Ten interesting facts about coffee that you may not know (1/2: the first 5)

By - Lucia Del Pasqua - I really like being a guest, partly because it means friendliness, understanding and the pleasure of seeing each other and partly because I love bringing something to the hosts and receiving kindness.

I really like being a guest, partly because it means friendliness, understanding and the pleasure of seeing each other and partly because I love bringing something to the hosts and receiving kindness. As one of the guest writers in the new “Be our Guest!” section on mumac.it, I am happy to offer food for thought and curiosities relating to the world that revolves around MUMAC, a museum that I am always so delighted to visit that every time I cry (out of joy, I promise!).

Given that MUMAC [link diretto home page Mumac] has a library dedicated to the world of coffee, I am practically “subscribed” there (metaphorically – no subscription is required). In my research, I have made a note of certain interesting facts that perhaps not everyone is familiar with. So it was natural for me to kick off my participation in the new publishing project by giving you five goodies.

1. In an unspecified Eastern region, some shepherds noticed that their goats were more restless than usual and reported it to the monks of the neighbouring monastery, who declared that it must be due to the berries of certain shrubs whose existence was hitherto unknown. After various experiments, one of the holy men realised that roasting the seeds created a drink that was as black as hell and had the power to drive away sleep. Coffee was considered a divine gift with the magical power to keep minds awake and to sharpen thinking.

2. Heinrich Eduard Jacob, in his “Biography of coffee”, wrote that the drink helps people to forget the pains of love. He had discovered it in a handwritten recipe book, the precious tome of a kind Viennese lady, who also gave instructions: coffee must be added to an anise liqueur to a varying extend depending on the effect that you want to achieve: “you either fight the pain through reasoning or by reaching oblivion”. Indeed, “coffee serves to keep the mind clear so that you can realise how little has been lost, while liqueur serves to warm the cold and loneliness of the soul, as well as to offset the bitterness of the heart with its sweetness.”

3. The botanist Prospero Alpino, in his work “De Medicina Aegyptiorum” (Venice, 1591), wrote the first observations about the coffee plant published in Europe, as well as its “alternative” uses. “The Turks,” he notes, “used the decoction to heat a chilled stomach and to cure constipation. They also drink it when they have a swollen liver or feel pain in the spleen area, resulting in very beneficial effects. It is also an excellent remedy for inflammation of the uterus.”

4. There is a precise explanation for the success of coffee in the Arab world: since the Koran prohibited the use of alcoholic drinks, the new drink was immediately adopted as their substitute. Initially, women did not like it, not so much for its flavour but due to its power to awaken the mind and to provoke debate, making it a disturber of domestic peace. Ultimately, however, they demanded to consume it, because they saw coffee as a drink that gave them the opportunity to awaken from the sleep in which they were confined. Coffee became so important for Arab women that a man’s refusal to procure it was accepted as a legal reason for separation between spouses. Coffee won over both domestic environments and established authorities. In the early 16th century, the governor of Mecca attempted to suppress its consumption in every way possible, since he believed that it would lead people to rebellion. This resulted in a popular uprising.

5. It is believed to have been Pope Clement VIII who brought coffee to Europe as a drink. While it was normal in the 17th century to find coffee on pharmacy shelves as a cure for alcoholism, finding it as a drink was more unusual. The Church, which had been struck by Luther’s Reformation, was undergoing a dark period. The high prelates knew that infidels considered coffee to be a divine drink, so the Pope was asked to make a judgment. Apparently, after tasting a cup, he pronounced: “This devil’s drink is so delicious that it would be a pity if only the infidels could enjoy it. I hereby baptize it so that from now on it is also considered a Christian drink.” Shortly afterwards the first shops began to appear throughout Europe and in Italy, especially in Venice.

If you want to know more, another five goodies are coming soon on these screens.

Lucia Del Pasqua, Content creator and storyteller.
Freelancer journalist, writer and copywriter. She has worked for several Condè Nast online publications, for Class Life TV, MTV, and for the W U free press as editor and director of Geox magazine, which is distributed in all stores worldwide. The author of a novel published by Baldini & Castoldi, she creates content for websites, develops digital creative projects for companies’ social media channels and for her own, including her blog, thefashionpolitan.com.