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Thread: Coffeehouses of Constantinople in 16th-17th Century

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    Coffeehouses of Constantinople in 16th-17th Century

    Townspeople of Constantinople meets with coffee assumingly late 16th century. Katip Çelebi has mentioned about abrupt reactions of ulema to drinking coffee. Ulema tend to compare coffee with fermented drinks which are prohibited by Islam.

    According to İbrahim Peçevi, first coffeehouses appears in capital city presumably with approval of sultan in 1555. Apparently customers of coffeehouses were belonging to Kalemiyye class. Peçevi calls them “some enlightened gentlemen who are lively and addicted to amusement”.

    “They could gather as groups of twenty or thirty in each coffeehouse. Some of them are reading books, discussing about rules of good manners as others were playing chess either backgammon. It had also seen that some of them were bringing their newest poems and discussing about art”

    More the coffeehouses became widespread bring a heterogenic group of people together. According to Peçevi’s account we can consider coffeehouses as social platforms that bring people from different social classes without cultural obstacles and formal references. Peçevi continues: “Coffeehouses are fulfilled with kadıs, boarding teachers of medrese and by vagrants and there was no space neither to sit nor stand. People claim that there’s no match of coffeehouses for amusement” After second part of 16th century the endeavors of ulema to prohibit coffeehouses are increased.

    Results of controversies focused on subject of coffee are indistinct in Ottoman Empire

    Ebusuud’s fetvas are reliable sources for the early controversies about situation of coffee. Katip Çelebi on his account claimed that the first reactions of ulema was harsh. He’s mentioning about Ebusuud Efendi’s order to sink the ships that were transporting coffee to Constantinople and destroying the latest shipments. However there’s no such order or interpretation was found among fetvas of Ebusuud.

    The reasons of harsh reaction of Ulema were caused by the production process of coffee ( parched seeds of coffee were considered as carbonized) and passing coffee cups from hand to hand by customers in coffeehouses (which is considered like usage of prohibited pleasure giving beverages). However coffee is also used by mystic orders as some kind of aid to keep believer awake and continue devotions. The attitude of ulema towards deciding coffee and coffeehouses’ situation in public norms was inconsistant. Coffeehouses soon became socially legitimate places of amusement in the eyes of society.

    Prohibitions are open to interpret in a way to keep public morality in high level as the identity of Ottoman Empire was regenerated as protector of Sunni Islam. Coffeehouses apparently were broking the hierarchic bounds of the society and gaining popularity among every social class. Thus possible to be interpreted in a way that ulema perceived coffeehouses as implicit thread to public authority.

    An important point for the origin of coffeehouses that they located near to mosques. People of ulema or dervishes from different orders had gathered and discussed about daily subjects before and after diversion in Arabic cities. ‘the mob’ could take those people’s behavior as references and later on the coffeehouse concept could be shaped by this affect.

    That essence was the heritage of coffeehouse tradition which Constantinople imported in 16th century. The descriptions of 16th century’s coffeehouses were simple: located on neighborhoods in city centers, severe and providing cheap amusement services together with tobacco and coffee. Men are dominant in coffeehouses again as usual in a society which has certain lines between women and men that related to religious beliefs.

    Socially legitimate: Coffeehouses are tending to be compared with meyhanes in every prohibition attempts. R. Hattox also considers coffeehouses as meyhanes without alcoholic beverages. Actually it’s discussible to consider coffeehouses as meyhanes but what certain are services of coffeehouses were limited with only tobacco and coffee. Coffeehouses could be positioned with more active role of socialization while meyhanes were marks of marginalization in Ottoman society.

    Apparently the broader amount of people from different classes was to visit coffeehouses and it was more widespread than meyhanes. Meyhanes were located on certain neighborhoods with bad reputation like Galata and driking behavior and rituals of people were differentiating among social classes. Coffeehouses were to appear places where to gain or manipulate the masses. Thus we’re reaching to point that individual behaviors of people were gaining importance in coffeehouses.

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    Distant Deeps or Skies Senior Contributor HistoricalDavid's Avatar
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    Did they have Starbucks every 100 feet?
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    FreeGeneral Senior Contributor Big K's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HistoricalDavid View Post
    Did they have Starbucks every 100 feet?
    some kind of...yes
    Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none; be able for thine enemy rather in power than use; and keep thy friend under thine own life's key; be checked for silence, but never taxed for speech.

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    Did they have Starbucks every 100 feet?
    You can't find mosque or school in every villages. But I guaranty you that you will find coffeehouses in every villages. I have to add that coffeehouses and cafes are not same thing. Starbucks is one of the most expensive cafe brand in Turkey. Starbucks exist only in malls and on rich streets of some big cities.

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    Distant Deeps or Skies Senior Contributor HistoricalDavid's Avatar
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    I was being facetious. The latest state-of-the-art archaeological research suggests that Starbucks did not, in fact, exist in the 16th century.
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    In Memoriam Military Professional dave lukins's Avatar
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    Not forgetting that coffeehouses were the Chess and Backgammon clubs of the day. To a lesser degree they still are

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    Here in New Jersey there are many Turkish immigrants and I have had the distinct pleasure of having Turkish Coffee on many occasions. It is far superior to any standardized filth offered from a Starbucks. I wonder how that company makes any profit in Turkey.

    Lord willing, I may study abroad in Istanbul next year, so I will make a point to sample the coffee.

    You all may recall the importation of coffee to Europe, which according to legend began with the Ottoman siege of Vienna in 1683. As the Christians raided the camp after driving away the Ottomans, they discovered vast stockpiles of coffee beans. The rest is tasty Viennese history.

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    Some people used to prepare their Turkish Coffee with opium in early days of the republic. Turkish Coffee is not as much popular as regular coffee in Turkey. Mostly housewives drink it during their gossiping. Tea dominate to all. We drink tea in small glasses and I think we prepare tea/chay like rest of the Asia. We steep tea in a special teakettle. It becomes more dark. Brits don't like it, but Russians like it.

    @Bulgaroctonus are you Bulgar? What and where do you plan to study?

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    Former Staff Senior Contributor Ironduke's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HistoricalDavid View Post
    I was being facetious. The latest state-of-the-art archaeological research suggests that Starbucks did not, in fact, exist in the 16th century.
    He understood what you meant... he was saying coffeehouses were and are as ubiquitous of the "Starbucks every 100 feet."
    "Every man has his weakness. Mine was always just cigarettes."

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    Quote Originally Posted by neyzen View Post
    Some people used to prepare their Turkish Coffee with opium in early days of the republic. Turkish Coffee is not as much popular as regular coffee in Turkey. Mostly housewives drink it during their gossiping. Tea dominate to all. We drink tea in small glasses and I think we prepare tea/chay like rest of the Asia. We steep tea in a special teakettle. It becomes more dark. Brits don't like it, but Russians like it.

    @Bulgaroctonus are you Bulgar? What and where do you plan to study?
    I am American, studying history, cell biology and neuroscience. I am familiar with Bulgarian history and culture. However, my user name comes from the title of Byzantine Emperor Basil II (r. 976-1025), the Bulgar-Killer.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bulgaroctonus View Post
    I am American, studying history, cell biology and neuroscience.
    Hey, I didn't realize you were a bio major as well as a history major. I thought about doing a double major, or at least minoring in history, but between laziness and schedule constraints I just stuck with biology and chemistry.
    I enjoy being wrong too much to change my mind.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bulgaroctonus View Post
    I am American, studying history, cell biology and neuroscience. I am familiar with Bulgarian history and culture. However, my user name comes from the title of Byzantine Emperor Basil II (r. 976-1025), the Bulgar-Killer.

    It sounds better calling him Basil Bulgar Basher.

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    FreeGeneral Senior Contributor Big K's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Speedy View Post
    It sounds better calling him Basil Bulgar Basher.
    why somebody wants to get a nickname called "Bulgar BAhser"??
    Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none; be able for thine enemy rather in power than use; and keep thy friend under thine own life's key; be checked for silence, but never taxed for speech.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Big K View Post
    why somebody wants to get a nickname called "Bulgar BAhser"??
    It happens from time to time in history. Remember Yavuz Sultan Selim. There are strong arguments that Yavuz is derived from "Yabız" meaning bad, evil, ruthless.

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    Coffee is Cool

    How would a cup of really good turkish coffee be prepared in a funky ol' local place? When, why, and where is it best to take your coffee?
    "This aggression will not stand, man!" Jeff Lebowski
    "The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you're uncool." Lester Bangs

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