Inspired By Coffee
Coffee was known in the first half of the 17th Century in Venice and Marseille but there was no trade in beans there. Although famous for their tea drinking, the British were the first European nation to embrace the pleasures of coffee drinking on a commercial basis. The first coffeehouse was in Oxford in 1650 where it was opened by a Turkish Jew named Jacob. More opened soon after in London in 1652 where there were soon to be hundreds - each serving their own customers.
Coffee reached Vienna in 1683, just after the city had been besieged in war with the Turks. The coffee was retained by a Polish Army Officer, Franz Georg Kolschitzky. He had previously lived in Turkey and, being the only person there who knew how to use it, claimed the stocks of coffee left by the fleeing Turkish army for himself. He later opened central Europe's first coffee house in Vienna and was reported to be quite rich as a result of this venture. He also established the habit of refining the brew by filtering out the grounds, sweetening it, and adding a dash of milk hence inventing Viennese coffee and also the pastries served with it.
The popularity spread through Europe to such an extent that, during the 17th and 18th centuries, there were more coffee shops in London than there are today. Coffee shops were nothing like the trendy shops that we have today. A true coffeehouse was crowded, smelly, noisy, feisty, smoky, celebrated and condemned. On the street in London you located the nearby coffeehouse by sniffing the air for roasting beans, or by looking for a wooden sign shaped to resemble a Turkish coffee pot.
It is no suprise, therefore, that such a popular institution had opponents everywhere. In Italy, around 1600, priests asked Pope Clement VIII to forbid the favourite drink of the Ottoman Empire considering it part of the Infidel threat. On taking one sip, the pope found the drink delicious and baptised it - making it an acceptable Christian beverage.
In 1674 The Women's Petition Against Coffee was set up in London. Women complained that men were never to be found at home during times of domestic crises, since they were always enjoying themselves in the coffee houses. They circulated a petition protesting "the grand inconveniences accruing to their sex from the excessive use of the drying and enfeebling liquor".
Coffee fever spread throughout Europe in the 18th Century and the French had introduced coffee into the New World by 1715.
Johann Sebastian Bach composed his "Kafee-Kantate" or Coffee Cantata in 1732. Partly an ode to coffee and partly a stab at the movement in Germany to prevent women from drinking coffee (it was thought to make them sterile), the cantata includes the aria "Ah! How sweet coffee tastes! Lovelier than a thousand kisses, sweeter far than muscatel wine! I must have coffee..."
It's estimated that about one-third of the world's population consumes the dark, caffeinated deliciousness that is coffee. And for said deliciousness we can thank the farmers of the Islamic world, who first cultivated coffee plants in the early 15th Century. Perhaps this explains why Arabs were inventing algebra while Europeans were busy debating how many angels could fit on the head of a pin.
It may also have something to do with why Europe's Renaissance kicked into high gear in the 16th century (the same year coffee was introduced there). But as long as we're giving coffee credit for fostering human innovation, add the masterpieces of composer (and noted java fan) Johann Sebastian Bach to that list.
In 1732, Bach wrote "Kafee Kantate," which told the comic story of a man who wants his daughter to give up drinking the beverage, but the woman refuses. Coffee, she sings, "is lovelier than a thousand kisses." Amen, sister.