If you are a coffee lover, you already know how disappointing bad coffee or no coffee can be. But did you know there was a time when coffee was a valid ground for a woman to initiate divorce?
People are very particular about their drinks be it tea or coffee or anything else. There is a large number of people who even debate on whether tea is the best or coffee is the best. Petty as it may be, it does happen because annual consumption for tea accounts for 289 billion liters whereas, coffee consumption amounts to 273 billion liters.
We’re going to talk about coffee today and how a cup of coffee can be more than just a beverage. Different people like their coffee in different ways. Some people claim that they cannot wake up in the morning without their daily cup of coffee and some say that they drink coffee because it keeps them creative. It was said that one of the founders of realism in European literature, Honoré de Balzac drank 50 cups of coffee every day, whereas the world-renowned German composer and pianist, Ludwig van Beethoven drank coffee which was made exactly with 60 coffee beans. Not a bean more, or less. Coffee was so important in Turkey that a woman could get a divorce if the man didn’t provide sufficient coffee.
The Origin of These Beans
The origin of coffee is associated with a legend named Kaldi. Kaldi was an Ethiopian herdsman who discovered coffee around 850 AD. He noticed that when his sheep would eat red berries that grew on a specific bush, they would become excited and more energetic. So energetic that they would not even sleep at night.
He then decided to try these energetic berries himself and he felt the same effects. He got the berries from a local monastery where the monks believed that Kaldi had discovered a very unusual fruit. Word of these energizing berries spread to the Galla tribe in Ethiopia. They decided to make a power bar by mixing clarified butter and the berries. It was eaten by the warriors and it was believed that the power bar made them invincible. It is still a common snack in Sidamo and Kaffa.
How it Became a Custom
Arab traders transported the coffee from Ethiopia to present-day Yemen. They started cultivating the plant there. While Yemen had the first coffee plantations, it was the Arabs who invented black coffee. It was known as “qahwa” which means “that which prevents sleep.” In the 15th century Sheik Gemaleddin Abou Muhammad Bensaid, the Mufti of Aden visited Ethiopia and brought the drink, the berries, and the seeds back home to Yemen.
Coffee gained popularity and became a custom in Yemen very quickly. In the late 15th century, coffee became a common beverage in the Near East. By that time the Ottoman Turks became the masters in the art of making a perfect blend of coffee. Pretty soon, coffee became an integral part of the lives of people in Turkey.
An Elaborate Ceremony
Making coffee was quite an elaborate ceremony in the Turkish courts. The coffee makers would prepare coffee with the help of about 40 people to prepare a ceremonious coffee that would be served to the Sultan. They would make coffee with cinnamon, anise, cardamom, and cloves, and this version of the coffee is still found in some places in Turkey.
Coffee was so important in Turkey that men would judge the efficiency of a woman by her coffee-making skills. Many girls have been rejected just because they did not serve the perfect coffee to their prospective groom. But, on the other hand, according to the law back in time, a woman could divorce her husband if he failed to provide her with her daily need for coffee.
When Coffee Almost Sparked an Uprising
Men and women would socialize over coffee in Turkey and cultured people and politicians would meet in coffee houses for meetings. Much like the coffee dates we have today. Even in the early part of the 16th century, puppet theatre shows would be held in coffee houses. Drinking coffee had become so popular and mind-stimulating that the Ottoman rulers started feeling threatened by the gathering held ad coffee houses.
The Ottoman rulers believed that the men would gather at coffee houses to question their political doctrines and might be planning revolts. They were so threatened that in 1656, the Ottoman Grand Vizier Koprulu went so far as to put a ban on drinking coffee and even shut down the coffee houses. The punishment for disobeying the Vizier was severe.
The first time that anyone disobeyed the Vizier, they were beaten with a cudgel, the second time the person would be sewn up in a leather bag and thrown into the river to drown! But, as addictions go, people addicted to drinking coffee, still continued to drink it. You can agree that the smell of coffee is very tempting and we don’t blame them for loving coffee over their life, although we do think it’s foolish.
While the American style of coffee is widely found in many countries, you can still find authentic coffee in some coffee houses in Turkey. You could simply as for the Turkish coffee or ‘Turk kahvesi’. If you desire a bitter coffee, you simply say ‘sade’, or you can say ‘az sekerli’ which is coffee with a little sugar, or ‘orta sekerli’ which mean a slightly sweetish coffee, or ‘cok sekerli’ which is a very sweet coffee.