I bet you already knew this, but the word ‘coffee’ (or café, for that matter) comes from the Arabic word ‘qahwah’ ( قهوة). According to the etymology, the word “originally (...) meant "wine," but perhaps rather from Kaffa region of Ethiopia, a home of the plant (coffee in Kaffa is called buno, which was borrowed into Arabic as bunn "raw coffee").”
|A Beirut Coffee House (outdoors as soon as the weather permits it)|
Coffee, a produce coming out of Africa, was taken by Arabs back home somewhere in the 16th century, and subsequently ended up in Europe somewhere in 1515. The next thing that followed was ‘coffee houses’; the first one was opened in Damascus in 1530, and around 1675, some 25 years after its introduction into the country, England counted some 3,000 coffeehouses. This was well before Starbucks.
In Ottoman Turkey it was banned for a while (in the 17th century) because it was associated with rebellious political activities. The imams of Mecca weren’t altogether keen as well about these gatherings around a cup of coffee, and banned both coffeehouses and the coffee between 1511 and 1524.
Seems like plenty of revolutions were concocted in coffee houses (source ). Up to this day, Mormons still do not drink coffee.
And so coffeehouses are a part of Arab culture. These days, new coffeehouses appear all over town, with the great majority in Hamra and Gemayzeh.
I thought about all this, as I sat in (maybe not one of the oldest, but definitely a very old) a coffeehouse that is attached to one of the oldest coffee burners in Beirut.