Via Alamy


Varying opinions on the medicinal value of coffee, tea, and chocolate…

When Italian botanist Prospero Alpini traveled to Egypt in 1580, he discovered a world of unusual plants—strangely shaped bananas, bright red opium poppies, chunky baobab trees. After returning to Europe three years later, Alpini publicized his findings in two volumes, De Plantis Aegypti and Da Medicina Aegyptiorum. Among their illustrations and descriptions of the wondrous flora of the Middle East and North Africa were observations of a peculiar plant: the coffee bush.

This plant would not only find its way into daily rituals across Europe—it would upend a millennia-old medical mindset.

“The Arabians and Egyptians make a sort of decoction [hot brew] of it, which they drink instead of drinking wine; and it is sold in all their public houses, as wine is with us,” wrote Alpini, whose writings made him the first European to describe Egyptian medical treatments.

Read on at Smithsonian Magazine.


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