I'm currently coming up with a coffee article, and suddenly I'm stuck trying to fish my words out of the water -- how has civilization come to appreciate coffee, anyhow? Why did pre-modern societies roast and drink it up, considering the notion that coffee is basically bitter? I mean, if Turkish elites roasted it dark and drank it immediately afterwards, wouldn't that be rather tasteless and overly bitter?

Did people drink it for the caffeine? Or did they actually like it for its flavor?

I'd just like to hear out some of your insights and the things you've read on coffee's history and coffee in past societies. I'll research on the things you say, and fish some inspiration.

  • As this question currently stands it would be closed as 'primarily opinion-based'. Can you edit it to make it an objective rather than a subjective question?
    – user2487
    Commented May 25, 2016 at 11:26
  • @PeterPeter Is there a classficiation toggle? How to do it?
    – wearashirt
    Commented May 27, 2016 at 4:22
  • Every possible answer is equally valid. Can you edit it so there is one right answer? Questions that result in answers like "Another story that..." are not generally welcomed on the Stack Exchange network.
    – user2487
    Commented May 27, 2016 at 4:26
  • @wearashirt Could you take a look at this meta discussion?
    – MTSan
    Commented May 30, 2016 at 15:11
  • Upon rechecking the answers below, none actually is still hitting the right answer; whether historical peoples appreciated coffee for its flavor and not its invigorating caffeine. So the question still remains to be answered. That it was related to politics, or as an ingredient to the cappucino, does not answer the question. So is this post still ok? I unmarked the answer I previously approved.
    – wearashirt
    Commented May 31, 2016 at 15:22

4 Answers 4


A story often shared as the origin of coffee consumption is that of Kaldi and The Dancing Goats, which comes out of Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee.

Kaldi was a herder who discovered his goats would become rambunctious after eating the berries and leaves of a plant. That plant turned out to be the coffee plant.

Upon observing this, Kaldi also partook of the plant's berries, finding it gave him extra energy. Some claim people would crush the berries and mix them with animal fat into rudimentary "protein bars".

Eventually they began drying-out the berries and steeping the seeds (beans) in hot water to brew the first coffee to grace the Earth. Thus begins the storied history of coffee consumption!

Another anecdote relating to coffee involves Pope Clement VIII. His advisors urged him to ban the consumption of coffee, likening it to the "Devil's brew" as it was popular among Muslims.

However, after tasting coffee for the first time, the Pope was so impressed he couldn't bare to think of outlawing it. It's said this led to the spread of coffee drinking among Catholics and Italians in general.

This story should be taken with a grain of salt, as whether or not Pope Clement VIII actually said or did what he said, or whether or not his advisors ever broached the topic is a matter of speculation.

That said, there are many more stories surrounding the spread and popularization of coffee. I'll let others add their own stories, as I know there are many more out there :)


One interesting story is Ottoman Sultan Murat IV banned coffee consumption in Istanbul in between 1632 to 1640.

The reason is simple, the people were sitting in "kahvehane"s (the coffeehouses) of Istanbul and discussing politics. He wants to stop people discussing himself, easiest way to stop discussions were getting rid of social areas at all which was coffeehouses back then.

Together with coffee, he also banned, smoking and alcohol. Ironically, Murat IV died at 28 as a result of alcohol poisoning.


Another interesting one is the story of the first coffee house in Vienna. It starts with the siege of Vienna by the Ottomans in the end of the 16th century.

Jerzy Franciszek Kulczycki is a Polish/Ukranian man who is now regarded as a hero and known as the owner of the first coffee house of Vienna. Probably, the inventor of cappuccino.

He was a very fluent speaker in many languages including Ottoman Turkish. During the siege, he is used by the city as a messenger and saved the city in the last day by carrying a critical message by disguising as a janisary (Ottoman soldier) when the city were about the leave the city to the Ottomans.

After the siege, he opens the Europe's third and Vienne's first coffee house with the sacks of coffee beans left by the Ottoman army —which was now retreating and leaving all the heavy stuff behind on the way back home. This was probably one of the first encounters of Europeans to coffee.

Kulczycki's friend Marco d’Aviano who was a Cappuchin monk, thought coffee is quite bitter and choose to add honey and milk into it. When milk added, coffee changed its color from black to brown and looks more like Cappuchin monks traditional robe's color. Kulczycki, named that kind of sweetened coffee after his monk friend.

Right after Kulczycki became known, he even started to wear janisary clothes in his coffeehouse while serving coffee. His monuments are still around Vienna. You can check his Wikipedia page here.

  • This is some amazing history. You think the wikipedia page cites studies that used primary sources?
    – wearashirt
    Commented May 25, 2016 at 2:23
  • @wearashirt Please check this. It cites two books from 16th and 18th centuries that mentions this. I have heard this story so many times and read from so many Turkish resources. Maybe, we should note that, coffee is a cultural heritage and it does not happen to be introduced at once. E.g, it is known that Flemish travelers have noted "a black drink" in North Africa (Ethiopia?) long before Vienna siege and even painted that. Also note that, back then Balkans were already Ottoman land and coffee was regularly consumed there.
    – MTSan
    Commented May 25, 2016 at 13:10

Well, people have an addiction nowadays. However if one drinks good coffee in good periods, this can even been count as energizer and sleep aborter. Back on that days, I think people found unique ways to make it. Cook, boil or just eat its seeds without any refinement.

I would contribute Turkish coffee's bitterness by telling about a tradition here in TR.

When a couple decides to get married, groom's family heads to bride's parents' home. With a flower, and a chocolate. (Prefferably put in a silver gondol vase. Then girl serves Turkish cofee to everyone in the room. Starting by elders. Traditionally, if the girl does like dude, she puts some salt in it. That is the way to make sure if he can tolerate any jokes or not.

  • Hi tolgayyilmaz, welcome to Coffee SE! This is a very nice point. However, please note that the question regards historical consumption rather than cultural traditions.
    – MTSan
    Commented May 28, 2016 at 8:07

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