In Professor Commins’s class we discussed the importance of the introduction of coffee and the emergence of coffee houses in the Middle East. We had to read Coffee and Coffeehouses by Ralph Hattox, which seems to be the most comprehensive account of the early spread of coffee in the Middle East. First part of the book tries to piece together the spread of coffee from Yemen in the early 15th century to throughout the Middle East. The introduction of coffee actually caused a lot of controversy especially in Mecca in the early 15th Century. The second part of the book argues the emergence of the coffee houses created a public sphere that never existed before. This revolutionized society in Middle East; this allowed men to gather at a place other then the mosque to discuses and exchange ideas and concepts. The coffee house became a new forum that was unrestrained in terms of what could be discussed. What I find interesting is that I don’t think Cleveland really discusses or mentions the emergence of the coffee house and its effect on society. By the 17th and 18th centuries coffee and coffee houses had become very popular throughout the Ottoman Empire. I wonder how much of a role it played in fermenting concepts and ideas for the young Ottomans, which lead to the first constitutional era. I think most of the young Ottomans were bureaucrats or individuals who were already educated in the west or about western concepts of nationalism.
What I find interesting is that the coffee houses spread into Europe where it also became a new space to exchange ideas. However the area that gave birth to the concept of coffee houses has now become the place where free thought has become so restricted with authoritarian governments.