Coffee Cantata

Album: Bach: The Coffee Cantata (1734)

Songfacts®:

  • The early 18th century enthusiasm in Western Europe for coffee amongst the middle classes was affecting Prussia's economy. The country's monarch, Frederick the Great, wanted to block imports of green coffee as Prussia's wealth was being drained by the huge sums of money going to foreign exporters. Also the right to sell coffee was intended to be restricted to four distillers but the fashion for drinking coffee has become so widespread that the law was being flouted and coffee beans illegally roasted.

    The Prussian king condemned the increase in coffee consumption as "disgusting" and urged his subjects to drink beer instead. Frederick employed coffee smellers, who stalked the streets sniffing for the outlawed aroma of home roasting. However such was the public outcry that eventually he was forced to change his mind. As a satire on the whole affair, Bach wrote the "Coffee Cantata," a humorous one act operetta about a stern father's attempt to check his daughter's indulgence in the much loved Saxon habit of coffee drinking.

Comments: 1

  • Larche Osborne-simmons from ChicagoBach composed his "Coffee Cantata" in or before 1735. He died in 1750. Frederick the Great did not issue his famous "Coffee and Beer Manifesto" until September, 1777. Bach could not have written the "Coffee Cantata" in response to Frederick's edict.
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