Blessed Beans: How the Pope Baptized Coffee

April 9, 2014

pope-coffeeI 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 Catholic Gentleman coffee. It comes in the bold Mustache Blend or the refined Gentleman’s Blend. Happy drinking!

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Sam Guzman

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  1. AvatarFr. Ranhilio Aquino says

    Very nice, Sam. I am. Catholic priest and I enjoyed reading your piece on baptized coffee, and whether it is factual or apocryphal does not bother me a lot.

    • AvatarSpencer Kubista says

      from my studies the story probably was probably made up in order to give more prestige for his coffee house, though I do enjoy the story regardless. When the army’s already looted the camp you can get the coffee

  2. AvatarJohn says

    Fun story Sam. My wife and I discuss God’s favored drink with two priest friends of ours from time to time, coffee or tea. This is because some of us prefer coffee and others tea. I am reminded of one article that our close friend, Fr. Pio Marie, presented to us regarding St. Gemma.
    After a night of temptations and torments from Satan it was coffee that lifted her spirits and helped her to feel relaxed! She stated in her diary “After I had eaten, I didn’t feel at all well so he [her guardian Angel] brought me a cup of coffee so good that I was healed in­stantly and then he made me rest a little. Many times I make him ask Jesus for permission to stay with me all night; he goes to ask and then he does not leave me until morning, if Jesus approves. – See more at: http://www.stgemmagalgani.com/2008/12/diary-of-st-gemma-galgani-late-august.html#sthash.R7qr7HvW.dpuf
    Blessings to you and your family.

  3. AvatarKenitz says

    Interesting and entertaining article, Sam. The Kenitz household will be sure to stock up on coffee for your visit this weekend!

  4. AvatarBr. Raphael O.S.B. says

    On the campus of Ave Maria University, there is The Bean coffee shop. They sell a blend of coffee called Pope Sixtus. The coffee is quite tasty. On the label is a quote from Pope Sixtus, “Coffee is too good to be just for the Infidels, let us baptize it and make it holy.”

  5. AvatarPadre Marcos says

    Many people do not realize that coffee is not native to the Americas. After the pope’s approval, the seeds were brought to the New World during the time of conquest and colonization. – A few years ago, a man from Kenya asked me after Mass if I liked coffee. When I told him, “Yes,” he said that he was in town for a coffee convention and that he would come back later and bring me some Kenyan coffee – the world’s finest! I’m still waiting!

  6. AvatarJimmy Sammut says

    IT WAS POPE CLEMENT V11 AND NOT CLEMENT VIII WHO MADE COFFEE POPULAR . THE PICTURE ABOVE IS THAT OF POPE ST. PIUS V WHO HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH COFFEE .

Trackbacks

  1. […] From Egypt, coffee traveled to Istanbul where the Turks added to this henceforth relatively simple drink clove, cardamom, cinnamon and anise—thus creating the coffee we know to this day.  And from Turkey coffee made the trek to the West in the seventeenth century.  But Westerners did not greet coffee with bread and salt.  Far from it.  The West had been at war with Muslim Middle East for centuries and coffee, imported as it was from Muslim plantations was seen by many as the devil’s drink.  Pope Clemente VIII’s advisors hoped he would ban the vile substance.  The Pope considered the matter but before passing judgment decided to try it.  Upon tasting this devil’s own brew, he was delighted and (so it is said) declared “This devil’s drink is delicious.  We should cheat the devil by baptizing it.” […]

  2. […] (1) Concerning the Clement fable: This is actually a slight mangling of the fable on my part. The truth in a fable, however, is found in its fictions. And for our purposes, this is accurate enough. (My guess is that the anecdote is etymological in function: it is meant to explain Clement’s “baptism” of coffee, transplanting it into the embrace of Christendom.) To this day some Catholics take credit for the widespread appeal of coffee. For a more traditional telling, look here. […]

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