Thursday, January 15, 2009

Mongolia | Ulaan Baatar | Coffee Revisited

In an earlier post I commented on the Louche Behaviour of Coffee Drinkers in general. I have just encountered additional evidence about the deleterious effects of Coffea arabica (I won’t even comment on Coffea robusta, which is consumed only by real low-lifes) in a rare treatise entitled The Nature of the Drink Kauhi, or Coffe, and the Berry of Which It Is Made, Described by an Arabian Philistian, written anonymously and published in Cairo in 1659. The author no doubt wanted to remain unknown to avoid repercussions from Violent Coffee Drinkers.

This work, originally published in Arabic, was first translated into English by seminal English Orientalist Edward Pococke (1604–91), who as you probably know occupied the Laudian Chair of Arabic, established in 1636 at Oxford University.

Robert Irwin, in his laudable For Lust of Knowing: The Orientalists and their Enemies, has more to say on coffee drinking and Pococke:
Coffee-drinking originated in Yemen some time around the thirteenth century and spread throughout the Ottoman Empire in the sixteenth century. Pococke is said to have been the first man in England to drink coffee. Those who were suspicious of the new drink claimed that it brought on his palsy. (The Arab author of The Nature of the Drink Kauhi, or Coffe, and the Berry of Which It Is Made, Described by an Arabian Philistian, for his part, warned that drinking coffee with milk might bring on leprosy.) For a long time coffee-drinking was to be regarded with great suspicion in some circles, as it was tainted with Mahometanism.

Now comes still more news about the insidious effects of the baneful bean: Big Coffee Drinkers Hallucinate More:
Those with a high caffeine intake are three times more likely to have heard a non-existent person's voice than those who drink one cup a day, said the research by psychologists at Durham University. But the study noted that the tendency to hear voices or have other hallucinations may not be caused by caffeine, but simply reflect the kind of people who drink lots of coffee.
So it is not clear if coffee makes people crazy or only crazy people drink coffee. It’s obvious, however, that the “kind of people who drink lots of coffee” tend not to have both oars in the water. For examples, visit one of Ulaanbaatar’s Most Notorious Dives Specializing in Coffee and take a look around.