27 Oct 2017

When the coffee made a stop in Naples

Article taken from IL ROMA of 26 October 2017 by Michele Sergio Gambrinus

The coffee, a drink originally from Ethiopia, was at first, and specifically in the Middle Ages, a drink known and consumed exclusively in the Arab countries. For the diffusion in the old continent, instead, it will be necessary to wait for the end of the XVIIth century. The Arabs made a large consumption of coffee, which they called “Arabia wine”, also for the prohibition of drinking alcoholic beverages.

Naples and Salerno were among the first European cities to come into contact with the infused black. It was probably the Arab merchants who tried to propose to the Neapolitan people this new drink, obtained by grinding the roasted coffee beans until they were reduced to powder to be poured, as an infusion, directly into a container of boiling water. The knowledge of the black drink in the Middle Ages has been widely proven, and documented traces have been found in the Flos Medicinae Scholae Salerni treaty of the Salernitan Medical School, the oldest in the world, where coffee was registered as an antidepressant medicine. Later in time, we are in 1614, the Roman musicologist Pietro Della Valle, returned from the Holy Land, where he had learned the virtues of the drink, proposed it to the people of Naples who, at the time, was one of the most important and populous cities of world.

The official date of the spread of coffee in Europe is, however, 1683, the year of the famous siege of Vienna by the Ottoman Turks, in whose camp the soldiers of the European armies, after the victory, found beans and coffee powder. This is how coffee enters the court of Vienna and quickly spreads with the rise of “coffee shops” not only in Vienna itself (where the tradition of KaffeeHaus begins), but also in Paris (where it is born in 1686 the first Café, understood as local, the Le Procope) and Venice (the Caffè Florian opened in 1720).

In our city, it is with the arrival of Maria Carolina, married to Ferdinand IV of Bourbon, that we begin to drink coffee widely. The young queen, who already tasted it at the family court in Vienna, in 1771 proposed it to her guests during a sumptuous party in the palace of Caserta. In Naples, however, there was someone who did not see favorably this new drink, even claiming that it was bad (perhaps because of its dark color)! The superstition was overcome by a stratagem put in place by the gastronomist Vincenzo Corrado who, cleverly, decided to dedicate his treatise “La Manovra della Cioccolata e del Caffè” of 1794 to don Nicola Valletta, maximum Neapolitan authority in terms of jettatura.

From that moment coffee became the beverage par excellence of the Neapolitans and Naples acquired the status of coffee capital, also due to the diffusion of the “Cuccumella”, the Neapolitan coffee maker, which the French Morize invented in Naples