OP-ED

The roots of capitalism in a bush

From Yemen to Venice: the discovery of coffee shows us how a bush with red fruits gave rise to capitalism and served as a liquid for creating social contacts between people. Indirectly, a sultan with an Albanian mother also played a role in the discovery of coffee

In 1517, the troops of Sultan Selim (1470-1520), who was the son of Sultan Bayazit II and his Albanian concubine Gjylbehar Hatun, marched from Syria towards the Red Sea. When they reached the southern shore of the sea, the soldiers discovered a bush they had never seen before. This bush had a red fruit. What Sultan Selim's army found in Yemen was - coffee.

In Yemen, the coffee plant had come from Ethiopia. At the time of Sultan Selim, the Ottoman Empire stretched from the Arabian deserts to the Balkans, from Iraq to the Maghreb. Coffee first spread in this space. Then people started to enjoy it in the Near East, in the European part of the Ottoman Empire, in India and Iran. For the first time outside the Ottoman Empire, coffee was drunk in Venice from the end of the 1580s. From there on, coffee beans became a product of global consumption, an important commercial commodity between the continents, a drink that also serves as a basis for creating social contacts. Even today, coffee is - after oil - the most traded commodity in the world. With the discovery of coffee, the doors of cafes were also opened. For more than 500 years, cafes have been places where people meet, where contracts are negotiated, where rumors circulate, where assassinations are carried out, where people flirt and terrorists massacre. The first coffee house on European soil was opened in 1554 in Istanbul, in 1647 "Café Florian" was opened in Venice (other sources assume that it was opened in 1863 or in 1720), however: this coffee house is still open today. In Oxford, the first coffee house was opened by a Jew (in 1650). Coffee arrived in Paris in 1669 together with the Ottoman ambassador. In 1700, there were already close to 2.000 coffeehouses in London. In 1683, when the Ottoman army (which included Albanians) besieged Vienna, coffee also arrived in this city. The Christian West mobilized and successfully drove out the Ottomans, the conquest of Vienna remained only their dream, but the coffee remained. Vienna cannot be imagined without coffee culture. In 1689, the first coffeehouse in the United States of America was opened in Boston. And while you are reading this text, some more cafes are probably opening on our planet.