[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
June 5, 1967


JAMA. 1967;200(10):885-886. doi:10.1001/jama.1967.03120230137026

The now almost forgotten Bach's Coffee Cantata was, in its time, an eloquent musical protest against those who sought to dissuade women from drinking coffee. Many laymen and, allegedly, some doctors believed the beverage to be a cause of sterility. To be sure, this was not the first or last absurd notion entertained about coffee. Ever since its discovery in Ethiopia about one thousand years ago, coffee has provided many grounds for lively controversy. In Moslem lands, where the potable bean had enjoyed great popularity long before it became known in Europe, orthodox followers of Mahomet exhorted the faithful to shun it as one would an intoxicant. Similarly, in Europe, where the beverage was introduced during the 16th and 17th centuries, it provoked religious, political, and medical disputes. The conflicting attitudes were often mirrored in literature. While Ben Jonson disparaged coffee as "a loathsome poison—not yet understood, syrup of soot,