Coffee was not always loved. It has been feared, hated and misunderstood – sometimes in places known today for their love of the beans.
Coffee was banned in Mecca in 1511, as it was believed to stimulate radical thinking and the governor thought it might unite his opposition. Java also got a bad rap for its use as a stimulant – some Sufi sects would pass around a bowl of coffee at funerals to stay awake during prayers.
When coffee arrived in Europe in the 16th century clergymen pressed for it to be banned and labelled Satanic. But Pop Glement VIII took a taste, declared it delicious and even thought it should be baptized. On the strength of this papal blessing, coffee houses rapidly sprang up throughout Europe.
After Murad IV claimed the Ottoman throne in 1623, he quickly forbade coffee and set up a system of reasonable penalties. The punishment for a first offense was a beating. Anyone caught with a coffee a second time was sewn onto a leather bag and thrown into the waters of Bosporus.
Sweden gave coffee the axe in 1746. The government also banned “coffee paraphernalia” – with cops confiscating cups and dishes. King Gustav III even ordered convicted murderers to drink coffee while doctors monitored how long the cups of coffee took to kill them, which was great for convicts and boring for the doctors.
In 1777, Frederick the Great of Prussia issued a manifesto claiming beer’s superiority over coffee. He argued that coffee interfered with the country’s beer consumption, apparently hoping a royal statement would make Prussians eager for an eye-opening brew each morning. Frederick’s statement proclaimed, “His majesty was brought up on beer.” Explaining why he thought breakfast drinking was a good idea.