[Sca-cooks] Update on coffee question

Terry Decker t.d.decker at att.net
Wed Jan 27 16:25:33 PST 2010

I've previously provided the quote from Avicenna so while the assertion that 
Avicenna dis not use the coffee plant medicinally may be true, he certainly 
knew of the plant and described it's medicinal properties.  Avicenna was 
Persian and spent his life in the Persian sphere of influence primarily in 
Rai (near Teheran).  So the assertion that coffee does not appear in in 10th 
Century Persian culinary text or 13th Century culinary or medicinal texts is 
technically true, but doesn't provide for the Persian medicinal texts of 
Rhazes in the 10th Century or of Avicenna in the 11th Century.

Qahwa and qatt are two distinct beverages.  The Sufis appear to have made 
use of both.

Kha'ir Beg al Mi'mar was the Pasha of the Mamluks and the chief regulator of 
trade and trading practices in Mecca.  His prohibition on coffee in Mecca in 
1511 was the result of a lot of legal manuevering between strict 
religionists and those more open to "intoxicating" beverages.  In the end, 
the strict religionists lost and Kha'ir Beg was replaced the following year.

The story of Pope Clement blessing coffee is apochryphal.

The first reference to coffee in English is from the 1598 edition of 
Linschoten's Travels.

The first known importation of coffee into Europe outside of Italy was into 
Amsterdam in 1616, but commercial importation did not occur until 1640 (by a 
merchant named Wurffbain).


> Bear, among others, replied to my questions with:
> <<< 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. >>>
> Thank you folks for responding.
> I guess I jumped the gun. It seems the coffee discussion has also 
> occurred on the Lochac list multiple times. Here is one of the replies  to 
> the message from the Lochac list I was asking about.
> <<<On 26/01/2010, at 2:42 PM, C Lenehan wrote:
>> For information on the vital subject of coffee
>> * Coffee seems to have been drunk in Persia since the ninth century.
>> * It was first cultivated around 675 in Arabia.
>> * 1475    The first coffee shop opens in Istanbul (Kiva Han).
> This has come up before on this list, and been shown to be a mass of
> pseudo-historical urban legends.
> There is a great deal of mythologising by about the emergence of
> coffee (as either a medicine or a drink), all of which seems to be of
> Western origin. Possibly the most widespread of these is the famous
> story of coffee being 'discovered' by a shepherd watching his charges
> acting vigourously after grazing on the plant, although this account
> does not appear until 1671. Arab historians were aware of these
> myths, and for the most part avoided inventing similar stories
> themselves.
> There is no evidence that coffee was cultivated or even generally
> consumed even in the Islamic world before the 15th century. It is not
> mentioned in surviving 10th century Persian culinary books, nor in
> 13th century culinary or medical treatises.
> The earliest evidence is in the 15th century of a drink called qahwa
> made from  the stimulating leaves of a plant known as qat which was
> used semi-medicinally by several Sufi orders as part of their rituals.
> After a stay in Ethiopia the imam and later Sufi shaykh Jamal al-Din
> ibn Sa'id al-Dhabbani is credited with the innovation of adding
> coffee arabica (known as bunnu, noted as a wild-growing shrub) to the
> brew and introducing it to the Islamic world on his return to Yemen,
> where it began to be used widely. As al-Dhabbani died in 1470 AD, the
> introduction of coffee as a beverage was contemporaneous with his
> lifetime. Stories of widespread cultivation prior to that  have no
> basis in fact.
> Stories of Avicenna or Arab physicians using the plant medicinally
> are also false. Indeed the muftis of Mecca saw coffee as violating
> the shari'a, being a harmful intoxicant. The jurist Kha'ir Beg
> prosecuted the case in 1511 based on the medical evidence of famous
> Persian physicians of coffee as a harmful substance. Islamic
> physicians tended to maintain that stance until at least the mid 17th
> century despite its phenomenal popularity.
> Stories of the 'Kiva Han' coffeehouse are similarly unfounded, and
> similarly undocumentable. Coffeehouses spread just as rapidly as the
> drink it served,
> increasingly popular as a place to meet, talk, and pass the time
> while indulging. The first coffeehouse mentioned in Arab histories is
> located in Mecca in 1511, then Damascus in 1530.
> The Ottoman chronicler Ibrahim Pecevi relates the first coffeehouse
> in Istanbul was opened in 1555 by arrivals from Aleppo and Damascus.
> It is said this coffeehouse became known (in translation) as the Cafe
> of the Gate of Salvation (thus inspiring the name of the Rowany
> Festival coffeehouse).
> For a marvellously detailed and rigourously researched work on coffee
> in period, you can't go past 'Coffee and Coffeehouses: the Origins of
> a Social Beverage in the Medieval Near East' by Ralph Hattox (1988).
> While Prospero Alpini did travel to Egypt 1580-1583, his mention of
> coffee arabica in De Medicina Egyptiorum refers to the plant, not the
> use it was put to as a beverage, and was not published until 1591.
> The earliest mention of coffee seems to be by German physician
> Leonhard Rauwulf in 1583, describing 'a beverage as black as ink,
> useful against numerous illnesses particularly those of the stomach.
> Its consumers take it in the morning...in a porcelain cup that is
> passed around and from which each one drinks a cupful. It is composed
> of water and the fruit from a bush called bunnu'.
> Pope Clement VIII approved coffee as a beverage suitable for
> Christians in 1600 despite appeals to ban 'the Muslim drink'; the
> first coffeehouse in western Europe was established in Venice in 1645.
> So, in short:
> - Coffee emerges 1420-1470 in Aden, Yemen
> - Early use associated with Sufi orders
> - Widespread even though banned for violating shari'a law 1511
> - First coffeehouse in Istanbul 1555
> - Enters western Europe through trade with Venice before 1600.
> Coffee, therefore, is perfectly 'period' for late period Venetian as
> well as Islamic personae. If you're not...tie on a turban and enjoy
> anyway.
> idarat al-ka's (passing the cup),
> Giles   >>>
> I didn't remember any commentary on this list about Pope Clement VIII  and 
> coffee. However, in re-reading the Florilegium coffee-msg file I  did find 
> this:
> <<< 1600: Coffee, introduced to the West by Italian traders, grabs 
> attention in high
> places. In Italy, Pope Clement VIII is urged by his advisers to  consider 
> that favourite drink of the Ottoman Empire part of the  infidel threat. 
> However, he decides to "baptise" it instead, making it  an acceptable 
> Christian beverage.
> I've also seen reference that says the Pope who baptised coffee was 
> Vincent
> III, so I wouldn't be surprised to find that this last item is 
> apocryphal.
> Admittedly, the earliest *English* reference to coffee provided by the 
> is dated 1598.
> Sir Lyonel Oliver Grace, HCB*
> *Heavily Caffeinated Baron >>>
> Bear, know anything about this?
> Stefan

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