“Coffee should be Black as Hell, Strong as Death, and Sweet as Love.”

Today’s is a repost from a couple of years ago – and as I head into a busy Monday it seems about perfect! 


It’s Monday morning and as I head to my grey cubicle in a building that houses several hundred state government employees, I am aware that I need the drink that tops all others, coffee.

Waiting in line at a coffee shop, my vacation from last week feels like it was months ago, the sun and sand of a beautiful beach merely an image on my camera and my memory. As I wait, my mind drifts off to the Turkish Proverb painted across the top of a wall at a coffee shop in Rockport, Massachusetts. The proverb reads:

“Coffee should be Black as Hell, Strong as Death, and Sweet as Love.”

It was written in artistic script at the Bean and Leaf Cafe at Bearskin neck and I immediately knew I would love this café, complete with ocean views from every angle in the small seating area at the back of the shop.

Just as Americans sometimes think they invented Christianity, they also sometimes err in believing that they were the inventors of coffee and the great idea of the coffee shop. While the likes of Starbucks and Seattle Coffee did have a great deal to do with today’s obsession with the drink, it may interest readers to know that coffee was alive and well in the Middle East as far back as the sixteenth century.

Chapter 9 of A New Introduction to Islam  takes us back to that century where coffee and coffee shops were newly introduced from Yemen and coffee was “all the rage*”. The author, Dr. Daniel Brown states

Coffee houses punctuated the urban landscape of Middle Eastern cities like oases, as they still do

In a section called “The Coffee Debate”  he goes on to say “Arabic accounts of the earliest uses of coffee agree that the first to drink the brew were late fifteenth-century Yemeni Sufis, Muslim mystics, who found the effects of caffeine enlivening to their late night devotional exercises“.  The author cleverly lures the non-scholar into the chapter via coffee and moves on to discuss Islamic Law. Evidently the widespread use and popularity of the drink were enough to cause alarm and debate among scholars on whether it was permissible and prudent to indulge in coffee, but that is a post that I do not have the knowledge or authority to write! My interest on this Monday morning is in the fact that centuries later in the year 2011 Americans subject themselves daily to long lines, desperate for that early morning ritual to enliven their senses and shoot some badly needed motivation, disguised as a caffeine drink, into their bodies and minds.

So as I move through the line and get my drink of choice, I join millions who have gone before and will probably come after me in getting the drink that has inspired scholars to debate, mystics to meditate, and government employees to survive budget cuts and bureaucracy – the drink that is known in the Turkish Proverb as Black as Hell, Strong as Death, and Sweet as Love.

A happy Monday and if you are a coffee drinker, enjoy, knowing that you will never be alone in your need for this centuries old drink.

*Bloggers Note: All excerpts come from Chapter 9, Islamic Law, in A New Introduction to Islam. The author also cites “Coffee and Coffee Houses” by Ralph Hattox.

Muffins today include Passion Fruit! Stacy is amazing with her creativity and variety of ways she finds to make muffins! Take a look here to find Passion Fruit Muffins with Passion Fruit Glaze!

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6 thoughts on ““Coffee should be Black as Hell, Strong as Death, and Sweet as Love.”

  1. One of my favorite posts. Gives me an idea for one of my own about an experience I had at a coffee shop in Istanbul right outside the Grand Bazaar (Americans think they invented shopping, too; silly Americans).


  2. I enjoyed this post. It seemed especially relevant as I have just embarked upon a discovery of coffee. I am an avid tea drinker who is attempting to expand my horizons by delighting in this drink known as coffee.


    1. Samuel – I love this comment! And I look forward to hearing how your journey into the coffee realm goes. There is something about the coffee houses of the east that make it even more enjoyable so perhaps a visit to those coffee shops would hook you forever.


  3. “Americans sometimes think they invented Christianity.” This statement cracks me up. But it’s true — sometimes there is too much American flavor in our Christianity. How to separate the emulsion?? Incidentally I wonder if that’s the problem with this “evangelicalism” everybody keeps talking about and critiquing. I’m like, evang-what?? I certainly don’t consider myself first and foremost an evangelical — it’s a new term to me, anyway. I’m just a Christian. Attempting to follow the Way is hard enough, that I don’t need or want any other labels. And I’m not sure American Christianity does, either.


    1. You have such a good point….I remember thinking that a couple of years ago. The labels are what divide and destroy. And I love your words “Attempting to follow the way is hard enough…”


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