[Sca-cooks] Questions on coffee

Terry Decker t.d.decker at att.net
Tue Jan 26 21:11:42 PST 2010

Okay, Stefan.  Here are my thoughts on these statements.

First, you must differentiate between the coffee plant and the coffee 
beverage.  Second, there is a lot of misinformation on coffee out there, 
with the best stories being the most misleading.

>I made a comment on the Lochac list recently about coffee (and tea)  not 
>being period for Europe and this is one of the responses which  came back.
> I've asked for the references for the first three statements since  they 
> don't seem to match what Bear and others have said on this list.  None of 
> them apply to my statement on Europe, but in addition they  don't seem to 
> match with the comments about coffee originating in  Ethiopia in the 
> latter Middle Ages, either.  Are these statements  items which were later 
> disproved? Am I mis-remembering what was said  about coffee here?
> Thanks,
>    Stefan
> =========
> Date: Tue, 26 Jan 2010 14:42:17 +1100
> From: "C Lenehan" <lenehan at our.net.au>
> Subject: [Lochac] coffee
> To: "The Shambles: the SCA Lochac mailing list"
> <lochac at lochac.sca.org>
> For information on the vital subject of coffee
> * Coffee seems to have been drunk in Persia since the ninth century

Questionable without sourcing.  Abu Bakr Muhammad bin Zakariya Al-Razi 
(Rhazes) describes the medicinal properties of "buncha" or "bunchum" but 
does not adquately describe the plant or the method of preparation at the 
beginning of the 10th Century.  This is generally accepted as the first 
reference to coffee.  BTW, it is difficult to make a case for coffee as a 
beverage before 1245 and proof of the beverage occurs only after 1450.
> * It was first cultivated around 675 in Arabia.

Source?  There is some archeological evidence for coffee cultivation at Axum 
in Abyssinia and for the introduction of coffee cultivation following the 
invasion of Yemen in 525.  If so, the practice did not survive, as coffee 
drinking and coffee cultivation appear to have been introduced by Shaykh 
Jamal al-Din Abu Abd Allah Muhammad ibn Sa'is al-Dhabbani around 1454.

> * Abu ibn Sina, known in the West as Avicenna, was acquainted with  coffee
> around the year 1000.

To quote Avicenna, "As to the choice thereof, that of a lemon color, light 
and of good smell is the best; that of the white and heavy is naught.  It is 
hot and dry in the first degree, and, according to others, cold in the first 
degree.  It fortifies the members, it cleans the skin, and dries up the 
humidities that are under it, and gives an excellent smell to all the body."

Avicenna uses the term "bunchum" or "bunn."  In Arabic, "bunn" means the 
entire kernal or the coffee berry depending on usage.  The husk of the berry 
is called "qishr."  The drink is "qahwa."  Obviously both Rhazes and 
Avicenna were referring to the coffee berry, not the beverage.

> * 1475    The first coffee shop opens in Istanbul (Kiva Han).  It is 
> still
> open.

To my knowledge, this is an unproven based on an unsupported statement by 
James Trager.  The first certain appearance of coffee the beverage in 
Constantiople is after Selim I conquered Egypt and brought the drink back to 
his court.  Coffeehouses appear in the Levant around 1530.

> * The first European to mention coffee is Prospero Alpino of Padua.   In 
> 1580
> he went to Egypt, then under Ottoman rule.
> Hrolf

The first European observation of coffee berries and drinking coffee is by 
Leonhard Rauwolf in 1573, published in Rauwolf's Travels in 1583.  Alpini 
observed the plant and the berries in 1580 and provided the first European 
botanical description in his Plants of Egypt, 1592.

The first person to import coffee into Europe may have been Gianfrancesco 
Morosini, the Venetian city magistrate in Constantiople, in 1585.

The botanist Charles l'Ecluse recieved some coffee seeds in 1596, but 
European coffee drinking only began in earnest in the 17th Century.


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