Day 3 already! I was going to talk about ley lines, but Matt Mikalatos beat me to the punch. Aloha, Matt! However, he very helpfully suggested an alternate topic. It seems our hero in The Skin Map is searching for something else besides the map…a decent cup of coffee.
How Coffee Came to Europe
Oh, this is good. I’m going to summarize what I found in a casual internet search, but the source articles are very entertaining on their own merits, and I’ll link them at the end.
Coffee is believed to have originated in Ethiopia, possibly after local goatherds noticed that animals browsing on coffee beans gained some extra pep. There is also evidence the coffee bean saw earlier use as part of a primitive “energy bar” for hungry warriors.
Cultivation spread to the surrounding countries, but Arab authorities restricted the export of fertile coffee beans or trees until around 1616, when the Dutch managed to obtain some and bring them back to Holland, where they were grown in greenhouses. Coffee as a beverage was introduced to Europe a little earlier, by Venetian traders in 1615, though travelers had brought news of the mysterious concoction as early as 1578.
At any rate, once it hit European shores, there was no stopping it. Coffeehouses began to spring up everywhere, starting in Italy between the late 1600’s and early 1700’s, and soon after in central Europe and Great Britain. They quickly became popular social gathering places, known for lively discussion of politics and local gossip. Caffe Florian in Piazza San Marco opened in 1720 and is still in operation today. Lloyd’s of London, the famous insurance brokerage, was originally a coffeehouse.
As with any commodity people enjoy, suspicion regarding coffee’s impact on society’s morals and character blossomed immediately. In the 1500’s there was controversy over coffee’s acceptability in the Muslim world–some thought its stimulant properties made it a forbidden “intoxicant,” and one Sultan became particularly incensed when he observed people drinking it as an aid to wakefulness at all-night prayer vigils. The coffee drinkers won that fight, and coffee quickly became a staple of Muslim culture.
Similar debates emerged in Christendom. In a persistent, but likely apocryphal account, a committee of Catholic priests decried coffee as “the Devil’s brew,” concocted by Satan for the Muslims, and a threat to the Christian soul. Pope Clement VIII thought it smelled too nice and tasted too good to to be the Devil’s work, and rather than abandon such a pleasant thing to the pagans, he declared it baptized and suitable for Christian consumption. The argument resurfaced in in 1670’s England, driven by pub owners who maintained that beer had been brewed by Christian monks for centuries and was a more appropriate beverage for the faithful than a drink invented by Muslims.
English women unhappy with the amount of time their men were wasting in coffeehouses (where women were forbidden to enter) mounted their own campaign foreshadowing future Temperance movements. In this case, they argued that coffee was a cause of infertility which threatened to cause national barrenness and a disastrous decline in population. The men replied that coffee was an aphrodisiac and women ought to be thankful for it.
The merits and dangers of coffee continue to be a source of controversy in modern society, both secular and religious. Medical research differs on its potential health benefits, and its caffeine content causes it to be shunned as a drug by Mormons, Adventists, and a few other religious communities. On the other hand, some churches have assimilated coffee culture to the point of having their own coffeehouses and coffee bars to facilitate social interaction and community outreach.
So, Devil’s Brew, or Heaven Sent? I don’t know. I think I’ll pour myself another cup of coffee and think about it for a while.
Well, that’s all I’ve got. The Skin Map seems an intriguing story, and I look forward to reading it myself. There’s a lot of great commentary about the book available at the other stops on the Tour, so be sure to check them out.
Next month, we’ll take a look at The Charlatan’s Boy, a young-adult fantasy by Jonathan Rogers. I’ll read this one. I promise. Really. I will.
Thomas Clayton Booher
Morgan L. Busse
Christian Fiction Book Reviews
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
Rebecca LuElla Miller
John W. Otte
Rachel Starr Thomson
Stephen R. Lawhead’s website: http://www.stephenlawhead.com/