Imagine a drink – an innocent, non-alcoholic beverage – the impact of which on society was so potent that its consumption was banned by a once-mighty empire in the hope that insurrection and revolution could thereby be avoided.
Murad IV was the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire between the years 1623 and 1640. He was, by all accounts, something of a worrier. Today we would probably describe him as seriously paranoid.
Legend has it that he was oft given to patrolling his realm in disguise, so that he could overhear what members of the public were saying about him. It is said that on one occasion he wandered into a tavern and observed his subjects as they sang and were merry as they became progressively more intoxicated.
He then happened upon a coffee house, where he overheard the sober citizenry therein complaining about life in the Empire and indeed about Murad IV.
The solution suggested itself to him in a blinding flash. He would ban coffee. The coffee houses of Istanbul were closed down and those discovered consuming it in defiance of his orders would be beaten. Anybody unwise enough to offend a second time would be sewn into a leather bag and thrown into the Bosphorous. Which seems fair enough, bearing in mind they had already been warned.
Today we take a slightly more relaxed view about the whole thing, and coffee is enjoyed as a stimulant and in its own right as a good-tasting, refreshing drink.
Although it has its roots in Ethiopia coffee found its way into Europe via Italy. This is why wherever in Europe we happen to be most of the options available in coffee houses and restaurants have a revealingly Mediterranean sound to them – mocha, americano, latte, macchiato, cappuccino, motta and expresso to name a few.
The Eco Restaurant in Clapham Common is a place where a nice cup of coffee is always to be found, along with a selection of teas, wines, spirits, soft drinks and liqueurs – including, of course, some of the finest liqueur coffees.
They can all be enjoyed without fear of drowning.