What’s In a Name? The Word Coffee, Explained

Coffee culture: What’s in a Word

The confusing history of how coffee culture came to be and how coffee became so prominent in people’s lives would be incomplete without a first-thing-first detour on how the actual term originated. “Coffee” is indeed the alteration of another word – but which one? Depending on which geographic origin you decide to follow on, the meaning of the root of the term will also change, along with its associated.

(Almost) everyone knows that coffee is the literal English transcription of the Dutch term “Koffie”, which was introduced in that area of Europe by way of the Ottoman Empire, where the brew was known as kahveh, the transliteration of the Arabic word “qahwah”.

This term has an interesting history to it, and not many people know that it’s gotten al the way to the world’s most famous coffee shops in Winnipeg by traveling far and wide from the Middle East, where it was known as “Al Qawha”, which in turn was used to indicate a dark brew as opposed to a light brew, “khamr”, describing a wine that was lighter in colour and appearance, with a scent that wasn’t as pungent.

There was some confusion among the first drinkers back then, as originally coffee was thought to be an alcoholic beverage. Be as it may, it was used roughly in the same way – as an intoxicant in religious circles and among holy men, most notedly among Turkish Sufis. The dark liquid that is so beloved in coffee shops in Winnipeg and all over the plant had reached the Empire through the trade relations between what’s known today as Yemen and current Ethiopia – and Kaffa, curiously enough, is a region in that country from which it is believed the coffee plant was first observed. In this sense, the term wouldn’t be anything more than a geographic description of the area where the berries were consumed and the drink was originally made – not so differently than, well, the Hamburger, or Sardines (named after the island of Sardinia).

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