Coffee may seem harmless, but its historical rap sheet is a mile long.
Coffee was banned in Mecca in 1511, as it was believed to stimulate radical thinking and hanging out—the governor thought it might unite his opposition. Java also got a bad rap for its use as a stimulant—some Sufi sects would pass around a bowl of coffee at funerals to stay awake during prayers. (Note to Starbucks: Time for a new size, the Funeral Bowl.)
When coffee arrived in Europe in the 16th century, clergymen pressed for it to be banned and labeled Satanic. But Pope Clement VIII took a taste, declared it delicious, and even quipped that it should be baptized. On the strength of this papal blessing, coffeehouses rapidly sprang up throughout Europe.
After Murad IV claimed the Ottoman throne in 1623, he quickly forbade coffee and set up a system of reasonable penalties. The punishment for a first offense was a beating. Anyone caught with coffee a second time was sewn into a leather bag and thrown into the waters of the Bosporus.
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