Giorgio Milos takes a break from critiquing his way around America to bring us this sassy little recap of coffee’s global roots:
An Ethiopian tribe, the Galla, regularly consume “energy balls” made by blending animal fat and macerated coffee cherries. The bottom line for coffee’s history: those who consumed it early on were after the stimulant substance it contained, that alkaloid well known today as caffeine. All of coffee’s legends tell of its energizing effect, from Kaldi’s goats to Mahomet, who, after consuming a hot, black liquid given to him by the angel Gabriel, promptly removed 40 knights from their horses, and satisfied 40 virgins in just one day. (Take that, Viagra!)
The early 17th century saw Muslim coffee’s introduction to Christian Europe, through the work of Venetian merchants. It met with strong resistance from the Catholic Church, especially by the Pope’s Councilmen, who asked Pope Clemente VIII to declare the black beverage “the bitter invention of Satan.” The Pope opted for taste over haste before deciding. Fortunately, he liked what he tried, declaring, “this devil’s drink is so delicious … we should cheat the devil by baptizing it.“
Giorgio’s explorations end somewhere in the 19th century, stopping just short of the moment when Italy perfected espresso and “rendered all the rest of the coffee-drinking world utterly meaningless“.