thursday chocolate, no. 8: this one’s about coffee, which frequent readers of my various ramblings will know I prefer to chocolate anyway. According to this piece on NPR, Sultan Murad IV, a ruler of the Ottoman Empire, used to decapitate people for drinking coffee!
Other interesting bits:
“If you look at the rhetoric about drugs that we’re dealing with now — like, say, crack — it’s very similar to what was said about coffee,” Stewart Allen, author of The Devil’s Cup: Coffee, the Driving Force in History, tells The Salt. In Murad’s Istanbul, religious leaders preached on street corners that coffee would inspire indecent behavior. As the bean moved west into Europe, physicians rallied against it, claiming that coffee would “dry up the cerebrospinal fluid” and cause paralysis.
But apparently the motivation was really political:
Monarchs and tyrants publicly argued that coffee was poison for the bodies and souls of their subjects, but Mark Pendergrast — author of Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World — says their real concern was political.
“Coffee has a tendency to loosen people’s imaginations … and mouths,” he tells The Salt.
And inventive, chatty citizens scare dictators.
According to one story, an Ottoman Grand Vizier secretly visited a coffeehouse in Istanbul.
“He observed that the people drinking alcohol would just get drunk and sing and be jolly, whereas the people drinking coffee remained sober and plotted against the government,” says Allen.
British anti-coffee manifesto from the 17th century:
Most folks who resolved to cut down on coffee this year are driven by the simple desire for self-improvement.
But for coffee drinkers in 17th-century Turkey, there was a much more concrete motivating force: a big guy with a sword.
Sultan Murad IV, a ruler of the Ottoman Empire, would not have been a fan of Starbucks. Under his rule, the consumption of coffee was a capital offense.
The sultan was so intent on eradicating coffee that he would disguise himself as a commoner and stalk the streets of Istanbul with a hundred-pound broadsword. Unfortunate coffee drinkers were decapitated as they sipped.
Murad IV’s successor was more lenient. The punishment for a first offense was a light cudgeling. Caught with coffee a second time, the perpetrator was sewn into a leather bag and tossed in the river.
But people still drank coffee. Even with the sultan at the front door with a sword and the executioner at the back door with a sewing kit, they still wanted their daily cup of joe. And that’s the history of coffee in a bean skin: Old habits die hard. —Adam Cole