Have you grabbed a cup of coffee, take a sip with your eyes closed, smell good, feel great, look up to the sky and tell God, “Wow, that is the world’s most pleasurable drink you could consume for life”? And at that same moment when you realize that you have hit it up 247 straight, your caffeinated curiosity silently screams, “God, did I just commit a sin?”
The truth is, if this critical scenario often occurs to you, you’re not alone. Of course, coffee is a religion for many. It is sacred in many possible ways, and people celebrate it with rituals and customs, such as roasting coffee, grinding the beans, brewing a perfect cup of joe, and serving it spiritually.
Presumably, we sound as if we know a lot about coffee. But in reality, neither atheists nor believers know much about the major religions’ visions on it. So, let’s find out about the rapport between coffee and religion through the brief history below to see if drinking coffee is a sin for some religions or not.
Coffee and religion: Islam
Coffee was very popular in the Arab world hundreds of years ago, even before ISIS and the pandemic’s arrival. It all began in the southern Arabian where Sufis brewed the coffee for the first time in the 13th century.
Sheik Abu’l Hazan ‘Ibn Umar, also known as “Skippy”, traveled to Ethiopia to learn about the coffee culture. Then, he decided to bring it to Yemen for his belief in its potential. Not long after, coffee became very common for the sake of its “wakefulness” from the caffeine substance that worked well for all late-night prayers.
Rumors flew fast, and coffee reputation spread quickly. Even without the use of social media, everyone recognized the importance of coffee. Soon after, Qahwa, a well-known Arabic coffee recipe, became a signature of traditional drink recipes consumed all over the Islamic world, including at the most sacred mosques in Mecca. People were so obsessive with this drink and tenderly named it “ Islamic wine”.
Fortunately, the climate in southern Arabia was ideal for coffee cultivation. Therefore, Yemeni ports turned out to be the main coffee exporters worldwide in a blink. As a result, all coffee traders made a fortune from this industry.
Pioneers, travelers, traders, and even students traveled across the borders to sip a freshly brewed cup of coffee. Consequently, many cafés were born in all big cities in the meantime, specifically Cairo.
However, not everyone applauded the presence of coffee at the time. In the Arab world’s, serious trials were demanding to ban coffee from the market, claiming that this drink seemed illegal because it made people addicted. But, these attempts were often disqualified because even some of the most potent religious leaders were also addicted to coffee.
Coffee and religion: Judaism
Coffee and Judaism have an unbelievably mysterious bond that often echoes the gigantic events in the Arab world. But, believe it or not, coffee appreciation was determined by religious devotion. The more time you could stay awake praying to God, the more obvious it is that you could tell God you adored him a lot.
More interestingly, the earliest coffee shop was established in Constantinople. Next, It was a Jewish man from Livorno, Italy, who opened Europe’s first coffee shop in 1632. Years later, “Jacob, the Jew,” a Sephardic Jew, opened the first coffee shop in Oxford, England. Around that time, more Sephardic Jews were urged to become coffee traders too. What’s more, they even carried the café concept to France and the Netherlands as well.
More or less, antisemitism always seemed to be the problem whenever the Jews thrive. Surprisingly, Germany had antisemitism. There were solemn attempts to eliminate the Jewish coffee shops in Germany as it intimidated the beer business. However, coffee always finds its way as it deserves. Its dignity still prospered even during the hard time. God blessed.
In the 1800s, coffee shops in Prague, Budapest, Berlin and Vienna were the epicenter of social new normal. Vienna’s café culture succeeded because Jewish writers and artists ordered their coffees, sat down and discussed politics, literature, and many other deeply interesting topics for hours. The coffee shop was a luxurious location where you would be seen and heard.
During the 19th century, many Jewish business people started to run their coffee shops in America’s seaport cities of New York, San Francisco, New Orleans and New York. No doubt, New York was a highly competitive market.
Samuel Schonbrunn, a well-known Jewish legend who is worth mentioning about is the brand owner of Savarin. This trademark was served at William Black and Waldorf-Astoria. Also, Samuel converted his nuts shops into Chock Full of Nuts o’ Nuts coffee shops, which went well-off afterwards.
Coffee and religion: Christianity
Coffee in Christianity is an unbreakable attachment created in heaven. Biblical practitioners advised that Jesus didn’t try the cup of joe, but he had foreseen this coffee invention during his Sermon on the mountain that sounds suspiciously like “cuppa Joe”.
While most Evangelicals are fond of alcohol, all Baptists, Methodists, and Lutherans believe that coffee is a wonderful blessing. However, the journey to accepting the caffeinated drink was like climbing a rocky mountain. This so-called devil’s drink did not get accepted during the 16th century in Christianity, and it gave a slap to Islamic roots that prefer to drink wine in their routine.
In fact, coffee plays a unique role in today Christianity modernization, with worshipers frequently hang around in church cellars to grab a cup of coffee. Thus, coffee is deeply rooted in church norms. But, more than this, the coffee time is so special and acts as a central hub for priests to create plans and mirror themselves on previous occurrences.
These coffee consumption hours are not only for Christian churches. Even though coffee may not need a particular place in every faith, it serves as a way for people, from Gnostics to Unitarian Universalists, to unite, bond, and share stories. This behavior fosters a culture of love and community that is, perhaps, the heart and commitment of all religious traditions.
It just got better for coffee drinkers. Here’s an anecdote discovered: Marco D’Aviano, a Franciscan friar in 1683, stopped a Turkish invasion against Austria. Others claim that he invented the cappuccino. According to historians, the Turks fled with bags of coffee beans that were so bitter that the Viennese added sugar and milk to make a sweet, frothy beverage. Legend says that “cappuccino” derives its name from Aviano’s Capuchin group, named after their brown robes. The Capuchin friars must be credited with the name “Frappuccino”.
Now, as history manifests, you will see that coffee and religion conclusively go hand in hand, like salt and pepper. So, if some days, your religious experience strikes while drinking your flavorful brew, remind yourself of the ancient events from major religions that have been evolved. Therefore, you can use the power of your common sense to think if this act is a sin or not. But, at the end of the day, you should be thankful for the audacity of the Sufi dude in the 13th century. Otherwise, you might be sipping a cup of unknown juice instead of coffee now.
I am an Italian coffee lover that pushed for the love of this “amazing drug” decided to come to London to study about coffee and its different extraction procedures and tastes.