Hattox, Ralph S. Coffee and Coffeehouses: The Origins of a Social Beverage in the Medieval Near East. Seattle and London: University of Washington Press. Coffee and Coffeehouses has 70 ratings and 11 reviews. J.M. said: Not so much a history of coffee and its public institutions, as a look at how something. Coffee and Coffeehouses: The Origins of a Social Beverage in the Medieval Near East. Front Cover. Ralph S Hattox. University of Washington Press,

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We are given the facts to substantiate this case, along with an explanation of why some of the universally told stories like the haftox about the goat nibbling berries and getting frisky are apocryphal, in Ralph Hattox’s book Coffee and Coffeehouses: It is a serious treatise, which presents a thorough critique of sixteenth-century Arab writers who published discourses hwttox the history of the subject.

The introduction of the habit prompted conservatives to question its legality in religious law, seemingly based on the fact that it was something new and therefore wrong. We hear of fatwahs coffeehouuses condemning the consumption of coffee. How can one explain that the power of these edicts did not last? One should remember that a fatwah is not a formal edict of the state.


It is an opinion. The state may choose to act upon it, ciffee course. If Hattox had limited himself to these kinds of legalistic theorizing, he might have lost most of our attentions.

Coffee and Coffeehouses

But by exploring possible political motivations for opposition to the habit, such as by city administrators coffeeehouses about unseemly behaviour in coffeehouses that looked too much like taverns, we have a lively sense of the social setting in which all of this moralizing took place. The most intriguing of these was the notorious Mecca incident of when the city superintendent observed shadowy figures lurking in the precincts of the mosque and drinking coffee.

Following a staged trial, coffee was declared illegal and burned in the city’s streets.

Coffeehuses benefit, then, indirectly from the fact that in order for us to understand the reasons for the legal wrangling, we are taken back to the origins of coffee drinking and the growing popularization of the coffeehouse culture. For some, this may be the most interesting aspect of the book.

Project MUSE – Coffee and Coffeehouses

As Hattox explains from a digest of Arabic literary traditions, the coffee bush itself was brought to Yemen from Ethiopia. Strangely, coffee found little favour with the Ethiopians at this time.

Indeed, southwest Ethiopia is the world’s original source of what we call “coffea arabica. This is a rare lapse, however, and Hattox’s presentation of the various theories and interpretations concerning the origin and spread of coffee has stood the test of time since very well.


He takes us on a wonderful tour from the houses of mystics in fifteenth-century Yemen, to the enclaves of expatriate Yemeni merchants in early sixteenth-century Cairo, and thence to Ottoman Istanbul by the middle of the century, all of which happened before the emergence of coffeehouses in eighteenth-century Europe and the Americas besides.

It is the kind of book one dips into, to explore one facet of the story or another.

Coffee and Coffeehouses / Ralph S. Hattox

There is a chapter that deals with the medical effects, or at least reputed effects, of coffee on an assortment of ailments like dropsy, gout and scurvy. For those of us addicted to the caffeine habit, it is useful to be reminded that it was known to be a diuretic. But it was also thought to cure insomnia and melancholy as well.

To find out more, read the book and enjoy. Hattox, Coffee and Coffeehouses: Keall Royal Ontario Museum. University of Washington Press,