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Enjoying that latte? Thank Pope Clement VIII

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Coffee was considered “the Devil’s Drink” until the Pontiff “baptized” it in the 16th century

Coffee is, no doubt, one of the most popular drinks in the world. However, that was not always the case. Actually, the popularity of coffee in the Western Hemisphere is largely due to Pope Clement VIII, and it began relatively recently: the 16th century.

It’s not as if coffee just suddenly appeared in the late 1500s. Actually, the beloved brew has been around since the 9th century when, as explained by Sam Guzman in his note for The Catholic Gentleman, “Islamic shepherds first noticed coffee beans had a particularly stimulating effect on their sheep. After Islamic clerics learned how to cultivate the plant, and quickly coffee spread throughout the Muslim world”.

The Pope was brought a nice mug of hot java. As he took a sip, the legend goes, he said: this devil’s drink is delicious. We should cheat the devil by baptizing it.
The Pope was brought a nice mug of hot java. As he took a sip, the legend goes, he said: this devil’s drink is delicious. We should cheat the devil by baptizing it.

So when coffee made the trip to Europe, it was not received with open arms, due to its, let’s say, “infidel” origins. Let us remember that Christians had then been at war with Muslims for centuries, both in Spain, the Mediterranean and the Holy Land, so it’s now wonder some faithful Europeans wouldn’t doubt nicknaming coffee “Satan’s drink.”  Pretty harsh, huh?

Since “all roads lead to Rome”, coffee got to the Vatican. Specifically, to the hands of Pope Clement VIII. Many of his advisors explicitly asked him to ban it, but the pope had a mind of his own.

The pope, Guzman says, “was brought a steaming mug of java and he took a sip”. The legend goes he said: “This devil’s drink is delicious. We should cheat the devil by baptizing it.”

So, next time you have a nice cup of coffee, or you are enjoying your summer cold brew, raise your mug (or cup) and thank God for Pope Clement VIII.

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