While enjoying a cup of my favorite dark-roast Honduras coffee this morning, I mentioned to my lovely wife what a truly amazing time it is to be alive! I had just read something about the dramatic advances in medicine and life expectancy as a result of genetic sequencing technology. Then, as soon as I made my remark, I realized that not everyone feels the same way and many may feel uncomfortable with something that others gladly embrace.
I tend to think that life is made richer by differing perspectives and opinions. Take coffee, for instance. In a previous post, I wrote about the earliest documented coffee trade between East Africa and Yemen, on the Arabian peninsula. It was here where coffee plants were first cultivated, from where coffee began a migration throughout the Red Sea region, and where some of the first coffee houses were established. People would gather in these places to socialize, share ideas, and enjoy an early version of coffee.
Unfortunately, not everyone was pleased with these activities, and concerned local rulers began placing restrictions on them. But don’t be fooled into thinking this was a one-off occurrence hundreds of years ago easily chalked up to ancient customs or paranoid leaders. Coffee consumption has been under attack, in one form or another, repeatedly throughout history.
In the Middle East, some claimed it went against the Koran; others in the region attempted to ban it, thinking it was a political threat. Others limited its use to private residences. It wasn’t just restless or impulsive leaders, either. In some places mobs attacked coffee houses and warehouses due to different beliefs regarding the appropriateness of coffee consumption. Yet today coffee is an integral part of middle-eastern culture, hospitality, and sophistication.
As coffee made its way north into Constantinople, present-day Istanbul, it was repeatedly banned by one ruler, only to be allowed by the next. In Italy, Pope Clement VIII was asked by his advisors to ban coffee because of its popularity within the Ottoman Empire. He was so pleased with a sample he tried, however, he eventually gave it a Papal “thumbs-up”. Even England’s King Charles II closed the kingdom’s coffee houses in response to an effort known as “The Women’s Petition Against Coffee” that claimed coffee was a newfangled, abominable, and heathenish liquor responsible for untold evil. Fortunately, the ban was short-lived as the king gave in to public pressure and reversed course a few weeks later.
Even today scientists and health gurus have weighed in on coffee, with what feels like weekly reversals in scholarly journals and the press, as to the health benefits and/or risks of coffee and caffeine consumption.
Who knows, coffee could be the cause or cure of all of our troubles, or could it just be a tasty and energizing beverage? Nevertheless, I like to think that it is a result of continued “push and pull” between different opinions that now we are smarter than ever regarding the impact of coffee on our health and culture.
Regardless of your perspective, there’s no question that coffee has a rich and interesting history. One that I’m looking forward to sharing further—including tales of smuggling, sabotage, and international intrigue.
Until then, be curious and open to considering other perspectives. You never know what you might discover. And most importantly, don’t forget to wake up and live!