Wherever it spread, coffee was popular with the masses but challenged by the powerful.
"If you look at the rhetoric about drugs that we're dealing with now — like, say, crack — it's very similar to what was said about coffee," Stewart Allen, author of The Devil's Cup: Coffee, the Driving Force in History, tells The Salt.
Monarchs and tyrants publicly argued that coffee was poison for the bodies and souls of their subjects, but Mark Pendergrast — author of Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World — says their real concern was political.
According to one story, an Ottoman Grand Vizier secretly visited a coffeehouse in Istanbul.
"He observed that the people drinking alcohol would just get drunk and sing and be jolly, whereas the people drinking coffee remained sober and plotted against the government," says Allen.
Coffee fueled dissent — not just in the Ottoman Empire but all through the Western world. The French and American Revolutions were planned, in part, in the dark corners of coffeehouses. In Germany, a fearful Frederick the Great demanded that Germans switch from coffee to beer. He sent soldiers sniffing through the streets, searching for the slightest whiff of the illegal bean.
You can read the entire article, "Drink Coffee? Off With Your Head!" here.