OTTOMAN COFFEE CULTURE

01/08/2018

THE ORIGIN OF AWAKENING BEANS

Coffee plants were first discovered in Ethiopia. The country was once known as Abyssinia. It is an oldest independent country in Africa and is also considered one of the earliest sites of the emergence of anatomically modern humans, Homo sapiens. Homer mentioned Ethiopia twice in Illiad and three times in Odyssey. It is on a passage to Europe, Asia, and Africa. With a diverse culture, religion, and language, Ethiopia is a unique and interesting country in Africa and the world.

Ethiopia, located at Northeastern of Africa, is the birthplace of Arabica coffee. From long ago, native Ethiopians already used coffee leaves and beans in their food and drinks. According to Ethiopian myths, coffee beans were God’s tears dripping on shamans’ corpses. To this today, the Oromo people still keep the tradition of planting a coffee plant on the grave of their shamans. Other than to use in rituals, coffee was a source of food for Ethiopian. They cooked it by grinding coffee into powder, mixing it with fat, milk or butter, then shaping it into dried balls to give to soldiers on their march. In famous Ethiopian legends, throughout the ancient history, Ethiopia was the only country who knew how to take advantage of coffee. Many scholars suspect that one of the valuable gifts that Queen Sheba of Ethiopia and Yemen gave to King Solomon (970-931 BC) at Jerusalem was coffee beans to make a drink that, even then, was considered would awaken their mind.

Ethiopia isn’t just a birthplace of coffee; it also is a place where coffee is considered a symbol of power, a drink of God. Drinking coffee is a spiritual ritual.

One of the earliest groups of coffee lovers was the Muslims. Ottoman coffee culture was the culture of this religion. They thought of coffee as a drink of God that brought wakefulness and creativity, one that strengthened their faith as they had to stay up late to pray. In the 15th century, special places where people could drink coffee were appeared at the Great Mosque of Mecca. It was said that when coffee was introduced to Europe, the Vatican denounced it as a drink of Satan, of the Muslims and of those who were opposed to the Catholic Church. And so it was forbidden. When Pope Clement VIII was elected, he blessed the bean, said, “Why, 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 baptizing it and making it a truly Christian beverage.”

Coffee became popular in 1575 when the first coffeehouse was opened in Istanbul. Coffee was provided like “milk for chess players and thinkers.” In the mid-17th century, coffee had spread to the palace of Ottoman Empire with over 40 officials responsible for making coffee for the king and his trusted courtiers.

At its peak, the Ottoman Empire included the areas of Turkey, Egypt, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Macedonia, Hungary, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and parts of the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa. Despite many differences in language, culture, religion, Ottoman Empire lasted for 623 years from 1299 to 1922 AC.

Ever since Ottoman Empire Era, coffee has been one of the most distinctive elements of Turkish way of life. It has a deep influence on customs and traditions of Turkey and plays an important role on social and political occasions in centuries. Although many of its rituals are no longer in practice in daily life, coffee is still an indispensable part of Turkish culture.

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