Drinking Coffee: Once a Capital Offense?

Drinking Coffee: Once a Capital Offense?

Stephanie Barlow
Jan 23, 2012

You might have qualms about the health benefits of that third or fourth cup of coffee to boost your Monday morning, but feeling jittery would have been the least of your concerns if you were living in, say, the 17th century. Plain and simple coffee was outlawed in England, and drinking it was even punishable by death in Turkey!

That's right, if you were found drinking a cup of coffee in Istanbul in the 1600s, your life could have been at stake. And this coffee crackdown wasn't prevalent just in the Ottoman Empire, it spread across the Western world as well. England banned the drink as did Germany. While the powers in charge claimed numerous health reasons for shuttering coffee shops (including the threat that coffee drinkers would be "Frenchified"), the true meaning behind the ban was more political. Coffee houses were places where citizens could gather and, the governments feared, revolt. However, behind closed doors, rumor has it that even the Pope Clement VIII couldn't resist coffee's charm. After tasting the drink, he remarked "Why, this Satan's drink is so delicious that it would be a pity to let the infidels have exclusive use of it."

Read more: Drink Coffee? Off With Your Head! at NPR

Related: Teapots: Steeped in History

(Images: Flickr user apres_abroad licensed for use under Creative Commons)

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