01 February, 2005
* History of Coffee *
Our daughter, who enjoys Shakespeare, asked today if coffee had been discovered before Shakespeare's era, and if it was available in England at that time. She imagined that he would have been sipping coffee as he wrote, but was unsure. I told her that I didn't know, but guessed that he likely drank ale or *maybe* tea, so I decided to fossick about for the answer. I did a search and came up with a couple of informative links on the Timeline and History of Coffee.
I stumbled onto some information I'd learned years ago in a music appreciation class, but had forgotten, because I'm more of a Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, and Vivaldi fan. Johann Sebastian Bach wrote a musical composition in 1732, based on Picander’s 1727 satire about the German coffee craze. It is simply known as "Kaffee-Kantate." It is said that the composition was partly an ode to coffee and partly a stab at the movement in Germany to prevent women from drinking coffee (it was thought to make them sterile). The cantata includes the aria "Ah! How sweet coffee tastes! Lovelier than a thousand kisses, sweeter far than muscatel wine! I must have coffee..."
About Shakespeare, I don't yet know, but...
"The popularity spread through Europe to such an extent that, during the 17th and 18th centuries, there were more coffee shops in London than there are today....Coffee shops then were influential places, used extensively by artists, intellectuals, merchants, bankers and a forum for political activities and developments. When they became popular in England, the coffee houses were dubbed "penny universities". It was said that in a coffee house a man could 'pick up more useful knowledge than by applying himself to his books for a whole month.' A penny was the price of a coffee."