Photos courtesy Leipzig Tourism and Marketing
Coffee and Leipzig, Germany are inseparable. It was in the Saxon metropolis where the first palm court musicians of Germany entertained their guests: Georg Philipp Telemann made music in the coffee shops at the Market Square together with the collegium musicum, founded in 1701.
Johann Sebastian Bach and Georg Philipp Telemann
For more than two decades Johann Sebastian Bach visited the Zimmermannsche Kaffeehaus on Katharinenstrasse twice a week. His Coffee Cantata is seen as the highlight of Saxon palm court music of the 18th century. The lyrics had been written by the Leipzig poet Christian Friedrich Henrici (pen name Picander) in 1732.
Even the canon “C-a-f-f-e-e” was invented in the coffee country of Saxony. The composer was a concerned music teacher from Zittau, who wrote the song to warn his pupils of the harmful effects of the “brown Turkish drink.”
In the first half of the 18th century, while in other places canon balls were cast, Leipzig became the most important place of coffee mill production. After the first load of coffee beans arrived in Leipzig in 1693, more and more coffee shops began to open.
Consequently, Europe’s oldest coffee shop (after the Café Procope in Paris) is in Leipzig. Adam Heinrich Schütze opened the Baroque Coffe Baum on Kleine Fleischergasse 4 in 1694 and sold the first coffee drink.
In the course of the following three centuries this became the place where the intellectual elite of the city met to enjoy the popular drink. Among the guests there was the literature professor Johann Christoph Gottsched, the painter Max Klinger, the poet E. T. A. Hoffmann and the composer Richard Wagner. Also Goethe, Lessing, Bach and Grieg were often here. In a room in the ground-floor (now the Schumann Room) Robert Schumann regularly met his circle of friends between 1828 and 1844. Even revolutionaries like Robert Blum, Karl Liebknecht and August Bebel established their “second living-room” here. In 1990 Helmut Kohl and Lothar de Maizière discussed the possibilities of German unification in this place.
Zum Coffe Baum sandstone relief
The sandstone relief above the entrance to Coffe Baum is famous. A Turk with a big coffee is proffering a cup of coffee to a cherub. This symbolizes the encounter of Christian occident with Islamic orient. August the Strong is said to have donated of this relief in 1720 in gratitude for amorous services provided by the landlady.
Coffee time in Leipzig at Coffe Baum
On the third floor there is the coffee museum—one of the most important worldwide. In 15 rooms more than 500 selected exhibits from 300 years of Saxon coffee and cultural history are presented. Among the table roasters and coffee mills from different epochs, a high-tech sample roaster is an attraction for visitors.
Real bean coffee and original Meissen porcelain have always been the most outstanding identification marks of the “Coffee-Saxons,” who received their nickname from Frederic the Great during the Seven Years War. The lack of coffee resulted in a lack of motivation among the Saxon soldiers, and they refused to fight, complaining: “Ohne Gaffee gönn mer nich gämpfn,” which means in English, ” No coffee, no fighting!” The insulting remark of the Prussian monarch, who called them “Coffee Saxons,” did not disturb them in the least, as feasting on cake and coffee suited their taste much better than fighting on Europe’s battlefields.
Coffee must be sweet
But how do people like their coffee in Leipzig? “Siesse muss d’r Coffe sein,” says a Saxon proverbial expression, which means that the coffee must be sweet. When the caffeine drink is too weak the spoiled Coffee Saxons despise it as “Plempe” or “Lorke.”
As in hard times, even coffee fans of the wealthier classes had to count their coffee beans; they served so-called “sword coffee” when they had guests. The concentration of the coffee was so low that the blue swords from the bottom of the Meissen porcelain cups could shimmer through. Since 1729 this is also called Blümchenkaffee”—the coffee is so weak that you can see the little flowers (Blümchen) on the bottom of the cup. An anecdote from the 18th century tells about an economical host who roasted and ground 14 beans for 15 “Schälchen Heessen” (cups of the hot drink).
The basic rule for a good Leipzig cup of coffee could be the following historic statement of Cardinal Talleyrand:
“The coffee must be
As black as the devil
As hot as hell
As pure as an angel
As sweet as love.”
Leipzig’s guests who visit the cafés and coffee shops can confirm his words: coffee is magic, coffee is erotic and coffee is spirit.
Local coffee time in Leipzig
Those who would like to learn more about Leipzig’s coffee history can join a two-hour guided city tours under the headline “Ey, wie schmeckt der Coffee süsse…” (“O, how sweet the coffee tastes …”).
For more information, go to: Leipzig Tourism
THE SAXONS AND THEIR COFFEE: BLIEMCH’NGAFFEE AND MUGGEFUKK
The first exhibition of coffee beans was the Leipzig Trade Fair in 1670. Lehmann, Chocolatier to the Royal Polish and Saxon courts, opened the first coffee stall in the marketplace in 1694. In 1719 coffee lovers were flocking to a café in the Kleine Fleischergasse, the “Coffe Baum,” which had been made famous by Robert Schumann.
A quick lesson in the Saxon dialect will aid you in understanding these strange terms.
Bliemch’ngaffee is the dialect form of “Blümchenkaffee,” or “flower coffee”—so-called because it has so much water in it that when the coffee was poured into a traditional Meissen porcelain cup, it was still possible to see the typical floral design on the bottom. You could say it’s a coffee that’s easy on the heart.
Muggefukk—”Moka faut” was the call of French soldiers as Napoleon’s troops entered Leipzig. This was a coffee with malt or large amounts of chicory mixed into it. The phrase “moka faut” was mangled by the Saxons into “Muggefukk.”