[Sca-cooks] Questions on coffee

David Friedman ddfr at daviddfriedman.com
Wed Jan 27 01:55:32 PST 2010

>Being half Swedish/Fin/Saami my blood is more coffee then blood. 
>(Help! there is blood in my caffeine system!)
>  It is documented that coffee was in Asia Minor by 1000 A.D. 

That isn't documentation--it's assertion on a web page that mixes 
legend with purported historical facts, and doesn't give its sources 
for the latter. The earliest good evidence for the drinking of coffee 
in the Middle East is, as Bear says, from the 1400s, which is a bit 
late for Varangians.

  It is also documented that the Varangian Guards (Viking Shock 
Troops) for the Emperor of the Byzantine Empire were also present in 
Asia minor. The deal or contract was that the Viking soldier served a 
term of 15-18 years as the personal guard to the Emperor. When time 
of service was done they were allowed to go home with whatever riches 
they had acquired.

>  18 years in country is more enough time to acquire a taste for the 
>local beverages (coffee).

Or would have been if there were any evidence that coffee was a 
common drink in the area at the time. Since there isn't ... . The 
dispute is over when someone in the area first drank coffee. Given 
that we have extensive literature from the Islamic world, it's hard 
to believe that if it was "the local beverage" it wouldn't have been 
extensively mentioned.

>Based on evidence of extensive trade between Birka, Hebdy, Gotland, 
>et al. with Asia it is reasonable to assume that coffee would have 
>followed the trade routes and traders.

The extensive evidence includes lots of archaeological evidence. Has 
there been a single find of coffee beans along that trade route? 
There's quite a lot of surviving literature from Scandinavia--does it 
include any mention of coffee before c. 1600 when it began spreading 
into Europe?

>The Arabian did parch or boil the beans to prevent them from being 
>grown outside of Arab control.

You know this how?

>  It wasn't until the 1600 when coffee was grown outside of the Asia 
>Minor or Africa.
>While it is documented that coffee houses did not become popular 
>until the 17th century, there are personal records/journals from the 
>Swedish King and his ambassadors to Turkey  "having being compelled 
>to drink a bitter concoction offered to him. He had looked at the 
>black drink with apprehension, he said but learned to drink it 
>without burning himself." (pg 125 Swedish Ways~ Lilly Lorenzen)

"Karl X Gustaf returned from Turkey, where he had been sent on some 
political mission, he reported having been compelled to drink a 
bitter concoction ..."

Karl X Gustav was born in 1622.

>  In the same article it also talks about how Dr. Carl von Linne

Born in 1707.

>  had prescribed coffee has a "remedy."

>He was the one who also discovered that he could take on an extra 
>shift after drinking 3 cups.
>This is my justification for having coffee in a Viking encampment.
>Aelina the Saami

Your justification for having coffee in a Viking encampment is that 
it was mentioned by Scandinavians in the 17th and 18th centuries? 
Despite the complete lack of evidence that it was drunk in 
Scandinavia before the 17th century, the fact that it was viewed as 
novely when it came into Europe c. 1600, the fact that there is no 
evidence that it was a common drink in the middle east at the time 
you posit in order to tell your story about imports by the 
Varengians, the fact that there is no literary or archaeological 
evidence for its existence in Scandinavia in the viking period?

That isn't a justification. It's an excuse for doing something you 
have no reason to believe is period and lots of reason to believe 
isn't. Doing such things is perfectly understandable--all of us make 
compromises between what is period and what we are willing to do. 
Doing it and pretending to other people that it is period, on the 
other hand, means spreading historical misinformation on the pretence 
of historical information--not something the Society ought to be 

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