When Drinking Coffee Was a Life-Threatening Experience

January 18, 2012

We can all be thankful to have made it out of the dark ages of coffee. Believe it or not, but in the land that brought us Turkish coffee, it was at one time a capital offense to be caught with a cup of brew. This anti-coffee view was followed by many others through history, until the modern times in which we know that coffee is not the demon it was at first thought to be. Adam Cole has written an entertaining article on the enemies of coffee through the ages. The Ottoman Empire ruler Sultan Murad IV had a problem with coffee and decapitated coffee drinkers if he found them in the act. His successor let coffee drinking offenders off easy, with a cudgeling for the first offense and a trip to the bottom of the river in a sewn-shut bag for the second offense. Meanwhile, on the street corner, preachers swore it would inspire indecent behavior. Even doctors in Europe claimed coffee would cause paralysis. English ladies published a six-page manifesto making claims about men and impotence from drinking coffee. Men answered with a lewd defense of their coffee drinking habits. Although some of the objection to coffee was due to misunderstanding of health issues, a lot of it was politically motivated. While drinking liquor could make one drunk and jolly, something entirely different happened in a coffee house after a social group shared coffee. It stimulated the brain rather than dulled it, resulting in much political plot-making against incumbent governments. Of course, the dictatorial governments tried to outlaw the brew. Nevertheless, persistence paid off and coffee grew in popularity. Even the Pope caught the fever. “Papal advisers told Pope Clement VII that coffee was the antithesis of communion wine. He disagreed, and laid the foundation for the strictest of Catholic traditions: coffee hour.” His successor was heard to say that it was so good, its enjoyment should not limited to infidels. According to the legends, many gave their lives in pursuit of the joys of coffee. We can be thankful that in our day, coffee is not only popular everywhere, but we daily hear good news about how good it is for us. So drink to the Pope with a great Italian, and to the Sultan with traditional Turkish. Enjoy!



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