9th
Jan
2013

Posted in Reference

Credible evidence tells that the practice of brewing and drinking coffee began in the middle of the 15th century in Yemen, after coffee had arrived from Ethiopia, which is held to be its origin. It is likely that coffee seeds were chewed for their exhilarating effects for a time before the practice of picking, roasting, grinding and brewing coffee took hold; it provides a natural transition to a rather more complex process. From the port of Mocha in the south west of Yemen, coffee spread to Egypt and North Africa, and then by the 16th century it had expanded to the rest of the Middle East, along with Turkey and Persia ( modern day Iran).

It is guessed that coffee's explosion in popularity was as a result of alcohol being forbidden by the Koran. As the vast majority of the Middle East was Islamic, people found coffee's exhilarating effect to be a good substitute for the similar effect given by drinking alcohol. There was opposition to coffee from religious leaders, who put a ban on coffee in place, probably due to the fact that this practice was subverting religious law. These bans were overturned though by both the Ottoman Sultan and the Grand Mufti thirteen years later.

Whilst coffee was drunk at home, the main focal points for its consumption were various coffee houses that had sprung up in major cities. Coffee was enjoyed as a social drink, and these houses allowed people to converse with others, listen to music, watch performances and dancing, and catch up on current events. Political leaders were ill at ease with these institutions though, as they felt that such large social gatherings would breed political activity. Coffee houses and coffee itself were banned on and off for decades, until finally a tax was implemented that they found acceptable. Funny that.

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