A Short History of Coffee
It’s difficult to know how and where coffee was drunk for the first time. It is thought that it made its original appearance in upper Ethiopia, in eastern Africa, in the Kaffa region. Though we don’t know how it crossed the Red Sea, it was from Yemen that it began its long slow progress towards the west. It would take almost a century to cross Europe and less than 50 years to arrive in the New World.
The Cafés of Paris
Coffee spread throughout Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries at which time the first “cafés” – places where coffee was prepared and sold – made their appearance.
In the 18th century, more economical powdered coffee began to be sold, mixed with chick pea flour to cut the bitterness.
The King of Sweden delivers 2 death sentences…
In the 18th century, King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden decided to settle once and for all the question of whether coffee is healthful. He sentenced two prisoners to death, decreeing that they be executed by massive consumption of coffee! Over several days, under the watchful eyes of government doctors, the prisoners were forced to drink countless large cups of coffee. But instead of succumbing to the beverage’s effects, they felt better each day and even committed the ultimate insult of outliving the king!
Turkish coffee: able to unseat 40 men and satisfy 40 women!
In the 17th century, Turkish coffee, though little known in Europe, was already a tradition firmly established in Arab countries. A whole ritual developed around its heady fragrance. Coffee was served with a small pitcher of cold water. According to Muslim ritual, one had to pick up the thin cup with two fingers, add a drop of ice water to make the grounds fall to the bottom, then drink it very hot.
On a low table, sugar (candy sugar among the Muslims, white sugar among the Turks), cracked pepper, cardamom pods and a little grater were provided in little dishes, as well as apricot liqueur which each person added to his coffee to taste in order to prevent the humors of the stomach from rising to the brain (according to Mohammedan tradition).
Muslims are fond of coffee because they believe it to be a tradition established by the archangel Gabriel himself in order to restore the strength of Mohammed. The prophet boasted that he had never drunk it without immediately feeling strong enough to unseat 40 men and satisfy 40 women.
Coffee is popular in all Arab countries, though some Muslims believe that its intoxicating stimulant properties could cause it to be considered a drug, therefore forbidden by the Koran.
Flavors of France
In the late 18th century, morning coffee became an entrenched custom in France - particularly powdered coffee which was less strong and more economical since it was combined with chick pea flour to reduce its bitterness… and which made it nice and thick, according to kitchen servants.
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