A few days ago in an article that so far has been most popular on the website, I explained a little about the very origins of coffee and its name as well as how important coffee was for the Arabs and the Ottomans.

Hopefully, you were able to see that coffee was and still to this day is, a Muslim drink. And if we take this concept a little further, we will eventually come to acknowledge that the realationship between religion and coffe in the Arab world is of a really amazing significance. This simple, dark drink relates to just all aspects of Muslim life. And so does Islam.


Bitter and dark coffee is frequently served with sweetest of the dessrts – just to keep that balance 🙂


Across the Middle East, coffee served in very little cups „finjan”, is frequently treated with greater respect and  cult than pure water, not to mention alkohol. In Islam, many of the religious norms have been grounded in the appreciation of simple, traditional and meaningful way of life, because only if fully connected to his own soul, through prayer and interaction with brothers and sisters, can one give his life full flavor.

And it is often a flavor of coffee that evokend in tradition and heritage of the Arabs, brings this pure simplicity back to life. In the Arab Penninsula coffee can never be served with left hand, and always has to be accepted by a guest. A respect towards drink is being imposed on respect towards other human. Refusing to dring a finjan of coffee with a host is treated as one of worst offenses and may lead to intense conflicts between families. Just think about it for a second: the way you treat coffee determines your attitude towards the server. The way you interact with people is framed by a cup of kahwa.

At homes, coffee is the first thing a head of the family would offer his guests as they come. This is what we call “finjan al aldaif”.

In many Arabic societies the phrase “let’s have a cup of coffee together” is a code for getting together to discuss news, mutual interests and agreements. This is called “finjan al hail”.

Coffee asists the problem solving between families and entire communities. When two men drink „finjan al seif” it means they establish a string of brotherhood and both enemies and alies of one become the enemies and alies of the other. This relationship is bilateral.

                                               At a Beduin desert tent with Jordanian families is how I like my coffee best.


There have been many notes of examples when possessing coffee saved people’s lives, brought them friends, helped them in solitude and assisted in creation of new communities, countries, and cultires even. We experience those events every day, as the drink is a part of our daily routine. Much of the legacy in the Middle East, as we learnt in previous article, has been developing parallerly with the development and sophistication of coffee. Not to say that often once was causing another.

In the Arab world, kahwa in some significant way challenges, if not replaces alkohol – which still remains under the allure of tabu in the discussion, and in Islam itself.

Turkish coffee, served very strong but really sweet at the same time (try pouring coffee to a cup full of sugar and you will get a close to identical experience), has little in common with Arabic coffee – which is extremely dark, bitter, strong, and hot – almost always served with cardamon. One thing the two drinks definitely share is a taste to die for and the memories of people you drink with.

Because…
“In the Arab world, you never drink (coffee) alone”

               \

So just for a better (though probably not so much elegant) picture: in general – coffee in the Arab world is like shots of something else someplaces else: 

Strong, people-liking, and always in abundance. 

Although Turkey is not considered part of the Middle East, its coffee culture remains ofe of the most influential in the world.

Although Turkey is not considered part of the Middle East, its coffee culture remains one of the most influential in the world.


Then, what is the Christian input into the coffee topic?

Well, for a long time after Christans were introduced to coffee for the first time (last post), the pope forbade them from drinking it. Halas, no questions – the coffe was banned and breaking this law was treated as an act against religion. The wars, conflicts and battles that followed between Muslims and Christians frequently had coffee at their source – allowed on one side and desired at the other.

One of the later popes (thank God) changed the decision of his antecedens, took a bag of coffee and baptitized it in front of the cheering public. Therefore now, Christians and Europeans (where baptism took place) say that coffee is “theirs”.

Apart from the depth and breadth of this very topic of coffee, that you could really write and talk about for hours, I think it is really pretty to know nothing, exactly nothing, when you are introduced to history. It is absolutely pretty to be raw and innocent before stepping into the past. Because every single day billions of people on our planet drink millions of cups of coffe. And very few apart from deciding between cappuccino/ latte, sugar/milk or place to drink their coffee at (let’s not even mention the green logo brand), very few people actually think about what is it that they are drinking, where does it come from, and how much blood was shed for it. Not knowing is part of being human. But desire to learn is this spirit of curiosity thatmakes us all better.


So let’s show some humility, even towards coffee. Or perhaps towards the people, religions, and tradition that stands behind the little beans we all with so much pleasure and habit welcome in our lives every day (sometimes 6 times a day if you are a senior and should be studying for the SATs instead of writing posts about subject of your addicion). Let’s embrace the drink that used to divide, but now joins millions of us regardless our differences. Let’s treat those stories of coffee to reach a little beyond their literal understanding. Wouldn’t you agree that story telling has this miraculous ability of being mirrored in lifes of the listeners?

-A

One comment on “The sweet flavor of a bitter drink – how coffee brings us all together
  1. Beata Borzyszkowska says:

    pretty amazing
    very interesting information
    the only thing – do not drink too much coffee 🙂

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