Coffee Was Called “Satan’s Drink” Until the Pope Blessed It

Malinda Fusco Clement VIII; Source: Wikimedia Commons
“This Satan’s drink is so delicious that it would be a pity to let the infidels have exclusive use of it.” — Pope Clement VIII

In the 1600s, coffee was called “Satan’s drink” and heavily frowned upon by Catholic Europe. That all changed when Pope Clement VIII had his first cup of joe.

There’s no doubt that coffee has an interesting history stemming from Turkey all the way to Italy before it was embraced as a morning staple.

A Dangerous Drink

Although popular among the citizens of 17th century Turkey, coffee is a drink that has a history of being outlawed.

Sultan Murad IV of the Ottoman Empire made it illegal to consume or purchase coffee. And the punishment for breaking his law? Decapitation, oftentimes with their lips still on the rim of the coffee cup!

It’s recorded that the sultan was so obsessed with eliminating all coffee from his empire that he would disguise himself as a commoner so that he could enter coffeehouses without suspicion and find those who broke the law…all while armed with a sword.

Sultan Murad IV’s successor to the empire was also so fixated with ridding coffee from their lands that he would punish people with a harsh beating the first time they were found drinking coffee. The second, they were sewn into a bag and dropped into a river to drown.

The terrible punishments for consuming coffee didn’t deter everyone though. Coffee spread. And as the coffee spread, the common folk adored the aromatic liquid but those with authority did not.

According to Mark Pendergrast, author of Uncommon Grounds, coffee has the ability to spark the imagination and give people the energy to move plans forward.

It’s said that a vizier for the Ottoman empire observed the people in a Turkish coffeehouse. He found that people who drank alcohol would just get drunk and silly, but those who drank coffee would remain alert and plot against those in charge.

After all, revolutions aren’t planned by drunks. They’re planned by those fueled by the bean.

Despite the threat of harsh punishments and death, coffee was such a favorite drink among the people that it managed to prevail and spread across the world.

Trade Routes Open, In Floods Coffee

In the 17th century, European trade routes in Venice opened up all sorts of exotic goods from Turkey and other lands.

As coffee became increasingly popular among the people once more, Pope Clement VIII’s advisers suggested he ban the drink since it was associated with Islam and had a clear effect on people.

The pope's advisers called it a “bitter invention of Satan.”

Despite the harsh resistance, Pope Clement VIII didn’t want to make a decision without trying the drink that had taken Italy by storm for himself…

Bless the Bean

Turned out, the pope loved coffee. He’s quoted as saying, “This Satan’s drink is so delicious that it would be a pity to let the infidels have exclusive use of it.”

Deciding that it may be a good alternative to alcohol and other intoxicating drinks, instead of renouncing it, he gave coffee his blessing. This seemingly small act gave coffee the green light as an acceptable drink to Catholics and Christians around the world.

Welcoming Coffee Hour

After the pope baptized coffee of all its evil roots, the first European coffee house opened in Rome in 1645. Churches across the world started “coffee hour,” which is when partitioners socialize either before or after the service while drinking coffee.

Today, coffee is a popular morning staple for many people around the world. Americans drink an estimated 400 million cups of coffee each day!

Although it had a rough start, coffee is loved by the masses. So, next time you’re drinking your morning cup of joe, perhaps thank the pope!

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