Blessed Beans: How the Pope Baptized Coffee

I love coffee, and there are few things I enjoy more than a rich cup of the blessed brew. But my affection for this drink goes beyond preference and borders on necessity—for when the alarm goes off and I pry myself out of bed each morning, coffee is the only thing that can restore my humanity and keep me from drifting gently back to sleep in my chair.

If you’re like most people, you’ll probably agree with my sentiments. After all, coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world. But did you know that the popularity of coffee in the West is largely due to Pope Clement VIII (1536-1605)?

Coffee has been around since the 9th century, when Islamic shepherds first noticed coffee beans having a stimulating effect on their sheep. After Islamic clerics learned how to cultivate the beans, coffee spread throughout the Muslim world, becoming a wildly popular.

When coffee was first brought to Christian Europe, it was greeted with a great deal of suspicion since it was the drink of the Muslim infidels with whom Christians had been at war for centuries. Some even went so far to call this exotic beverage “Satan’s drink.”

Inevitably, coffee made its way to the Vatican, where it was introduced to Pope Clement VIII. While many of his advisors clamored for the Pope to ban the controversial drink, he refused to do so before trying it himself.

The Pope was brought a steaming mug of java and he took a sip. He was immediately delighted, and according to legend, he declared, “This devil’s drink is delicious. We should cheat the devil by baptizing it.”

And the rest is history. Due to the papal blessing, coffee quickly spread throughout Europe and eventually the world, where it remains a perennially popular drink.

There you have it. Next time you take up a warm glass of your favorite brew, give thanks to God— and Pope Clement VIII.

PS: Since we’re talking about coffee, I have to recommend Mystic Monk coffee, brewed by the fantastic Carmelite monks of Wyoming. Their award-winning coffee is delicious, and you’ll be supporting a vibrant and rapidly growing order. Forget Starbucks, drink Mystic Monk!

This article is reprinted with permission from our friends at The Catholic Gentleman.

By

Sam Guzman is an author and editor of The Catholic Gentleman whose work has appeared in several publications. He resides in Wisconsin with his wife and two small boys where he is also the Communications Director for Pro-Life Wisconsin.

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  • Crux Fidelis

    Aren’t Carmelites friars rather than monks?

  • James H, London

    The whole story is very interesting: When the Turks were beaten back from Vienna in the 1600s by a huge army of Poles, Lithuanians and Ukrainians, they left so quickly that they left their coffee behind. A local Capuchin monk took it to the Pope, who decided it was too good to leave to infidels. To this day, the brew that Capuchin prepared still bears his title: Capuccino (little hood [of steamed milk]). That’s why all the terminology around coffee is still in Italian.

  • Michael J. Lichens

    Typically, that’s so. The ones who roast the coffee are a new group of cloistered monks in Wyoming. They are bound to their monastery and are less like the mendicant friars of other orders (not that you would have to convince me to stay in Wyoming). Check out their website, they are really nifty: http://www.carmelitemonks.org/i

  • D. Swank

    Lovely story. Unfortunately, the picture is of Pope Pius V.

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