While some in the health industry bedevil coffee with a harrowing list of negative health effects that are countered with a list which frames a halo over it with a list of health benefits, go ahead and enjoy your cup of java from a Catholic perspective because it has been blessed by a pope.  

According to the website aleteia.org, legend has it that around the year 850 an Ethiopian goat herder named Kaldi was the first to discover the effects of coffee when his goats would flock to a “certain kind of cherry” which would make them more energetic. Curious, the herder chewed on the cherries himself and enjoyed them. He then brought the cherries to an Islamic monastery, where experiments with the pits were done and yielded the first form of coffee.  

The drink quickly became popular in the Middle East, although some saw it as a vice akin to alcohol and tobacco.  

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Sultan Murad IV (1612-40) made a ban on all three items, even calling it a capital offence if caught with the coffee. Legends further state the sultan felt so strongly that he disguised himself as a commoner and traveled the streets and executed those who broke the prohibitions. The drink was so popular, however, that people were willing to risk it.  

The Muslim obsession over coffee was European Catholics’ main introduction to the caffeinated drink as trade with the Arab World opened up in the 16th and 17th centuries through the main trade post in Venice.  

As coffee was introduced to the streets of Venice and Rome, Pope Clement VIII was pressured by his advisers to denounce coffee for its association with Islam and its fascinating effect on drinkers. They referred to it as a “bitter invention of Satan.”  

Refusing to do so before he tried it himself, the pope called for a cup of the drink that was causing such a stir. It is said he was so delighted that he declared, “This devil’s drink is delicious. This Satan’s drink is so delicious that it would be a pity to let the infidels have exclusive use of it.” Popular legend has it that the pope then “baptized” coffee beans to rid them from the devil’s influence. 

It was not long after the Catholics’ acceptance of the consumption of coffee that coffee shops popped up in every major European city. The use of coffee saw productivity increase, as people were offered an alternative to alcohol in their free times.  

So no matter what form you take it in, straight, with cream or sugar, latte or a variety of other options, say “thanks” and a prayer as you wrap your hands around a steaming cup of blessed brew.