“This Satan’s Drink is So Delicious” – A Brief History of Coffee & The Devil

From the Abduction of Brides to the Reputation of Coffee

During the reception of a wedding I attended over the weekend, a friend of mine started up a discussion on the origins of the best man. My fact savvy friend stated there was a time when a man would kidnap a woman from a neighboring community when he wanted a bride.The intrusive groom-to-be would bring a best man with him to help with the abduction.

This new, less-than-innocent knowledge of a highly regarded, time-honored tradition made me wonder if drinking coffee was always a casual and acceptable act. And today, with important issues like fair trade and bird-friendly coffee, I knew this go juice must have had many reputations over the years. . .

Coffee and The Devil

Satan's DrinkIn The Greatest Stories Never Told, Rick Beyer states that revolutionary ideas were free-flowing in early coffeehouses. Of course, this led to the powers that be in Cairo and Mecca to take a stand against coffee. They even went so far as to try, unsuccessfully, to ban the drink.

The controversy over coffee didn’t stop there. When coffee made its way to Europe in the late 1500s, Vatican priests felt certain it was the handiwork of Satan.

But what was it about coffee that made followers of Christ assume the devil was brewing every cup? The Book of Coffee and Tea (Joel, David, & Karl Schapira) claims that “Moslems were forbidden the use of wine–a drink sanctified by Christ and used in the Holy Communion–Satan, leader of the infidels, had invented coffee as a substitute.” The possible punishment for drinking a cup of coffee? Eternal damnation!

What’s Worse, A Coffee-Free World or Hell?

Well, it would take one very brave Roman to drink a cup of coffee during these times. Today we wonder about too much caffeine intake, but we don’t spend much time associating our afterlife with a cup of joe. And, thank goodness, these folks were finally saved from this coffee-condemnation as well. All it took was one open-minded Pope, who refused to succumb to pressure, to free his people from Satan’s grip.

Legend has it that Pope Clement VIII (1536-1605) decided to take a closer look at this devil’s brew. When a Venetian merchant presented him with the coffee, Pope Clement VIII took to the wonderful aroma. He then had the brilliant idea to take a sip and allegedly said: “this Satan’s drink is so delicious it would be a pity to let the infidels have exclusive use of it. We shall fool Satan by baptising it. . . .”.

These few words uttered by the Pope, as The World Of Caffeine (Weinberg & Bealer) states, made coffee an accepted drink for Christians and “spared Europe the recurring religious quarrels over coffee that persisted with Islam for decades if not centuries”.

Well, the act of drinking coffee certainly has come a long way. So, go ahead, brew yourself a cup and, for the love of all that is good, think some heavenly thoughts while you’re at it.


Photo by: [ jRa7 ]

Reference List:

Bealer, B & Weinberg, B 2001, The World of Caffeine: The Science and Culture of the World’s Most Popular Drug, Routledge, NY, p. 68

Beyer, R 2003, The Greatest Stories Never Told, HaperCollins, NY, p. 30

Schapira, 1982, The Book of Coffee and Tea: A Guide to the Appreciation of Fine Coffees, Teas, and Herbal Beverages, 2nd edition, Martin’s Press, NY, p. 9

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