May 17, 2018 5 min read

Coffee Drinkers Decapitated in 1633

Coffee: A History of Controversy and Popularity

Coffee is one of the most popular beverages in the world, enjoyed by people of all ages and cultures. But coffee's history is a long and storied one, full of controversy and intrigue.

The first coffee beans were cultivated in Ethiopia in the 15th century. From there, coffee spread to Arabia, where it became a popular drink among Sufi monks. The monks believed that coffee helps them stay awake during long nights of prayer and meditation.

In the 16th century, coffee made its way to Europe, where it quickly became popular among intellectuals and artists. Coffeehouses became centers of social and political activity, and coffee was often seen as a threat to the established order.

In the Ottoman Empire, for example, coffee was banned by Sultan Murad IV in 1633. Murad believed that coffeehouses were breeding grounds for dissent and that coffee was a stimulant that made people less obedient to authority.

Despite Murad's efforts, coffee continued to be popular in the Ottoman Empire and throughout the world. In the 18th century, coffeehouses became even more popular as a place for people to gather and discuss news, politics, and literature.

In the 19th century, coffee plantations were established in the Americas, and coffee became a major export crop. Today, coffee is grown in over 70 countries around the world, and it is one of the most valuable commodities in the world.

So how did coffee go from being a banned substance to a global phenomenon? In part, it is because coffee is a delicious and stimulating beverage. But it is also because coffee has a long history of being associated with freedom and social progress.

Coffeehouses have been places where people could gather to discuss ideas and challenge the status quo. And coffee has been a source of inspiration for artists, writers, and thinkers for centuries.

Today, coffee is still a symbol of freedom and progress. It is a drink that people enjoy all over the world, and it is a reminder that even the most powerful forces cannot stop people from coming together and sharing ideas.

So next time you enjoy a cup of coffee, take a moment to think about its long and storied history. And remember that coffee is more than just a beverage. It is a symbol of hope, creativity, and human connection.

Here are some additional facts about coffee:

  • Coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world, after oil.
  • The United States is the world's largest consumer of coffee, followed by Brazil and Germany.
  • There are over 100 different types of coffee beans, each with its own unique flavor.
  • Coffee can be brewed in a variety of ways, including drip, pour-over, French press, and espresso.
  • Coffee is a good source of antioxidants, which can help protect the body against damage from free radicals.
  • Coffee can help improve alertness, concentration, and physical performance.
  • Coffee can also help reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, Parkinson's disease, and Alzheimer's disease.

So next time you're feeling tired or stressed, reach for a cup of coffee, and enjoy its many benefits!

The Story about Sultan Murad IV and Coffee

Many of us who decide to cut down on their coffee consumption are often driven by the simple desire for self-improvement. However, 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.

What Happened to Coffee Houses in Istanbul in 1633?

In 1633, coffee houses, wine shops and taverns were closed, because they were meeting places where people could spend their time criticizing the government. Sultan 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 ironically 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. 

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 coffee 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 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, relax and enjoy Weaver’s superb French Roast Coffee or exquisite Espresso Blend Coffee.