The Other Uses Of

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					LEADING EDGE Bakery & Food Service Journal

                                                         The Other Uses Of
               By: Janet Clarkson

       Without starting off on a
       disappointing note - there
                                             How did it all start? There is no doubt that the           The particular use of coffee which was instrumental
                                             coffee plant originated in Ethiopia, and that by the       in its spread throughout the Arabic world was its
       are no secret, sinister, or           thirteenth century the drink was being prepared in         use by the Sufi, who used it to stay awake during
                                             the Arab countries as we know it now – by infusing         their religious rituals. This provoked the anxiety of
       suspicious uses of coffee             or boiling the roasted and ground beans in water.          the religious authorities of the day, who became
       revealed here, nothing                Although the exact details of the geographic and
                                             culinary transitions are lost in the mists of antiquity,
                                                                                                        concerned that the apparent intoxicant effects were
                                                                                                        a contravention of Islamic law. Part of their concern
       that you could not discuss            some things seem fairly certain.                           was also because by the late fifteenth century these
                                                                                                        intoxicant properties were becoming appreciated
       with your grandmother. A              The original use of coffee was as a food, the berries
                                             with their sugary pulp being simply plucked from           by the not-so-religious, who were beginning to
       possible exception is the             the trees and eaten. At some time a few thousand           congregate in the coffee houses rather than the
                                                                                                        mosques. To the less than democratic leaders of
                                             years ago, the coffee berries – or perhaps just the
       use of coffee enemas,                 green beans – were mixed with animal fat and used          the day, this meeting of intellectuals was a threat,
                                             as a sort of African pemmican to sustain hunters           and they did what nervous rulers usually do, and
       which, if it not immoral or           on long journeys. Today in Ethiopia a famous and           tried to ban everything associated with it. The first
       illegal, certainly should be          favourite dish called bunakela is made by mixing           documented attempt to ban coffee was in Mecca
                                                                                                        in 1511, but the lure of coffee was too powerful,
                                             and roasting coffee beans with cereal grains,
       in any country which calls            spices, butter or onions. We don’t seem to have a          and its converts too determined, and this and all
                                             modern European version of edible coffee, unless           subsequent attempts ultimately failed. In today’s
       itself civilised.                     the chocolate coated coffee beans we buy from the          world, coffee is perhaps more often the object
                                             gourmet confectionary counter qualify as food.             of an almost religious devotion, rather than an
                                             From Ethiopia, coffee was taken to the Yemen, and          instrument for it. Readers of this magazine will
                                             from there its use spread gradually throughout             probably understand.
                                             the the Arabic world, where it became prized as a          Coffee shops are not just places to merely drink
                                             medicine. The green unroasted beans were made              coffee of course. In Constantinople the word for
                                             into a tea-like infusion called bunchum, and used to       coffee houses meant ‘schools of wisdom’, and in
                                                 treat all sorts of problems by those rich enough       London the coffee shops were known as ‘penny
                                                      to be able to afford it. The 10th century         universities’. The famous clerical gourmand,
                                                              Persian physician Avicenna said that      Sydney Smith (b.1771) said ‘If you want to improve
                                                              bunchum ‘fortifies the                    your understanding, drink coffee; it is the intelligent
                                                                   members, it cleans the skin,         beverage.’ Coffee remains an important feature of
                                                                    and dries up the humidities         university life today – but is more likely to be used
                                                                    that are under it, and gives        as an aid to insomnia than to understanding.
                                                                  an excellent smell to all the         Wherever coffee houses sprang up they were the
                                                                  body.’ People are known to try        gathering places for the intellectuals, politicians
                                                                  all sorts of drastic remedies         and literary people of the day. The French
                                                                         to ‘fortify the member’,       Revolution was planned in the cafes of Paris, and
                                                                             but if coffee was          at the very same tables some of the great literature
                                                                             a great success            of the age was conceived and written. Serious
                                                                             at this it would be        business was transacted in the coffee houses of
                                                                            spectacularly more          seventeenth century London where the arrival of
                                                                             popular than it            coffee was simultaneous with the huge expansion
                                                                             already is. As for         of trade, each assisting the development of the
                                                 cleaning                   the skin, no doubt          other. Some of the great financial institutions of
                                                  someone, sometime, somewhere, has made                the world such as the Stock Exchange and Lloyds
                                                 coffee scented soap for sale at the local market.      of London actually had their beginnings in those
                                              It would at least give that excellent smell to the        coffee houses. It is hard to imagine poetry being
                                             body.                                                      written and revolution fomented today at Starbucks.
                                             In 1898, the author of a pharmacology text called          We still do do business over coffee, but only the
                                             King's American Dispensatory agreed with the               preliminaries, which don’t require a lot of unstained
                                             health benefits of coffee, saying: ‘An infusion of         space to spread out the paperwork and park the
                                             roasted coffee is an agreeable stimulant, anti-            lawyers.
                                             soporific, and anti-emetic. It produces a mild,            Coffee has been a focus, one way or another, for
                                             stimulating influence upon the organs of digestion,        social change and interchange around the world
                                             facilitating digestion, augmenting the biliary flow,       for five hundred years. There is no suggestion
                                             and increasing peristalsis, thus favoring a free           that this, surely its most enchanting and enduring
                                             action from the bowels’. Over a hundred years later        function, is on the wane. Perhaps the final word
                                             there are a few sad, hopeless individuals who still        on this should go to the inimitable Isabella Beeton
                                             believe that coffee is useful for the bowels – when        ‘…It is a question whether, if we had no tea and no
                                             applied directly, in the form of an enema. Quite           coffee, the popular instinct would not seek for and
                                             enough said.                                               discover the means of replacing them.... ’


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