History of coffee: coffee arrives in Europe


It has been a little over 4 centuries since coffee arrived on the European continent. If the consumption of these small grains has spread to the whole world and is now part of our daily life, it has not always been so. Let's discover together the origins of coffee in Europe.

Coffee and the Muslim world

After the discovery and cultivation of coffee trees in Yemen, the sultan of the Ottoman Empire who then reigned over a large part of the Mediterranean basin, Suleiman the Magnificent, undertook to domesticate the cultivation of coffee cherries and to control their roasting. The Ottoman people, in fact, regularly consumed coffee and the popularity of the nectar began to spread beyond its borders. 

It was in the 16th century that the first cafes emerged along the Mediterranean rim, the Middle East and neighboring regions of Mecca.. The introduction of coffee to the Islamic world, however, required a cultural consensus to determine whether the beverage was toxic or not and whether the beverage conformed to the Koran. 

Photo credit: museum Rijksmuseum

Driven by pilgrims and Muslim mystics and by the prohibition of alcohol, places of conviviality called " coffee houses »Gained more and more ground. Thereby, this drink called K'hawah met with great success in the Muslim world.

Introduction of coffee in Central Europe

Next, at the beginning of the 17th century, the Venetians, specialized in the spice trade between the East and Europe, imported coffee to Italy. Very popular in Venice, the coffee was still subject to controversy and some advisers of Pope Clement VIII asked him to ban it, declaring the drink unfaithful. Indeed, coffee beans, coming from Muslim countries were viewed with a negative eye by the various cardinals surrounding the pontiff. However, after tasting it, he finally decided to democratize his consumption et encouraged the monks to consume it. 

The oldest café in Europe, Café Florian located in Venice, Italy.
Photo Credit: Adobe Stock Photo


It was not until the end of the 17th century that England also began to import coffee, and English intellectuals met to discuss philosophy over coffee. From Cairo to Paris, via Constantinople, from many establishments dedicated to coffee opened like so many meeting places frequented by artists and intellectuals, like Montesquieu and Diderot.

Charles II, then King of England, took fright and declared the closure of these places where liberal ideas and pamphlets were shared between the various protesters of the time. However, in front of the people's mazarinade, the ban was quickly lifted, and so England counted 50 years later, nearly 2 cafes spread over the whole of British territory.

Arrival of coffee in France

The arrival of coffee in France, for its part, dates from 1644. Introduced from Egypt, in Marseille, thanks to a Marseille merchant, its consumption quickly democratized. And so was born, in 1671 the first public café offering coffee in the district of "La loge" of the Phocaean city. (now the stock exchange district, located between the Old Port and Belsunce).

A café in Montmartre in Paris during the 50s
Adobe Stock Photo Photo Credit

It was not until 1669 that the precious coffee beans arrived in the French capital. Paris did not experience its first roasted coffee beans until after the visit of Solimane Aga, emissary of Mehmed IV, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. The latter, despite the failure of the attempted rapprochement between France and Turkey, offered King Louis XIV to taste the famous drink which had been spreading for several years in the various European courts.

Cheaper than chocolate, coffee will definitely be adopted by all social strata in the 19th century and the cup of black coffee, in the morning, will stand out as a classic, replacing the traditional soup.