Many of us who decide to cut down on their coffee consumption are often driven by the simple desire for self-improvement. But for coffee drinkers in 17th-century Turkey, there was a much more concrete motivating force: a big guy with a sword.
It is safe to say that Sultan Murad IV (1612-1640) a ruler of the Ottoman Empire, would not have been a fan of a talented Barista. During his reign, coffee consumption was a capital offense, punishable by beheading.
In 1633, coffee houses, wine shops and taverns were closed, because they were meeting places where people could spend their time criticizing the government. Murad passed a law prohibiting smoking and the consumption of alcohol or coffee throughout the Ottoman Empire on pain of death.
The sultan was so intent on eradicating coffee that he would disguise himself as a commoner and stalk the streets of Istanbul with a hundred-pound broadsword. Unfortunate coffee drinkers were decapitated as they sipped coffee.
In Murad's Istanbul, religious leaders preached that drinking coffee would inspire indecent behavior. Stewart Allen, author of The Devil's Cup: Coffee, the Driving Force in History, compares today’s rhetoric about drugs, to what was said about coffee in the past.
In one story, an Ottoman Grand Vizier secretly visited a coffeehouse in Istanbul, where he observed that the people drinking alcohol would just get drunk and sing and be jolly, whereas the people drinking coffee remained sober and plotted against the government.
Although Murad IV banned tobacco, alcohol and coffee, historical records indicate that he consumed all three and his death was the result of alcohol poisoning. Murad IV's successor was more lenient. The punishment for a first offense was a light cudgeling, a beating with a large wooden club. Caught with cup of coffee a second time, the perpetrator was sewn into a leather bag and tossed in the river.
In spite of the risk of such harsh repercussions, Turks still drank coffee. Even with the sultan at the front door with a sword and the executioner at the back door with a sewing kit, they still wanted their daily cup of rich, strong Turkish coffee. And that's the history of coffee in a bean skin: Old habits die hard.
Wherever it spread, coffee was popular with the masses but challenged by the powerful.
As the coffee bean moved west into Europe, physicians rallied against it, claiming that coffee would "dry up the cerebrospinal fluid" and cause paralysis.
Monarchs and tyrants publicly argued that coffee was poison for the bodies and souls of their subjects, but Mark Pendergrast — author of Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World — says their real concern was political. According to Allen, "Coffee has a tendency to loosen people's imaginations... and mouths". And inventive, chatty citizens scare dictators.
Coffee fueled dissent — not just in the Ottoman Empire but all through the Western world. The French and American Revolutions were planned, in part, in the dark corners of coffeehouses. In Germany, a fearful Frederick the Great demanded that Germans switch from coffee to beer. He sent soldiers sniffing through the streets, searching for the slightest whiff of the illegal bean.
In England, King Charles II issued an order to shut down all coffeehouses after he traced some clever but seditious poetry to them. The backlash was throne-shaking. Recalling that his father had been beheaded, Charles rescinded the order, not wanting to stir up trouble.
Coffee took its place in the center of international culture, where so many other underground movements — religious, political, even musical — were squashed, coffee managed to go mainstream.
Coffee’s popularity has never really waned over the centuries and is still a very social drink. Mornings at local coffee shops are the places to hang out with friends or meet to discuss business, politics and all matter of current topics of interest.
So, if you are one of the millions of coffee consumers worldwide, who love coffee as a source of needed caffeine, and a wide variety of ‘tastes’ to choose from, it is safe to say that any challenges faced by contemporary coffee fans, pale in comparison to Ottoman period java junkies. So keep your head, relax and enjoy Weaver’s superb French Roast Organic Coffee or exquisite Expresso Blend Coffee.
Sources: https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2012/01/10/144988133/drink-coffee-off-with-your-head https://madmonarchs.guusbeltman.nl/madmonarchs/murad4/ https://www.coffee.org/Top-Reasons-Why-People-Drink-Coffee