July 3, 2008

Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Beverages?

Category: Feasting :: Permalink

Claudia Roden’s Coffee: A Connoisseur’s Companion begins with a history of coffee and that history, to my surprise, turns out to have been full of controversy  In the Middle East, where coffee drinking originated, coffee became very popular — monks and dervishes drank it to stay awake — but eventually it was seen as a threat to Islam:

Coffee houses sprang up everywhere people congregated.  The more they frequented the coffee houses, the less they went to the mosques.  Backgammon, mankala, dancing, music and singing, activities frowned on by the stricter adherents of Islam, also went on in the coffee houses.  Having made a start within religion, coffee became a threat to religious observance (p. 13).

The Ottoman Grand Vizier suppressed coffee houses in 1656. And in Europe, there was no less controversy: “A Women’s Petition Against Coffee was published in London in 1674, complaining that men were never to be found at home during times of domestic crisis since they were always in the coffee houses, and that the drink rendered them impotent” (p. 14).  In France, the wine merchants saw coffee as “an unwelcome competitor” (p. 14).

And the church?

In Italy it was the priests who appealed to Pope Clement VIII to have the use of coffee forbidden among Christians.  Satan, they said, had forbidden his followers, the infidel Moslems, the use of wine because it was used in the Holy Communion, and given them instead his “hellish black brew.”  It seems the Pope liked the drink, for his reply was: “Why, this Satan’s drink is so delicious that it would be a pity to let the infidels have exclusive use of it.  We shall cheat Satan by baptizing it.”  Thus coffee was declared a truly Christian beverage by a farsighted Pope (p. 14).

So feel free to pour yourself another cup or visit a coffee shop and let someone pour one for you.  Satan doesn’t own anything delicious.  It’s God who made coffee beans grow and gave them caffeine to energize us and made them taste good, especially when brewed right and served with a bit of sugar and some cream … or however you like it.  Myself, I think I’ll have a breve this afternoon, with thanksgiving.

Posted by John Barach @ 11:44 am | Discuss (4)

4 Responses to “Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Beverages?”

  1. Angie B. Says:

    Are you familiar with Bach’s Coffee Cantata? In it, a father is concerned about his daughter’s excessive coffee drinking. He tries to bribe her in to kicking the habit, but she has the last laugh. I have a link to the daughter’s aria in praise of coffee at my blog here.

  2. Peter vanBrederode Says:

    Coffee with sugar and cream? Would you mix a single malt scotch with coke or pepsi? 🙂

  3. John Barach Says:

    Single malt scotch? No. But bourbon….?  Well, with bourbon I might put some sugar in the bottom of the glass first, add some sprigs of mint and powdered ice, and only then pour in some bourbon, topping the whole thing off with nutmeg. At least, I\’ve tried to do that a couple of times, but my mint juleps haven\’t yet turned out quite right.

    I wouldn\’t try that with scotch. But coffee is the equivalent of single malt, and even if some coffee is, not all is.  There are coffee shops where I\’ll drink a cappucino, and others where I appreciate some sugar and cream to mute the charred taste of the coffee beans.  But then there\’s also the matter of taste.  You add the mint to the bourbon and the lime to the gin for taste, and so you add sugar and cream and stuff to coffee for taste.

    And if I\’m at Bucer\’s in Moscow, I\’m having a cortadito.


  4. James Oakley Says:

    “and others where I appreciate some sugar and cream to mute the charred taste of the coffee beans”

    I’ve never commented on your blog before, so Hi! As a fellow coffee-loving, reformed pastor I couldn’t not respond to that. Being post-mill, I believe all such “other” coffee shops will one day vanish.

    In the meantime, I prefer to drink tea / water if I’m out, then wait to get home for a decent cup. Mine’s a ristretto please. But I do like a good cappa where the underlying espresso is good enough to cut through the milk and make the milk drink taste just perfect.

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