The Coffee Route from Yemen to London 10th-17th Centuries
FSTC Research Team*
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Table of contents
- 1. Introduction
- 2. Early Muslim sources
- 3. Coffee in Turkey and the Balkans
- 4. The Transfer of Coffee to Europe
- 4.1. Coffee in Italy
- 4. 2. Coffee in England
- 4.3. Coffee in France
- 4.4. Coffee in the rest of Europe
- 4.5. Coffee in the Americas
- 5. From Turkish Coffee to Cappuccino and Croissant
- 6. Conclusion
- 7. References
- 8. Further resources
Note of the editor
A first version of this article was published on www.MuslimHeritage.com in June 2003 by Dr Rabah Saoud. The present version was revised and expanded by FSTC Research Team, and new illustrations were added.***
Much of the writing about the history of coffee highlights the wide differences in opinion concerning how and when coffee was discovered. Historians have failed to reach a consensus and it is still difficult to establish a credible date. The earliest manuscripts known to study the history of coffee were of Muslim origin, dating from the 15th century. As we shall see, these works provided a comprehensive amount of information about the social nature of this beverage as well as the process of its spread to various parts of the Muslim world, an event that took place during the century when these books were produced. In relation to its first discovery, however, there are some considerable gaps as these manuscripts relied on their contemporary eyewitnesses who did not go back beyond a few generations in tracing its historical chronology. Because of this, historians who followed these manuscripts argued for the late introduction of coffee into the Muslim world. Hattox , for example, put it in the15th century. Quoting these Arabic sources, he claimed that Yemeni Muslims brought it from Ethiopia around the 1400s.
As we shall see below, other testimonies, such as those of Al-Razi and Ibn Sina, let us conclude that coffee was known, at least in medical circles, as early as the beginning of the 10th century.
2. Early Muslim sources
In one account provided by Fakhr al-Din Abu Bakr Ibn Abi Yazid Al-Makki , he referred to a group of Sufis under the name of Shadhilya order who used to make Al-Qahwa from Kafta using the leaves of Al-Gat, a stimulating plant well known in Arabia. Due to sudden shortages of Al-Gat in Aden, Sheikh al-Dhabhani (d. 1470-71) instructed his followers to use bunn, coffee beans, instead . However, this does not necessarily prove that the first use of coffee in Yemen was in the 15th century. Coffee could have been known before, but substituted for the Al-Gat on that particular occasion.
Figure 1: Geographical distribution of production for the different kinds of coffees (r : robusta, a : arabica, m : robusta & arabica). (Source).
Hattox provided other Arabic sources, which he claims set the introduction of coffee to the mid-15th century at the earliest . This theory echoed that of John Ellis  (1774) who quoted Ibn Shihab al-Din (15th century), attributing the first introduction of coffee drinking into Yemen to Jamal Al-Din, the Mufti of Aden, who was nearly his contemporary. During one of his travels to Persia, Jamal Al-Din saw some of his countrymen drinking coffee. At the time, he did not pay much attention but on his return to Aden, he fell ill and decided to try it to see whether it would improve his condition. On so doing, not only recover his health, but perceived other useful qualities. These included relieving headache, enlivening the spirits, and preventing drowsiness. Consequently, he recommended the drink to his fellow Sufis to enable them to pass the night in prayer. The example and authority of the Mufti established the reputation of coffee, spreading it throughout the population and slowly replacing the Al-Gat drink.
The Turkish sources, however, provide earlier dating. Brisel in his Kahvaler Kitab  put the first discovery of coffee to 1258. His account refers to a certain Sheikh named Omar who discovered it accidentally through hunger, which made him eat the beans. There is a circumstantial evidence which endorses the Turkish view and suggests that coffee was indeed known to the Muslims long before the 15th century. The presence of ceramic and silver pots and ewer shapes, that can only refer to the presence of coffee, were established in the Islamic world, since the 13th and 14th centuries .
There is further evidence which indicates that coffee was known to Muslims even before Brisel's date of 1258. We know that the scholar and physician Ibn Sina (Avicenna) administered coffee as a medicine around the first millennium. There is a reference and a description of its medical effect in his Al-Qanun fi al-tib in which he described coffee as "a material that comes from the Yemen. It is said that it is produced from the roots of the Thorn Aegiptia which drops at maturation. The better type is yellow and light, of good smell. The white and heavy one is instead bad. It revives the body, cleans the skin, and dries up the humidities that are under it, and gives an excellent smell to all the body." The quote clearly established the presence of coffee in Yemen, at least, sometime in the 10th century. Before him, the early 10th-century known physician Al-Razi (Rhazes) also mentioned some medical properties of coffee. However, both authors used the name bunn, the Arabic contraction of the Ethiopian name for coffee.
Figure 2: World map based on coffee importation by country in 2006, showing gross imports. Some countries re-export significant portions of their coffee imported. Based on the statistics of the International Coffee Organization: see here and here (Source).
The English word "coffee," however, comes from the Turkish kahveh, which in turn stems from the Arabic qahwah. But in classical Arabic, coffee is called bunn, a word which in modern Arabic refers only to the bean itself. This is the term used by Al-Razi, who is credited with the first written description of the medicinal properties of coffee. He refers to the bean and the tree as bunn and to the drink as bunchum—which, he adds, is good for the stomach. Shortly after him, around 1000, Ibn Sina also mentioned the value of bunchum, claiming that coffee fortifies the members, cleans the skin and gives an excellent smell to all the body .
Ukers  brought the discovery of coffee back to year 750 CE when an Arab shepherd, named Khalid, living in Ethiopia observed the behavioural changes on his goats on eating from a particular bush. That bush became known as the coffee tree. This story is widely repeated and accepted by most historians.
From the above, it appears clear that coffee was discovered by the Muslims sometime around the 10th century. It was first used and cultivated in Yemen. Instead of eating the beans, the Yemenis boiled them, creating the famous drink of Al-Qahwa. There is also consensus that the first users of coffee were the Sufis who used it as a stimulant to stay awake during late night Dhikr (remembrance of God). Coffee spread to the rest of the Muslims of Yemen and eventually to all the Muslim world via travellers, pilgrims and traders. It reached Makkah and Turkey sometime in the late 15th century.
It is reported by Abd-Al-Qadir Al-Jaziri  (around 1558) in his book ‘Umdat Al-Safwa, Argument in Favor of the Legitimate Use of Coffee, a manuscript produced sometime before 1587, from Fakhr al-Din Abu Bakr Ibn Abi Yazid Al-Makki who maintained that al-Qahwa did not reach Makkah until the end of the 9th century of Hijra (15th century CE). He later provided another source, which gave details on how coffee reached Cairo. Ibn Abd Al-Ghaffar reported that in the first decade of the tenth Hijri century (middle of the 16th century CE), coffee was brought to the Yemeni students of the Alzhar Medrassa who used it to boost their performance in various Dhikr circles . From Al-Azhar, coffee soon entered the streets, shops and houses of Cairo. By early 15th century CE (in 1453), coffee reached Turkey with the first coffee shop, Kiva Han, opening in Istanbul in 1475.
The text of Al-Jaziri was written in response to a religious debate over the merits and legality, under Islamic law, of the beverage that was sweeping Ottoman society. It is the oldest existing document about the history, preparation, use, virtues, and benefits of coffee drinking. Once coffee had become established in Makkah and Madinah, it wasn't long before pilgrims and traders disseminated it to the far corners of the Islamic world. From there, coffee also came to Europe in the 17th century through Venice, Marseilles, Amsterdam, London and Vienna.
Figure 3: Table of top ten countries producing green coffee in 2006 (by millions of metric tons). Source: UN Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO). (Source).
As a result, Yemen's coffee export business boomed during the first Ottoman presence between 1536 and 1636. As the beverage gained popularity, the port of Al-Mukha enjoyed an increasingly powerful monopoly as the world's only source of bunn until the 18th century.
In addition to dating the first Muslim use of coffee, much of the writing about coffee in the West has highlighted the controversy of coffee and coffee-houses in the lands of Islam, claiming that Islam condemned the use of coffee due to its addiction. It is true that coffee-houses were disliked because of the wasteful and playful nature of its activity, especially in places where it was associated with female singers and dancers and the like. But the social controversies about them did not prevent the steady and continuous spread of coffee-houses through the urban centers.
3. Coffee in Turkey and the Balkans
The famous Turkish coffee is prepared by boiling finely powdered roast coffee beans in a pot (cezve), possibly with sugar, and serving it into a cup, where the dregs settle. The name describes the method of preparation, not the raw material. Turkish coffee is common throughout the Middle East, North Africa, Caucasus, and the Balkans. It is also served by the Turkish, Balkan, and Middle Eastern expatriate communities in the rest of the world. Coffeehouse culture was highly developed in the Ottoman world to the point that coffeehouses have become a distinct and prominent trait of the social culture. Coffee has affected Turkish culture so much that the Turkish word for breakfast, kahvalti literally means "before coffee", while the Turkish word for brown is kahverengi, (the color of coffee) .
An English traveler by the name of Charles Mac Farlane, who had witnessed some of the most tumultuous years of early Ottoman efforts to reform during the reign of Mahmud II in Istanbul, made many insightful observations about the cultural texture of an urban life that was undergoing a metamorphosis. Charles Mac Farlane has completed his travel guide with these words; "The Turks cannot live without coffee."
This conclusion by an orientalist pen made a reference to the social habits generated by the widespread of the consumption of coffee in coffehouses through the cities of the Ottoman empire. The circles of chatting people arrayed around a coffee brazier shaped new philosophies of life that were woven jointly by those who had been captivated by the pleasure imparted by this mystical beverage. From there, they formed a network of cultural dissemination that became increasingly more comprehensive, resulting in the launching of a process of socialization that encompassed all elements of society.
Figure 4: Illustration of Coffea arabica plant and seeds in Kohler's Medicinal Plants: Franz Eugen Köhler, Medizinal-Pflanzen in naturgetreuen Abbildungen mit kurz erläuterndem: Atlas zur Pharmacopoea… (Gera-Untermhaus, 1883-1914). (Source).
By bringing together the diverse elements of society –government officials, tradesmen and artisans, the pious and the profane– out of their own closed circles and into the common ground of the coffeehouse, coffee mediated the development of a social design to which everyone could contribute his own knowledge and experience. In that respect, the habit that coffee created in the Islamic world may be said to have laid the foundations of a new civil model that was based on socialization .
Istanbul was introduced to coffee in 1543, during the reign of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent by Özdemir Pasha, the Ottoman Governor of Yemen, who had grown to love the drink while stationed in that country. In the Ottoman palace a new method of drinking coffee was discovered: the beans were roasted over a fire, ground and then boiled in water. With its new brewing method and aroma, coffee's reputation soon spread even further afield.
Coffee soon became a vital part of palace cuisine and was very popular in court. The position of Chief Coffee Maker (kahvecibasi) was added to the roster of court functionaries. The Chief Coffee Maker's duty was to brew the Sultan's or his patron's coffee, and was chosen for his loyalty and ability to keep secrets. The annals of Ottoman history record a number of Chief Coffee Makers who rose through the ranks to become Grand Viziers to the Sultan.
Coffee soon spread from the palace to grand mansions, and from grand mansions to the homes of the public. The people of Istanbul quickly became enamored with the beverage. Green coffee beans were purchased and then roasted at home on pans. The beans were then ground in mortars and brewed in coffeepots known as cezve.
Most of the general public became acquainted with coffee through the establishment of coffeehouses. The first coffeehouse (named Kiva Han) opened in the district of Tahtakale and others rapidly cropped up all over the city. Coffeehouses and coffee culture soon became an integral part of Istanbul social culture. People came there throughout the day to read books and beautiful texts, play chess and backgammon and discuss poetry and literature. Thanks to the efforts of merchants and travelers who passed through Istanbul, Turkish Coffee soon spread to Europe and ultimately to the whole world .
Figure 5: A 16th-century manuscript showing a coffee-house with men drinking coffee. Reproduced in part in 1001 Inventions: Muslim Heritage in Our World, editor in chief Prof. Salim T. S. Al-Hassani (Manchester, FSTC, 2006, p. 13).
The Ottoman chronicler İbrahim Peçevi reports the opening of the first coffeehouse in Istanbul: "Until the year 962 (1554-55), in the High, God-Guarded city of Constantinople, as well as in Ottoman lands generally, coffee and coffeehouses did not exist. About that year, a fellow called Hâkem (Hakam) from Aleppo and a wag called Sems (Shams) from Damascus, came to the city: they each opened a large shop in the district called Tahtakale, and began to purvey coffee ."
In the Middle East, Turkish coffee until recently has been called simply ‘coffee' in the local language. In Turkey "kahve" was assumed to be Turkish coffee until instant coffee was introduced in the 1980s. Today, younger generations refer to it as Türk kahvesi (Turkish coffee). In many languages, the term "Turkish" coffee has been replaced by the local variant name (for example in "Armenian Coffee" (haykakan surj), "Greek coffee" (ellinikós kafés), and "Cypriot coffee" (kypriakós kafés), or dropped altogether. The words for "coffee" and "coffee shop" remained unchanged in Greek as in the other Balkan languages, using the Ottoman Turkish forms kahve and kahvehane: such as in Bulgarian, Macedonian, Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian, Slovenian, Romanian, Greek, and Albanian.
In the Arab world, "Turkish" coffee is the most common kind of coffee. It is called Arabic coffee (qahwa ‘arabiyah) or Shami (Levantine) coffee. Only occasionally will Arabs refer to Turkish coffee as being from their native country, so constructions such as "Egyptian coffee," "Lebanese coffee," "Iraqi coffee," and the like are heard to draw a distinction in the flavor, preparation, or presentation of two different kinds of Turkish coffee; for instance, an Egyptian using the term qahwa Arabiya as distinct from qahwa Masriya would be distinguishing the Levantine from the Egyptian style of Turkish coffee.
Similarly, in all the regions which were under the Ottoman and Turkish influence in the past centuries, the name of local coffee preparations reflect until today the trace of this Turkish impact. In Cyprus, local coffee is called Cypriot Coffee (kypriakós kafés); it is served either unsweetened, medium sweet, or very sweet. In Armenia, Turkish coffee is called (sourj coffee) or (haykakan sourj, Armenian coffee). In Romania, Turkish coffee is called ‘cafea turceasca', ‘cafea caimac' or ‘cafea la ibric'. The pot is called ‘ibric', and in Dobrogea it is made in a copper kettle filled with sand - this kind of coffee is called ‘cafea la nisip'.
Figure 6: Miniature of a portable coffee stall dated to 1582, taken from Sürname-i Hümayun (Imperial Festival Book), where the artisans of the coffee maker/seller participating in the festival procession were depicted in great detail. Source: Nurhan Atasoy, 1582 Surname-i Hümayun: Dügün Kitabi, (Istanbul: Koçbank, 1997).
But it is in the habits and languages of the Muslim communities of the Balkans that we find a stronger influence. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, Turkish coffee is also called "Bosnian coffee", which is made slightly differently than its Turkish predecessor. It is usually made with Bosnian coffee brands (including Zlatna Džezva, Minas, and Saraj Kafa). Coffee drinking in Bosnia is a traditional daily custom and plays an important role in society, especially during social gatherings.
In Croatia, it is called turska kava, i.e. "Turkish coffee". Otherwise, it is known as simply kava, unless when referred to in cafes, in order to avoid confusion with other types of coffee drinks. In Albania this is known as Turkish coffee (Kafe Turke) and it is a very popular drink even though lately it has lost some of its appeal on the young who prefer Italian style espressos. This coffee constitutes an essential element of the Albanian social scene. In the Republic of Macedonia, it is called more plainly Tursko kafe, otherwise, it is known as simply ?ursko.
Turška kava is the name for Turkish coffee in Slovenia. Otherwise, it is known as simply kava, unless when referred to in cafes, in order to avoid confusion with other types of coffee drinks. Especially strong coffee (without sugar and milk) is often referred to as crna kava (black coffee) .
 Hattox, R.S. (1988), Coffee and Coffeehouses: The Origins of a Social Beverage in the Medieval Near East, Seattle and London: University of Washington Press.
 'Abd al-Hayy ibn Ahmad ibn al-'Imad (1623-1679), Shadharat al-dhahab fi akhbar man dhahab li-'l-mu'arrikh Abi al-Fallah, Cairo: Maktabat al-Quds, 1931, vol. 8, p. 40 (cited in Hattox 1988, op. cit.)
 Hattox, op. cit, p. 18.
 See ibid, chapter 2, pp. 11-28.
 Ellis, John (1774), An Historical Account of Coffee with an Engraving, and Botanical Description of the Tree : To Which Are Added Sundry Papers Relative to Its Culture and Use, as an Article of Diet and of Commerce, Printed for Edward and Charles Dilly, London.
 Salâh Birsel (1975), Kahveler kitab, Koza Yaynlar, Istanbul. The translation of some parts of this work is credited to Coskun Yorulmaz.
 J. Sweetman (1987), The Oriental Obsession: Islamic Inspiration in British and American Art, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, coll. "Cambridge studies in the history of art".
 See Al-Razi, Manafi' al-Aghdhiya, Al-Dar Al-ahliya li-'l-'ulum, Beirut, 1982, p. 74; and Eric Hansen, Yemen's Well-Travelled Bean, Saudi Aramco World, September/October 1997, pp. 2-9.
 William H. Ukers (1935), All About Coffee, The Tea & Coffee Trade Journal Company, New York, 2nd edition.
 Abd-al-Qadir ibn Muhammed al-Ansari al-Jaziri al-Hanbali (ca. 1558), 'Umdat al-Safwa fi hill al-qahwa, 1826 ed. by A.I.S. De Sacy, Chrestomathie arabe, Paris, 3 vols., 2nd edition. Al-Jaziri's manuscript work is of considerable interest with regards to the history of coffee in Europe as well. A copy reached the French royal library, where it was translated in part by Antoine Galland as De l'origine et du progrès du Café (Paris, 1699; recently reissued (Paris: Editions La Bibliothèque, 1992). See also Dufour, Traitez nouveaux et curieux du café, du thé et du chocolat (Lyon, 1684).
 Ibid, vol. 1, pp. 147-48.
 [Wikipedia], Turkish coffee (accessed 7 July 2010).
 See Social History of Turkish Coffee (accessed 7 July 2010).
 [Turkishcoffeeworld.com], History of coffee (accessed 7 July 2010). For a detailed study of the coffehouse in Turkey, and especially in Istanbul, see Ahmet Yasar, The Coffeehouses in Early Modern Istanbul: Public Space, Sociability and Surveillance. Thesis submitted to the Institute for Graduate Studies in Social Sciences in partial satisfaction of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in History, Boǧaziçi University, Istanbul, 2003. [Abstract: This thesis aims at examining the urban experience in a manner of the use of public space and the surveillance over it within the context of early modern Istanbul. Particularly, it focuses on the coffeehouse as a new public space in urban scene and as a site for the theatrical forms of sociability, and also as a confrontation zone between the authority and subjects. It argues that the coffeehouse created a viable public domain for adult-male, by its heterogeneous clientele, theatrical types of expression, political lampooning, and popular political discourse].
 Quoted in Cemal Kafadar, "A History of Coffee", Economic History Congress XIII (Buenos Aires, 2002).
 Adapted from [Wikipedia], Turkish coffee, op. cit. For other resources on Turkish coffee and the Ottoman history of coffee, see: Turkish Coffee - A Historical Background; Turkish Coffee Articles about its History & Culture; Coffee's Historical Journey - Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi; Social History of Turkish Coffee; From Mythology to History – Turkish Coffee. See also Turkish Coffee during Ottoman Empire Era where you can learn more about the history of coffee during the Ottoman Empire Era, and Turkish Coffee Dictionary, an ongoing project developed with the aim of creating the first and largest Turkish Coffee Dictionary online.
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by: FSTC Limited, Mon 11 October, 2010