Hist-o-Coffee-art - 2/20/15
"The History of Coffee" by TH Lady Miriam bat Shimeon.
This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.
These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org
Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author or translator.
While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.
Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous
stefan at florilegium.org
This article was first published in the May AS48 issue of the Cockatrice, the A&S newsletter for Lochac.
The History of Coffee
by TH Lady Miriam bat Shimeon
There are many legends surrounding coffee. One had a simple goad-herder named Kaldi discovering his goats dancing after eating berries from a bush. Another is the Archangel Gabriel telling the Prophet Mohammed how to make coffee.
It is thought however that the first reference to coffee was in Avicenna's work "The Canon of Medicine" (or Al-Ganum fit-Tebb in Arabic) written around the year 1000 CE. The fifth book is a work on pharmacology, covering 760 medicines including a drug called buncham which was considered "hot and dry and good for digestion and the stomach". The drink was described as coming from Yemen.
It does not seem to have been in common usage except as medicine until taken up by the mystical Sufi order, run by Shaikh Abul Hasan ash-Shadhili in the 12th century. The Order would brew roasted beans in order to stay awake during all night prayers. The effect of the coffee on the body was even given a name- marqaha.
It is confirmed that coffee was being spread by a mufti in mid-15th century Yemen, with the major sales done through the port of Moccha. By 1500 CE, the first coffee houses were opened in Mecca and Cairo and in 1517 in Constantinople. By 1532, coffee houses were open in Aleppo and Damascus. Various political and religious authorities shut down the coffee houses over the next hundred years. It was thought that coffee took people away from the mosques and drove them to coffee houses, staying awake all night with arguments. However much they were closed down, by the end of the 16th century, over 300 coffee shops were open in Constantinople alone.
Coffee House from a 16th century manuscript
There were three different of places of consumption- the home (where coffee was also roasted in silver concave plates over brass or copper braziers), stalls (much like take away coffee places today), which were usually located in the business district and the coffeehouse. The picture is of a 16th century Constantinople coffeehouse with a boy dancer or Köçek entertaining the crowds. Games such as backgammon, chess and draughts (some of which can be seen in the picture) were also played in coffeehouses. While women were not allowed in coffeehouses (or at least only the disreputable dancers were allowed) women drank their coffee at home. A woman was also allowed to divorce her husband if he did not provide enough coffee for her.
Coffee stalls were common at celebrations, which involved entire cities, such as the circumcision ceremonies of the sons of the Sultan. This picture is taken from the Surname-i Hümayun or the Book of the Imperial Circumcision Festival. It was done in 1582 with celebrations covering 52 days and nights. This illumination shows a stall serving coffee on a closed wheeled wagon.
The first European mention of coffee is in a work called Dr. Leonhart Rauwolf's Travels into the Eastern Countries written by Dr. Leonhart Rauwolf in 1582. In his travels to Aleppo and then Syria, Rauwolf says that everyone in the city drinks -"a very good drink they call as ink and very good in illness, especially of the stomach. This they drink in the morning early in the open places before everybody, without any fear or regard, out of clay or china cups, as hot as they can, sipping it a little at a time".
Prospero Alpini (Italian botanist and physician) first wrote about the coffee plant in his work De Plantis Aegypti liber (1593) since very little was known about the plant at all. Coffee beans only went on sale from Yemen after they had been par-boiled so could not be sown. Coffee was first introduced into Venice in 1615, while London, Oxford and Cambridge first got coffeehouses in the 1650s.
How to make a cup of coffee in the style of the Turks
The coffee should be 100% arabica beans, freshly ground to a fine powder. Sugar is optional, so add to taste. Cardamom and/or nutmeg were also added in the pot for digestive reasons. I recommend an ibrik but a small saucepan could do it.
1 cup cold water
1 tablespoon coffee
1/8 teaspoon cardamom/nutmeg (optional)
sugar to taste (optional)
Bring water and coffee to the boil (and optional ingredients), stirring constantly as it can scorch easily. Once brought to the boil, remove from heat and sit for 30 seconds. Repeat twice more. Serve and enjoy.
Allen, Stewart Lee, The Devil's Cup: A History of the World According to Coffee, (Ballantine Books, 2003)
Hewitt, Robert, Coffee: Its History, Cultivation, and Uses, (BiblioLife, 2009)
Pendergrast, Mark, Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World , (Basic Books, 2010)
Wagner, Mark S.. Like Joseph in beauty: Yemeni vernacular poetry and Arab-Jewish symbiosis (Brill, 2008)
Weinberg, Bennett Alan and Bealer, Bonnie K. The world of caffeine: the science and culture of the world's most popular drug , (Routledge, 2001)
Wild, Antony, Coffee: A Dark History, (W. W. Norton & Company, 2005) Websites-
Coffee History Pre-1600 on Espresso & Coffee Guide- http://www.espressocoffeeguide.com/all-about-coffee-2/worlds-best-history-of- coffee/coffee-history-pre-1600/
Dr. Leonhart Rauwolf's Travels into the Eastern Countries by Dr. Leonhart Rauwolf. Translated by Nicholas Staphurst. Available for download from the Internet Archive- http://www.archive.org/details/acollectioncuri00goog.
Wine In Arabia by Paul Lunde in Saudi Aramco World Online Magazine. http://www.saudiaramcoworld.com/issue/197305/wine.in.arabia.1.htm.
Wine Of Arabia by Jon Mandaville in Saudi Aramco World Online Magazine. http://www.saudiaramcoworld.com/issue/197305/wine.of.arabia.2.htm.
Yemen's Well-Traveled Bean by Eric Hansen in Saudi Aramco World Online Magazine. - http://www.saudiaramcoworld.com/issue/199705/yemen.s.well-traveled.bean.htm.
Minature of an Ottoman coffee shop in Hungary
Copyright 2014 by Miriam Staples. <miriam.staples at gmail.com>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited. Addresses change, but a reasonable attempt should be made to ensure that the author is notified of the publication and if possible receives a copy.
If this article is reprinted in a publication, please place a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.