top of page

Coffee, The "Wine Of Islam," And The Sometimes Revolutionary History Of Coffeehouses

Coffee has a fascinating history as a beverage, with twists and turns through many countries and cultures. It has even been called the "wine of Islam" and coffeehouses have sometimes played key roles in revolutions and social movements, political and religious.

The History of Coffee - Take a quick trip through the centuries-long history of coffee.
A People's History of Coffee and Cafés - This webpage is packed with information and historical images exploring coffee's history. At the bottom of each page, you'll find links to all the pages of information.

Traité du café/Treatise on Coffee (1685), one of the earliest texts about coffee.

Coffee: The Wine of Islam - The fascinating story of how the beverage became known as qahwa, a term formerly applied to wine, and what happened after that.

Storyteller (meddah) at a coffeehouse in the Ottoman Empire.

Coffeehouses in Ottoman Society - The emergence of coffeehouses led to them playing a role as social meeting places. Hence, when there would be any inkling of unrest, the Ottoman rulers would close these shops to stop people from talking to each other.

A 19th Century coffeehouse in Baghdad.

The Early Parisian Coffee Houses - The story of the coming of coffee and coffeehouses (cafés) to Paris looms large in the history of the Enlightenment and French Revolution.

Street Coffee Vendor of Paris—Period, 1672 to 1689—Two Sous per Dish, Sugar Included.

An engraving from the 1780s showing a corner of the historic Café de Procope in Paris, showing Voltaire and Diderot in debate at the right corner.

The Lost World of the London Coffeehouse - In contrast to today's rather mundane coffeehouses, in old-days London, they were a haven for caffeine-fueled debate and innovation which helped to shape the modern world.

In this coffeehouse scene from 1710, debate gets to the 'throw coffee in his face' stage.

The Surprisingly Long History of Racial Oppression in Coffee Shops. It's good to pair this article with the one about London coffeehouses above. Exploring the sorry connections of coffeehouses to the commerce of slavery, the article also explores how coffeehouses provided people across social classes--originally White men, but later people of color and women--with places to launch revolutions.
Black Coffee - This is Part One of a three part PBS series exploring the history of coffee down to the present, and its impact on culture, society, and politics. Here's also the links to Part Two and Part Three.
bottom of page