Did you know Armenians taught the French to drink coffee?


I didn’t know that until I came across a 1922 book called All About Coffee.

It’s one of the many wonderful works saved from obscurity by Project Gutenberg, the ongoing effort to post just about everything ever in print on the Internet.

All About Coffee is not only out of print, it’s out of copyright, which allowed it to be posted free for all to read. (Who can resist a free book?)

Author William Ukers traced the history of the original energy drink from North African Arabs to the Ottoman Turks to every corner of the globe. He notes that coffee “made in Turkish style” first arrived in Paris in 1669 with the Turkish ambassador to the court of Louis XIV.

Louis must have had a head cold, because he somehow turned up his nose at the aroma that soon enticed his kingdom.

Along with “a considerable quantity of coffee,” the ambassador brought an Armenian named Pascal. (At least, that’s the name someone wrote down. What do you figure: Bagrat maybe?)

The ambassador went back home the following year, but Pascal stayed behind in Paris and opened a coffee tent at the St.-Germain fair held in early spring near the Latin Quarter. According to Ukers, it was the first time coffee had been sold publicly in Paris.

Pascal employed a squad of “Turkish waiter boys” who carried trays of coffee through the crowd in small cups. Ukers wrote that the smell of the coffee wafting through the chilly air “brought many ready sales of the steaming beverage; and soon visitors to the fair learned ot look for the ‘little black’ cupful of cheer or petit noir, a name that still endures.”

Coffee’s popularity grew rapidly, at least among the rabble, although Louis’ royal snub discouraged the nobility from indulging for many years.

Street vendors cropped up everywhere, and the city’s first coffee house soon followed — opened by another Armenian!

In fact, the French identified coffee so strongly with Armenians by the late 17th Century that coffeehouse waiters all dressed in “Armenian costumes,” regardless of their ethnicity.

This apparently became something of a running gag. Ukers noted that a popular stage comedy of the day featured a character named Lorange, “a coffee merchant dressed as an Armenian.”

Lorange tells another character has been “a naturalized Armenian for three weeks.”

Trust us: It takes longer than that to learn how to make really good Armenian coffee.

But hey, we give the French credit for learning from the best!
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  1. Anonymous August 29, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    This is an interesting article.

    I am posting a French article which says that an Armenian (Pascal) opened a coffeehouse in Marselle in 1654, but has no mention of any Turks in it.

    Am posting it in French:

    CAFÉ-BAR: Le primier café frances fut fonde a Marselle en 1654 par L’Armenien Pascal qui en ouvre acait cus a Constantinople. Peu après it transfere son etablissement du marche Saint-Germain au quai de L Ecole (aujourd hui, qoai du louvre). Quelques annes plus trd, un autre Armenien, le sieur Maliban ouvre une maison de café rue de Buci, pres du je de paume de Metz. Il y vend du café et des pipes. Gregoire, son garcon de boutique lui sucede et s etablit rue Mazarine. En 1689, quand la Comedie-Francaise se transporta rue des Fosses-Saint-Germain (aujourd hui, rue de L Ancienne-Comedie) Gregoire s y installa.



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