Christianity and Coffee by Shaun Pullen
The Father, The Son, and The Holy Bean
“Black as the devil, hot as hell, pure as an angel, sweet as love. -Charles Maurice de Talleyrand, French Diplomat
Have you ever taken a sip of your favorite brew, tilted your head upwards to the heavens, closed your eyes and exclaimed, “God, that’s good coffee!”?
Coffee for many people is almost religion. We worship it in many different forms, and we exult it through rituals and customs; the Grinding of the Bean, the Sacrament of the Pour Over, the Vow of Silence (until you’ve had at least three sips).
We proselytize and spread the Good News about the coming of Intelligentsia to our neighborhoods. We share stories about the miracle of the “Ethiopia Kayon Mountain Natural” and the wonders of “Sumatra Boru Batak.”
Yet, while we know a lot about coffee, we have virtually no knowledge of how major religions view it. What do our priests and pastors and rabbis and mullahs and gurus think of the beautiful elixir? And do they drink it?
Coffee and Christianity. A match made in Heaven. Exclamations like “Jesus Christ, this coffee is great!” can be heard in all parts of the world every single day.
Biblical scholars know that Jesus never drank a cup of coffee himself, but there is speculation that he did foresee its power during his Sermon on the Mount when he said, “Blessed are the sleepless for they have drunk from the cup of Joseph.” Could ‘cuppa Joe’ be far behind?
If you’ve ever gone to church or church meetings, coffee looms essential. After services, groups of worshippers often gather in church basements to enjoy a cuppa. While most Evangelicals frown upon liquor, Baptists and Methodists and Lex Lutherans can all agree that coffee is a true blessing.
However, the road to caffeinated bliss was oft-times bumpy. Back in the 16th century, a group of java-hating priests petitioned Pope Clement VIII to ban what they called “the devil’s drink.” the ‘devil’ part a slap in the face to all Muslims.
“Not so fast,” proclaimed the Pope. So, he had a cup of coffee brought to him. After his seventh cup and a Danish, old Clement leaped out of his Pope chair and exclaimed, “Why, this Satan’s drink is so delicious that it would be a pity to let the infidels have exclusive use of it. We shall cheat Satan by baptizing it.” (true story)
And, for coffee drinkers, it just kept getting better. Here’s an anecdote I found:
In 1683, a Franciscan friar named Marciano d’Aviano stopped a Turkish invasion of Austria, and along the way, some claim invented cappuccino. The retreating Turks left behind bags of coffee beans, historians say, which the Viennese found so bitter that they added milk and sugar, creating a frothy, sweet beverage. Legend says the word “cappuccino” comes from d’Aviano’s Capuchin order, so named for their brown robes.
Ergo, the word “Frappuccino” must be named after Capuchin friars.
Religion and Coffee
As you can see, religion and coffee go together like soup and sandwich. Except, we’re talking about coffee. So, the next time you have a religious experience while drinking your favorite brew, think of the history that went into it. If not for some adventurous Sufi guy back in the 13th century, you might be sitting there sipping a warm cup of… tea.