Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Dangerous Brew!

Coffee, which has been associated with all things Arabic, was actually banned from Arab countries in the 15oo’s. Mark Pendergrast reports this in Uncommon Grounds (p. 7):

The Grand Vizier Kuprili of Constantinople, for example, fearing sedition during a war, closed the city’s coffeehouses. Anyone caught drinking coffee was soundly cudgeled. Offenders found imbibing a second time were sewn into leather bags and thrown into the Bosphorus. Even so, many continued to drink coffee in secret, and eventually the ban was withdrawn.

Why did coffee drinking persist in the face of persecution in these early Arab societies? The addictive nature of caffeine provides one answer, of course; yet there is more to it. Coffee provided an intellectual stimulant, a pleasant way to feel increased energy without any apparent ill effects… Coffeehouses allowed people to get together for conversation, entertainment, and business, inspiring agreements, poetry, and irreverence in equal measure. So important did the brew become in Turkey that a lack of sufficient coffee provided grounds for a woman to seek a divorce.

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