Coffee, the drink of the Sufis

This article is also available in: Italiano

The most widespread drink in the world has its origins in Ethiopia, then spreading thanks to the great consumption by the Sufis. Coffee is probably, like spices, one of the goods that can most transform the history of humanity.

The drink of the Sufis

Originally from the province of Kaffa, in Ethiopia, it was discovered by chance by some locals who began to cultivate it from the dawn of time. Thanks to the countless trade exchanges with Yemen, coffee soon arrived in Arabia, where however, at least initially, it did not experience a great development. The situation changed with the arrival of Islam and, in particular, of the Sufis, who made this drink famous. In fact, it seems that Omar, a pupil of the Sufi Amazigh Abu-l Al Shadhili, was exiled from the city of Mokha and that, in a nearby cave, he found some grains of the legendary plant. Once shredded and drunk in hot water, he was neither hungry nor sleepy for days, earning himself the title of “saint” and the right of return.

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The city of Mokha, in Yemen, for centuries the largest coffee market in the world

Coffee became more and more used in Sufi monasteries to reach ecstasy and stay awake during the night watches, which exponentially increased its diffusion. Nonetheless, it was not until the 15th century that it fully spread in the Islamic world, also favored by not being alcoholic. However, in 1511 some imams attempted to declare it illegal, but a sentence by Suleiman himself overturned the result, allowing all the faithful to consume it freely. In 1554 the first cafeteria in Istanbul will open and shortly thereafter coffee will also spread to the Balkans and Europe.

Like black pepper

Through trade, especially through Venice, it soon became the drink of intellectuals from all over the Old Continent, causing its demand to increase exponentially. Considered a “Muslim” drink, many Christians frowned upon it for a long time, even prompting Pope Clement VIII to comment on it. In 1614 a trader from Antwerp brought beans to Amsterdam for the first time, leading to the birth of the first coffee born on European soil.

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Kahvecibaşı, the Ottoman sultan’s coffee maker

Soon it will become one of the most cultivated goods ever in the colonies, thus leading both to an exponential increase in the quantity consumed, but also to an incredible reduction in prices. This plant was in fact cultivated in every corner of the globe becoming, in some cases, a symbol of liberation. There were many peoples who, to symbolize their newfound freedom, appropriated the agricultural estates of the occupants, transforming the cultivation of coffee into a “tradition” of mankind. In the 21st century, 12,000 cups per second are consumed on average, transforming it into the most traded commodity in the world, second only to oil.

Are you ready for this week? Tomorrow a podcast dedicated to al Kangal, the legendary Anatolian dog and the article on Sake Dean Mahomed, do not miss them.

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