Did You Know Bach Once Wrote a Mini Opera On How Much People Hated Coffee?

There’s Bach in the middle, resident coffee addict. / Image via Getty
There’s Bach in the middle, resident coffee addict. / Image via Getty

Nowadays people love to point how much they just adore coffee. Like, I get it, I won’t talk to you before you’ve had your precious cup. But once upon a time, the early 18th century to be exact, people thought coffee was basically evil. And Johannes Sebastian Bach wrote a mini-opera about how much people hated the drink.


In an essay from Bon Appetit, Cynthia Greenlee writes that back in the 1730s, when Bach wrote his little “cantata” named Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht, coffee was thought to be a “devilish drink unfit for children, women, and men concerned about their virility.” The cantata, which translates to Be Still, Stop Chattering, tells the tale of a father named Schlendrian who scolds his indulgent daughter Liesgen for drinking too much coffee.

“Father, sir, don’t be so harsh. If I couldn’t three times a day, be allowed to drink my little cup of coffee, in my anguish, I will turn into a shriveled-up roast goat,” Liesgen cries in the 20-minute piece.

The cantata was written at a time when Bach, who apparently loved the stuff, was living in a coffeehouse-filled area of the German city Leipzig. At the time coffeehouses were rowdy places for parties and definitely unfit for women. And people in Europe still thought coffee was suspicious considering Turks liked to drink it. According to quotes in the piece from Melanie King, author of Tea, Coffee & Chocolate: How We Fell in Love with Caffeine, people thought coffee was a “mere decoction of the Devil.”

Now, instead of saying “don’t talk to me before I’ve had my coffee!” you can say, “if I don’t have my coffee I WILL turn into a shriveled-up roast goat!”

Hazel Cills is the Pop Culture Reporter at Jezebel. Her writing has been published by outlets including The Los Angeles Times, Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, The New York Times Magazine, ELLE, and more.


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