What do coffee, pasta and gelato all have in common?
You’d be right if you said they’re all Italian staples – but did you know that they also all got their start overseas? In fact, it wasn’t until the 1500s that coffee made its way to Italian soil – and it brought a steaming hot cup of controversy with it.
When coffee was first introduced to Europe, it was widely known as an Islamic drink.
This, coupled with the strong effects it had on its drinkers, made the officials of the time wary. The locals, less so. They were immediately captivated by the taste, smell and stimulating effects of coffee.
Legend has it that the bean so quickly captured the hearts (and taste buds) of Italians that the Catholic Church asked Pope Clement VIII to condemn it as a devil’s drink. After one sip, he blessed it instead.
Given the ultimate seal of approval, coffee took off all around the country. Beans became espressos became cappuccinos and lattes, and coffee shops emerged across Italy – a phenomenon that worried the country’s leaders because of their reputation as places of animated political discussion.
As a result, the Catholic Church wasn’t the last world power to try and ban the bean. Meccan governor Khair-Beg tried to stamp out coffee (and the satirical verses being written about him in coffee houses) but was beheaded by the Sultan instead, who declared the drink sacred. In 17th-Century England, King Charles II also tried to impose a ban, harbouring a similar fear of revolution being brewed among the beans, but civilian protests led to it being lifted just two weeks later.
Time and time again, the will of the people (and perhaps a few caffeine addictions) won out. It looks like it’s true what they say:
give a man a cup of coffee and he can change the world.