May 31, 2018 3 min read

When Art is Imitating Life: Bach and Coffee

When Art Imitates Life: Bach's Coffee Cantata and the History of Coffee

Johann Sebastian Bach's Coffee Cantata is a humorous and insightful look at the early history of coffee in Europe. The cantata tells the story of a father who tries to stop his daughter from drinking coffee, which was seen as a dangerous and unladylike habit at the time.

The cantata is set in a coffeehouse, where the father, Schlendrian, tries to reason with his daughter, Liesgen. He tells her that coffee will make her sick, ruin her beauty, and prevent her from getting married. Liesgen, however, is unconvinced. She sings the praises of coffee, calling it "sweeter than a thousand kisses" and "milder than muscatel wine."

The cantata ends with Liesgen's father, Schlendrian, giving up and allowing her to drink coffee. This is a surprising ending, given the negative views of coffee that were common at the time. However, it is also a realistic one. Bach knew that coffee was becoming increasingly popular, and he was willing to challenge the conventional wisdom about the drink.

The Coffee Cantata is a fascinating glimpse into the history of coffee. It shows how coffee was once seen as a dangerous and unhealthy beverage, and how it eventually became one of the most popular drinks in the world. The cantata is also a reminder that art can be a powerful tool for challenging social norms.

In addition to the historical context, the Coffee Cantata is also a well-crafted piece of music. The lyrics are witty and engaging, and the music is lively and catchy. The cantata is a joy to listen to, and it provides a unique perspective on the history of coffee.

If you are interested in learning more about the history of coffee, or if you simply enjoy a good laugh, I encourage you to listen to Bach's Coffee Cantata. It is a fascinating and entertaining look at a drink that has become an essential part of our daily lives.

Here are some additional things to consider when writing about the Coffee Cantata:

  • The cantata is a product of its time, and it reflects the cultural attitudes about coffee that were prevalent in the 18th century.
  • The cantata is also a work of art, and it can be interpreted in many different ways.
  • The cantata is a humorous and lighthearted piece of music, but it also raises serious questions about the social and cultural implications of coffee consumption.

What Did Bach's Contemporaries Believe About Coffee?

Although, it seems extreme,many of Bach's contemporaries believed coffee had serious side effects, as well as medical benefits. Doctors and medicalcharlatansaliketouted its effectiveness toalleviate constipation,cure chronic swelling or even the bubonic plague. Rumorsof the day, indicatedthat coffee could literally “unman” its male consumers. Bach’s cantata fits in the category of coffee humor, which included written satires positing that hanging out in coffeehouses ruined the marital union by providing public “man caves” where husbands hid to avoid their wives and domestic duties. Pundits of the composer’s erafluctuatedbetweenactuallyacceptingthatcoffee could stir male sexuality or cause impotence. German doctors even fretted that coffee could cause sterilization.

Although,caffeine was not identified as coffee’s active ingredient untilthe early 1830s, its stimulating propertiesattractedthe attention of early European politicians, who feared its abilityto wakethe sleepy andenergizethe sluggish. On the other hand, officials also worried that coffeehouses encouraged maleloitering andlaziness, not industry and work—a criticism later echoed by anti-alcohol temperance campaigners worldwide. The very name of Bach’s uptight father character “Schlendrian”translatesto “lazy” or “lacking motivation to work.”

With this light-hearted cantata, Bach mocked his own city,Leipzig, where officials had previously passed edicts limiting coffeehouse hours and railed against coffee, especially for young men and women.Whilefearing thatcoffeecouldencourageyouth to temptation and depravity, theyalso believed that thecaffeinated brew could cure chronic disease,incite revolutions, act as a sexual stimulate, fracture families, and corrupt the impressionable.

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