english history of food

Notes on the history of coffee

At the beginning, coffee was connected to Islamic mysticism. In the second half of the 15th century Yemenis Sufis started drinking coffee to help them stay awake and reach ecstasy in their nightly devotions. The Yemenis had been importing the beans from Ethiopia (where the coffee plant grew naturally), but they soon began to cultivate them in their own land. From Yemen the beverage spread along the Red Sea to Hedjaz and Egypt, and from there to the Ottoman Empire: by the early 16th century its consumption had massively widened beyond the circles of Sufis. A new institution, the coffeehouse, appeared. From Mecca to Cairo and from Istanbul to Algiers coffeehouses multiplied and attracted more and more clients. This is when social and legal issues arose.