Coffee

November 27, 2007 § 19 Comments

Coffee is my favorite beverage. It is a widely consumed stimulant beverage which is prepared from the roasted seeds of the coffee plant. These seeds or “beans” as we call them today, were discovered in the highlands of Ethiopia. Coffee was first mentioned in literature by Muhammad Razi, a Persian physician and Islamic scholar. Coffee spread from Egypt to Yemen and by the 15th century it had reached Central Asia, Persia and North Africa. Coffee’s popularity grew in the Muslim World and spread to the West thereafter.

The coffee beans are put through a fermentation process before they can be roasted and prepared as a beverage. The coffee-beans are usually sold in its roasted form, however green coffee beans can be bought, roasted and ground at home. There are a number of different preparation methods which include: Americano, espresso, French press and Turkish coffee.

By the end of the 17th century coffeehouses, informal establishments offering a range of food-stuffs and beverages, particularly a variety of coffee, were becoming popular in France, Italy, Holland, England, Germany, the United States and many other countries.

One point we must make clear before moving forward, is that there can be no discussion of coffee or coffeehouses without discussing the Turks and the Ottomans. This is because coffeehouse culture developed out of the Ottoman lifestyle. Sources say that the first coffeehouse was established in 1554 under the authority of the Ottoman Sultan, Suleiman I, known in the West as Suleiman the Magnificent developed an elaborate reconstruction of the Ottoman judicial system. Sultan Suleiman I, was known worldwide to be a fair and just ruler, a man of the people and protector of the arts and sciences. This can be seen historically, as his rule oversaw the “Golden Age” of the Ottoman’s cultural development.

The first coffeehouse was owned by two people according to a historian named Ibrahim Peçevi Efendi wrote of this saying,

“Until the year 962 (1554-55), in the High, God-Guarded city of Constantinople, as well as in Ottoman lands generally, coffee and coffeehouses did not exist. About that year, a fellow called Hakam from Aleppo and a wag called Shams from Damascus, came to the city: they each opened a large shop in the district called Tahtalkala, and began to purvey coffee.”

The Tahtalkale district of Istanbul, which was home for the first coffeehouse, remains a lively center for trade and commerce even today. Early in coffeehouse-history they were merely kind of getaway for many of the locals both the educated and uneducated alike. The coffeehouse would provide an environment for reading or games like backgammon and chess, conversations on art and culture and of course the occasional disagreement.

Overtime the coffeehouse industry bloomed and soon it was a regular meeting place for everyone, from the unemployed to the high ranking officials; from the troublemakers to the imams and muezzins. Later, the coffeehouses became regular meeting places for troublesome activities and as a result Sultan Murat III banned coffeehouses, a ban which was lifted by subsequent sultans.

In Europe coffee was prohibited prior to the 17th century and there are reports of severe punishment for drinking coffee such as being sewn into a leather bag and tossed alive into the sea. However, Pope Clement VIII baptized coffee making it a “true Christian beverage”. In 1782 King Frederick II of Prussia, placed controls on the coffee industry. This was an attempt to uproot unlicensed coffee roasting, Frederick II commissioned wounded soldiers to be discharged and employed as “Coffee Smellers”. These “Coffee Smellers” worked as spies to “smell out” unlicensed coffee roasting operations during the coffee monopoly in Germany.

Today, coffee is everywhere and widely distributed. There are mega-coffeehouses like Starbucks, which one can find on nearly every Manhattan corner and there are smaller organizations with a pleasant environment such as the Sugar Hill Cafe on W. 145th St. between St. Nicholas and Edgecome in Harlem. Social excitement surrounds coffeehouses and coffee today is, perhaps, just as much a part intellectual and social interaction as it was during the time of Sultan Suleiman I.

One reason for this is the nature of coffee’s effect on the body. Coffee is a stimulant and caffeine is the most important chemical in coffee. It is an odorless and slightly bitter solid. Caffeine mostly affects the brain, kidneys, and the cardiovascular (heart and blood vessels) system, but it also increases metabolism and breathing. A five ounce serving of regular coffee contains about 90-125 milligrams of caffeine; whereas, an equal amount of tea only contains 30-70 milligrams of caffeine. A soft drink only has about 37 milligrams of caffeine per five ounces.

Coffee has several effects on the human body:

  • it produces a feeling of well-being
  • it can speed up a person’s thoughts
  • it helps to increase circulation of the blood
  • it can cause nervousness and loss of sleep when taken in large amounts
  • it gives some people the ability to memorize simple numbers, concepts, and thought sequences easier

If you drink one or two cups several times a day, coffee will have little effect on the cardiovascular system. However, if you drink three to four cups several times a day, it will slow your pulse rate, raise blood pressure, contract blood vessels that are right under the skin, and dilate blood vessels of the kidneys, muscles, skin, and heart. Finally, caffeine makes the heart contract harder while it’s pumping. So please enjoy your coffee, but drink responsibly.

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§ 19 Responses to Coffee

  • chennette says:

    assalamu ‘alaikum. I liked this post and particularly for the new-to-me information – I just came back from Turkey, where I had Turkish coffee and experienced the coffee and tea drinking culture, that was simple and everywhere. Of course I came back with much coffee to continue the experience. I like coffee, but try not to become addicted 😉

  • Saifuddin says:

    BismillaharRahmanirRahim

    wa ‘alaikum as-salaam Chennette. I’m glad you liked the post, please come continue to visit us.

  • Irving says:

    Excellent post 🙂 I have read that the Turkish Sultans banned both coffee houses and tobacco at one time or another. LOL.
    Time for a cup of java and a cigarette 🙂

    Ya Haqq!

  • jonolan says:

    A wonderful post on that most blessed of beverages!

  • Saifuddin says:

    BismillaharRahmanirRahim

    as-salaamu ‘alaikum. Irving and jonolan, thank you for your comments. Irving, I was going to mention the ban on tobacco also, but knowing the Ottomans, there is a good story behind it and I would like to know more details about why the ban was placed.

  • jonolan says:

    BTW – On the other post about dealing with non-Muslim friends and relations, I wasn’t trying to be offensive. I was just trying to make a point about the difficulties and drawbacks.

  • Saifuddin says:

    BismillaharRahmanirRahim

    as-salaamu ‘alaikum. jonolan, I wasn’t offended. The post was made available for private views only for other reasons. Don’t sweat it, I have a response that I will send to you off-line, inshaAllah (God willing).

  • jonolan says:

    Shukran (Thank you – if my Arabic hasn’t failed me)

  • Mary White says:

    Coffee puts the system under the strain of metabolizing a deadly acid-forming drug, depositing its insoluble cellulose, which cements the wall of the liver, causing this vital organ to swell to twice its proper size. In addition, coffee is heavily sprayed. (Ninety-two pesticides are applied to its leaves.) Diuretic properties of caffeine cause potassium and other minerals to be flushed from the body.

    All this fear went away when I quit, and it was a book that inspired me to do it called The Truth About Caffeine by Marina Kushner. There are five things I liked about this book:

    1) It details–thoroughly–the ways in which caffeine may damage your health.

    2) It reveals the damage that coffee does to the environment. Specifically, coffee was once grown in the shade, so that trees were left in place. Then sun coffee was introduced, allowing greater yields but contributing to the destruction of rain forests. I haven’t seen this mentioned anywhere else.

    3) It explains how best to go off coffee. This is important. If you try cold turkey, as most people probably do, the withdrawal symptoms will likely drive you right back to coffee.

    4) Helped me find a great resource for the latest studies at CaffeineAwareness.org

    5) Also, if you drink decaf you won’t want to miss this special free report on the dangers of decaf available at http://www.soyfee.com

  • Stain says:

    as-salaamu ‘alaikum. Saifuddin, you write that knowing the Ottomans, there is a good story behind it and You would like to know more details about why the ban was placed.
    Also for me is this big question last two years and I am shure that otoman has big reasons to take the ban. Now I am looking for his written documents about reasons for this deccission. If you find it, please write it.

  • jonolan says:

    I do not care what god you worship or what name you worship him under – coffee is proof that we are loved!

  • parallelsidewalk says:

    “I do not care what god you worship or what name you worship him under – coffee is proof that we are loved!”

    Jonolan,
    I’ve read like two things by you I’ve agreed with ever, and that’s one of them. Amen.

  • jonolan says:

    parallelsidewalk,

    Someday you’ll have to come to my blog and tell me what the other thing you agreed with was 😉

    In any case, happy Eid, Christmas, Chanukka and Yule! I’m going back to my Tanzanian Peaberry!

  • Saifuddin says:

    BismillaharRahmanirRahim

    wa ‘alaikum as-salaam, Stain you wrote,

    “Now I am looking for his written documents about reasons for this deccission. If you find it, please write it.”

    Perhaps you can talk to Yursil Kidwai, he knows quite a bit about the Ottomans and may be able to help you there.

  • Saifuddin says:

    BismillaharRahmanirRahim

    as-salaamu ‘alaikum Stain. I spoke to Yursil about this particular question and he pointed me to a 1570 correspondence between the Ottoman Sultan, Selim II and Islamic Jurist Ebu-s-Sud where he writes the Sultan saying,

    “If it so happens that, although his lordship, the monarch, refuge of the faith, has time after time ordered the prohibition of coffeehouses, they are still not prohibited and some people of the hooligan sort, in order to make a living, keep coffeehouses, take on beardless apprentice boys in order to warm their gathering, organizer and setup entertainment and amusements such as chess and backgammon, gather those of the city who are addicted to love together with youth of pure shining faces and evil deeds, eat electuaries of hersh, opimium, and hashish and, on top of this drink coffee, occupy themselves with duplicitous arts, and also neglect the prescribed prayers, what is the canonical thing to do to the kadi who is in a position to prohibit and eradicate the aforementioned merchants and coffee drinkers?”

    The response from the Sultan implies to take immediate action against this kind of behavior when he replies saying,

    “Those who engage in or abet the aforementioned unseemly activities should be prohibited and restrained by means of severe punishment and long imprisonment. Kadis who go easy in their chiding of these must be dismissed from their posts”

    It was for this reason that the coffee houses were temporarily banned. I hope this answers your question.

    -Saifuddin

  • jonolan says:

    I was guessing it was going to be something of that sort. it makes sense to outlaw the venue used for “bad behavior.”

  • […] The Coffee Geek gives a good step by step guide to brewing Turkish Coffee, and this is an interesting post on the history of coffee in Turkey. […]

  • […] The Coffee Geek gives a good step by step guide to brewing Turkish Coffee, and this is an interesting post on the history of coffee in Turkey. […]

  • yoursurprise-2 says:

    Hi there! I just wanted to ask if you ever have any issues with hackers? My last blog (wordpress) was hacked and I ended up losing months of hard work due to no back up. Do you have any solutions to prevent hackers?

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