Muslim Inventions

  • 30 Sep - 06 Oct, 2017
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Panorama

More than 1.5 billion cups of coffee are drunk worldwide every day – enough to fill nearly 300 Olympic-size swimming pools. Coffee is a global industry and the second largest commodity-based product; only oil beats it.

More than 1,200 years ago hardworking people fought to stay awake without this stimulant until, as the story goes, a herd of curious goats and their watchful master, an Arab named Khalid, discovered this simple, life changing substance. As his goats grazed on the Ethiopian slopes, he noticed they became lively and excited after eating a particular berry. Instead of just eating the berries, people boiled them to create al-qahwa.

Sufis in Yemen drank al-qahwa for the same reasons we do today, to stay awake. It helped them to concentrate during late night Thikr (prayers in remembrance of Allah). Coffee was spread to the rest of the Muslim world by travellers, pilgrims, and traders, reaching Mecca and Turkey in the late 15th century and Cairo in the 16th century.

It was a Turkish merchant named Pasqua Rosee who first brought coffee to England in 1650, selling it in a coffe ehouse in George-yard, Lombard Street, London. Eight years later, another coffee house called Sultaness Head was opened in Cornhill. Lloyd’s of London, today a famous insurance company, was originally a coffee shop called Edward Lloyd’s Coffee House. By 1700, there were about 500 coffeehouses in London, and nearly 3,000 in the whole of England. They were known as “penny universities” because you could listen and talk with the great minds of the day for the price of a coffee.

The consumption of coffee in Europe was largely based on the traditional Muslim preparation of the drink. This entailed boiling the mixture of coffee powder, sugar, and water together, which left a coffee residue in the cup because it was not filtered. However, in 1683, a new way of preparing and drinking coffee was discovered, and it became a coffee house favourite.

The first coffee house in Europe appeared in Venice in 1645, after coffee came to Europe through trade with North Africa and Egypt. Edward Lloyd’s Coffee House in London, established in the late 17th century, was a meeting place for merchants and ship owners. Coffee houses became forerunners of today’s pubs. They were the places where the public discussed political affairs and also gave rise to the liberal movement.

Cappuccino coffee was inspired by Marco d’Aviano, a priest from the Capuchin monastic order, who was fighting against the Turks besieging Vienna in 1683. Following the retreat of the Turks, the Viennese made coffee from abandoned sacks of Turkish coffee. Finding it too strong for their taste, they mixed it with cream and honey. This made the colour of coffee turn brown, resembling the colour of the Capuchins’ robes. Thus, the Viennese named it cappuccino in honour of Marco D’Aviano’s order. Since then, cappuccino has been drunk for its enjoyable, smooth taste.