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Russia adopts coffee-drinking from Ottoman Empire

MOSCOW

In the 15th century, Russia and Turkey first exchanged ambassadors. Returning home, the diplomats brought with them the best traditions and intrinsic, inborn objects and food. That’s how coffee found its way to Russia.

Although there is archeological evidence showing coffee was consumed by the Russian nobility in the 15th century, the first record of consumption dates back to 1665, when Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich was prescribed to take it as a medicine for headache.

“Brewed coffee, consumed by the Persians and Turks, and usually after dinner, is a fair medicine for bloating, runny noses and headaches,” according to historian Samuel Collins.

Russia then had neither trade nor diplomatic relations with any coffee-consuming countries other than the Ottoman Empire, so the beverage could get to the monarchal table only from the Ottoman Empire.

Alexei Mikhailovich’s son, known as the first Russian Emperor Peter the Great, was a big fan of coffee.

He was believed to have gotten acquainted with the beverage while traveling in Europe. But Europe adopted the tradition of coffee-drinking from the Ottoman Empire.

Another Russian record mentioning coffee also relates to the Ottoman Empire.

In 1709, to support Peter the Great preparing to battle Sweden near Poltava, boyar Ivan Tolstoy sent him half a pod of coffee — a unit equal to 40 pounds — from Taganrog, the first Russian naval base and seaport.

Coffee could only get to Taganrog by Turkish merchants. The Ottoman Empire at that time firmly controlled approaches to the Arabian Peninsula and was the principal supplier of coffee to Europe.

Emperor Peter made great efforts to make coffee more mainstream and develop a taste for the beverage in Russia, but coffee remained elite for a long time.

It was also used as a valuable gift at the highest level. For example, when Russia in 1791 signed a peace treaty with the Ottomans, 37 pods of coffee were among the diplomatic gifts of Ottoman authorities to the Russian representatives, along with jewelry and thoroughbred horses.

During Russia-Turkey wars, coffee and “cezve” — the long-handled pot used to make Turkish coffee — were often the booty of war.

Having no idea what to call the vessel for brewing coffee, Russians called it “turka,” after the nation from which the tradition was acquired. The name is firmly fixed in the Russian language and in use today.

In the southern regions, coffee was first called “kave”, and later Turkish “kahve.” In the northern regions, the word was transformed to “kava”, but later replaced by the more European pronunciation “koffe”.

And along with the Europeans, Russians call unfiltered coffee, brewed from coffee beans, ground to powder, “Turkish” and consider its taste inimitable.

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