this demonization change their mind. After all, for all of the reports of negative health effects, there are many more research reports of positive effects on health. Many might find it interesting, though tragic, that coffee shop owners AND their customers were put in sacks and thrown into the Bosporus when they ignored the Ottoman Sultan’s 17th century ban. Outlawing coffee houses for political reasons also failed in England and France. The coffee for which so many fought so bravely was brewed Turkish style until the drip pot was invented in 1750, followed by the espresso machine in 1855. We might think it a thing of the past that men should die for something like drinking coffee. But in Mexico today many die for others’ love of illegal drugs. Is this an indication that Thring is correct in his estimation that our war on drugs, which contributes to the current drug cartel war, is ineffectual? Something to talk about in your coffee shop tomorrow, where your right to freely gather, drink coffee and discuss such things is protected by law. Brew on!

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