History of Coffee in the Middle East
Arabs and Turks are well known for their coffee. If you've never had Turkish coffee, head over to your local Arab or Turkish restaurant and order some. It's thick, sweet, and really good.
The Middle East has been defined by its pre-dominant religion, Islam, for most of the past 14 centuries. Since alcoholic beverages including beer and wine are often forbidden in Islam, early Muslims took up the practice of drinking coffee. It grew in popularity as people discovered its sleep-inhibiting effects. People would drink it during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan and late at night to stay up for prayers late at night. Occasionally, students, night workers, and travelers came to rely on coffee. Although the habit took root in Yemen, it quickly spread to all parts of the Muslim world like present day Turkey, Egypt, Syria, and Iraq.
Although coffee had a strong impact in Arabia, some postulate that it was used in Persia even before the Arabs started drinking it. The theory is that Persian soldiers fought Ethiopians who tried settling in Yemen. The Persian soldiers must have found the coffee plant, a native to Ethiopia, among the Ethiopians living in Yemen and took it back with them in the mid-15th century. Persian coffee houses became quite popular and were known for their spaciousness and style.
Like modern day coffee houses, they developed a reputation for accommodating poets, thinkers, scientists, and politicians, each engaged in passionate discussion. In fact, an English traveler once reported seeing the wife of the Persian Shah appoint someone to sit in the coffee houses and entertain the patrons with civil discussions revolving around poetry, history, and law. The plan was such a success that similar story tellers and entertainers were designated through Persia.
Coffee is an integral part of American culture. But looking at its history, it's easy to see that we're not the only ones that are passionate about coffee!