In 1667, Sultan Mehment IV sent ambassador Hossohbet Nuktedam Suleyman Aga to the King of France Louis XIV. Among the Ottoman ambassador’s possessions were several packages of coffee, which he described to the French as sacks full of a ‘’magical beverage’’. Suleyman Aga quickly became popular among the Parisian aristocracy, who saw it as a great honor to share a cup of Turkish coffee and enjoy his pleasant wit. The ambassador recounted countless stories on the subject of coffee, which earned him the title of “Hoşsohbet” or “Raconteur”.
The first coffee house in Paris was set up, ironically perhaps, in 1686 by a Sicilian, Procopio dei Coltelli. The Café Le Procope on Rue de l’ Ancienne of Montparnasse was soon a favorite haunt for many actors and actresses of the Parisian state theatre known as Comedie Francaise. The theatre was soon resettled in the same street changing its name to Rue de l’ Ancienne – Comedie. Αmong the café’s frequenters were Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, known by his stage name Molière, and Jean-Baptiste Racine one of the most famous playwrights in France at the time.
During the Age of the French Enlightenment, Café Le Procope hosted the infamous Encyclopedistes Denis Diderot, Jean-Baptiste le Rond d'Alembert, and Voltaire, who all elaborated on the idea of the Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers (Encyclopaedia, or a Systematic Dictionary of the Sciences, Arts, and Crafts). It is rumoured that François-Marie Arouet, Voltaire's actual name, used to drink more than 40 cups of a generous mix of coffee and chocolate every day which surely had a role to play in his prolific and incredibly important work that he produced through the years.
In the years of the French Revolution, Café Le Procope was also a meeting place for the French rebellion’s main protagonists Maximilien François Marie Isidore de Robespierre, Georges Jacques Danton, and Jean-Paul Marat who, have used it as a meeting place to plan and discuss their moves. The Café however retained its literary character throughout the entire 19th century as well: Victor Marie Vicomte Hugo, Alfred Louis Charles de Musset-Patha, Pierre Jules Théophile Gautie, Paul Verlains, and François Anatole Thibault were just a few among its promiment frequent customers. The Café Le Procope was restored according to an 18th-century rhythm in 1989. In it, Voltaire’s office is still kept intact.
In 1683 the Ottoman army that besieged Vienna was crashed by the Polish, Austrian, and German troops. As the Ottomans fled, they left all their supplies behind; tents, animals, grains and approximately 500 sacks of coffee seeds. Initially, the troops that found the bizzare seeds decided to throw them away, believing they were nothing but food for camels.
However, Jerzy Franciszek Kulczycki, a Polish man who used to live in the East, demanded to receive the sacks as a token of appreciation for his brabery and contribution. Kulczycki is credited with the establishment of the first European coffee house in Vienna, the so-called Blue Bottle Coffee House. His famous beverage “Viennois” was coffee ground into a fine powder, boiled in water, and flavoured with milk and honey. It was served along with a crescent-shaped croissant to remind the customers of the Οttoman’s defeat.
It is almost certain that Ottoman influence around Europe was partly responsible for the spread of coffee and coffee houses in Europe as we've seen from the examples above. However it is also certain that the French, in what probably is the brightest example of a prototypical Café, where perhaps responsible for introducing the culture of enjoying coffee in the form we understand today,
This weekend we will continue our story on Cafés and their origins and conclude with some stories from America. To get notified with news and stories about our upcoming features and about our blends please subscribe using the form below.