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Coffee in Europe: Birth of the Modern Coffeehouse

Nikolas studies the philosophy of history. He interested in all interesting facts that changed the face of the European development.

This article dives into the history of Viennese coffee, which is an early coffee in Europe and might just be the father of modern coffee drinks that employ milk.

This article dives into the history of Viennese coffee, which is an early coffee in Europe and might just be the father of modern coffee drinks that employ milk.

Origins of Coffee

The origins of coffee are shrouded in mystery. There is little evidence available to establish the exact beginnings of coffee's use, though some believe the drink first appeared before 1000 C.E. However, the first written record of coffee use and knowledge of the coffee tree exists in Sufi records from Yemen. From there it seems to have spread across the Middle East before reaching North Africa, Turkey, and India. The Turks officially brought coffee to Europe during the Battle of Mohács in 1526, when they invaded Hungary.

In 1683, after the Battle of Vienna, the Ukrainian Yuriy Kulczycki opened the first coffeehouse in Vienna. He did so after pillaging a massive amount of coffee beans from the Turkish army in a wild turn of events. This article delves into the intriguing story of Kulczycki, the inventor of Viennese coffee, which might be said to be the father of modern coffee drinks, as he was the first to use milk and sugar in his products.

Who Was Yuriy Kultchitskiy?

Yuriy Kultchitskiy was born in approximately 1640, in the village of Kultchitsi-Shlyahotski, in the Lviv region. Being young, he went to Zaporizhia Sych. There he learned the Turkish language. Moreover, Yuriy acted as an interpreter while battling in Crimea. He was captured by Turks and was bought back by merchants from Belgrad. In the 1670s, he found himself at work in the translation trade.

Eventually, in 1683, Kultchitskiy would become, as just an ordinary translator, the man who rescued Vienna from assured destruction by the Turkish army. In the course of events he also miraculously became the father of the modern European coffeehouse.

A painting of Yuriy Kultchitskiy

A painting of Yuriy Kultchitskiy

The Battle for Vienna

In July 1683, an army of 200,000 of the great Turkish Visir Kary-Mustapha advanced on the fortress at Vienna. The fortress's defense was comprised of 16,000 soldiers and 6,000 native residents. After many days of siege, hunger started in the town along with epidemics. The Turkish artillery also caused many fires. Panic spread among the inhabitants of Vienna. From time to time, couriers were sent for help but didn't come back.

Comte Starhemberg decided to send the letters to Austrian Emperor Leopold I and Knyaz of Lotharingia Karl. He wanted help from natives to infiltrate the Turkish army and help the embattled Austrians in Vienna. The candidates had to speak the Turkish language and understand their customs in order to break into Turkish pickets. In other words, the ability to save Vienna happened to fall on the ordinary Austrian citizen. Yuriy Kultchitskiy happened to be selected, as he corresponded to the listed criteria.

A painting depicting the Battle for Vienna

A painting depicting the Battle for Vienna

The Contribution of the Ukrainian in Defence of Vienna

Disguised as a Turk, Kultchitskiy—with his comrade Mikhaylovitch—broke into the Osman camp at night. During the day, he decisively went through enemy marquees humming the Turkish song. He and Mikhaylovitch were only stopped once by a Turkish officer.

The inventive Yuriy answered the officer's inquiry by saying that he was a merchant and carried provisions for the Turkish army. The officer trusted him and even invited him to get warm in the marquee.

Crossing the Danube on the 15 of August, couriers were brought news from the Knyaz Karl. He promised in a letter to help Vienna and prepared 70,000 soldiers for battle against the Turks.

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Not without adventures, Kultchitskiy delivered the letter of the Knyaz in the besieged town. It brought great joy to the soldiers and people of Vienna, and they continued to defend the town with renewed and doubled energy. Vienna would eventually win the battle.

Turkish Defeat and the Birth of Viennese Coffee

The thankful inhabitants of Vienna entreated Kultchitskiy to take coffee from the wagon train of Kary-Mustapha. Its store was enormous, with approximately 300 bags. The Turkish military leader had been carrying all of the coffee for the purpose of warming and contenting his warriors in battles. The Austrians, however, didn't know how to prepare the drink. Moreover, they considered it unworthy to use, since it came from their enemies.

Secretly being in the Turkish army, Kultchitskiy got used to coffee. That's why the genial thought came to his mind not only to open the first cafe in Vienna but to make the drink more acceptable for the whole of Europe. Until that time coffee was used as a therapeutic agent and was very expensive. Kultchitskiy added sugar, helping the drink gain popularity among general Europeans. And thus, Viennese coffee appeared.

Quiz on the History of Coffee Video

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. When did the story of coffee begin?
    • In the late middle ages
    • In the early middle ages
    • In the modern era
  2. What did the people of Ethiopea use from the kefaya plant?
    • Routes
    • Berries
    • Leaves
  3. What did Yuriy Kultchitskiy add to the pure coffee?
    • Licorice
    • Honey
    • Sugar and milk

Answer Key

  1. In the late middle ages
  2. Berries
  3. Sugar and milk

The Monument to Yuriy Kultchitskiy in Vienna

Yu. Kultchitskiy

Yu. Kultchitskiy

The World of Coffee

Proverbs About Coffee

Annales School of History

This article takes an approach to history that follows the French Annales school of history.

The Annales school promoted a new form of history in the early 20th century. It was replacing the study of leaders with the lives of ordinary people. Instead of politics, diplomacy, and wars, inquiries were done into climate, demography, and agriculture, as well as commerce, technology, transportation, and communication. There were some studies that also delved into social groups and mentalities.

This school of historical study also yielded dazzling micro-studies of villages and regions. Its international influence on the historiography of the 20th century has been enormous.

Lucien Febvre, Marc Bloch, and Fernand Braudel were bright representatives of this trend. Its roots were in the journal Annals: économies, sociétés, civilizations.

Sources and Further Reading

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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