William Baude at Crescat Sententia quotes Reverend Abernathy of “Guys and Dolls”, asking:

“Mmm. Coffee is so good, I don’t know why it’s not a sin!”

For Roman Catholics, the answer is clear. It’s not a sin because in 1763 Pope Clement VII drank some and decreed:

“This beverage is so delicious it would be a sin to let only misbelievers drink it!”

I would submit it’s a sin to drink bad coffee. Do give that up.

For more coffee history read An Overview of Coffee Evolution which suggests that discussions in coffee houses contributed to calls for political change, and indirectly helped foment both the French and American revolutions. Likely the effect is indirect. However, if coffee can, indeed, lead to revolution, we may need to cut Jacob Levy off or risk overturning our current form of government.

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13 Responses to Coffee

  1. 1
    Raznor says:

    Mmmm, coffee.

  2. 2
    Sheena says:

    It’s a sin to *sell* bad coffee. Drinking it is just a waste of time, not something which will endanger your immortal soul.

  3. 3
    lucia says:

    I occurred to me that. according to Catholics, gluttony is a sin. So, drinking a quart of coffee a day — as Jacob Levy seems too– may be a sin. Of course, I’m pretty sure he’s nto Catholic, so that’s not an issue.

  4. 4
    Rachel Ann says:

    Coffee, whether vice or virtue, is something I would find hard to give up. If I drank anymore I’d need to take it intervenously.

  5. 5
    pseu says:

    I agree that it’s a sin to drink bad coffee. There’s one chain here in LA “The C B— and T– L—“, which serves absolutely excrable coffee, but they flourish and expand because they’re known for celebrity sightings.

    For real coffee lovers, it’s Peets all the way.

  6. 7
    lucia says:

    From Reuters medline news: Yes, You Really Do Need That Coffee

  7. I just don’t waste my time with anyone that sells or drinks bad coffee … I have a rule of thumb that if the container is polystyrene (sp.) then it’s a BAD THING.

    This of course includes that excrement Dunkin Donuts pretends is coffee … I mean, if without milk the stuff is _brown_ then it’s simply not coffee.

    Of course, I am firmly in the ‘Stomach-lining? What stomach-lining?’ camp of coffee-making … The best stuff in my neck of the woods is Intelligencia Coffee … that reminds me, I need to buy a new bean grinder …

    Sarah in Chicago

  8. 9
    Maureen says:

    That’s probably in the top ten of Best Papal Declarations Ever.

    But as for excessive coffee being gluttonous, what if you’re using it (as Professor Levy presumably does) for work-related purposes? I think the Arabs first used coffee as a prayer aid; I wouldn’t be surprised if eighteenth-century monks did the same. While political science isn’t exactly a religion, fair political play is almost sacred, so in some sense Levy is studying “the sacred writings”.

    Wait… coffee (not decaf) is a sin if you’re Mormon, but then so is alcohol, tobacco, and probably even a non-caffinated Red Bull. They claim it’s because they all effect your mood–but what doesn’t?

  9. 10
    jam says:


    Oh men with a sound mind, drink coffee
    and do not care about slanderers who denigrate it with brazen lies!
    Drink it, as much as you like,
    because in its flavour
    all worries vanish
    and its fire reduces in ashes
    the turbid thoughts of daily life.

    – Hadjibud of Medina

  10. 11
    alsis38 says:

    The great thing about Portland is that you can drive on Belmont/Morrison street for about 30-40 blocks once crossing the bridge from downtown– without seeing a single St*rb*cks. Legions of very nice little coffee shops, yes. The Utopia, the Pied Cow, etc… But no St*rb*cks. How this came to be the only swath of prime Portland retail real estate I could find with no St*rb*cks was a mystery to me for years. Then one day someone told me that the guy who owns several of the prime blocks in the area detests St*rb*cks and won’t let them at the rare retail vacancies that pop up no matter how much money they offer him.

    Makes me feel warm and fuzzy every time I think about it. Rarities such as an urban St*rb*cks- free zone of that size must be treasured for as long as they last.

  11. what’s worse? global capitalism or bad coffee?
    it’s a hard question when you are a user, but i think that the whole frankenbucks controversy tangentially put us there.

    so what’s so bad with my cup of coffee, first-world users might be asking themselves.
    as outlandish as it might sound, your morning cup of coffee is helping to finance a system that abuses local growers, uses exploitative labor (including child labor and slavery) and is depleting the environment.

    this time, though, you can make a difference– try to find out where the coffee you buy really comes from, under what conditions it was produced, etc. and if you’re not satisfied, just switch to another product. read more about it at global exchange

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