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 | By Paul McAvoy

Brew a special coffee treat for Dad

A papal blessing seals the Catholic connection to coffee

Since June is Dad’s month, it’s the perfect time to talk about one of his favorite drinks – coffee! But did you know the roasted-bean beverage has some significant roots in Catholic history? From popes and friars to the coffee-hour staple of after-Mass hospitality today, java has played a rich role in the Catholic Church. So grab a cup of your favorite joe and learn a few fun facts about coffee that might even impress Dad (especially if you spoil him with this rich delight …).

First brewed in northern Africa among nomadic tribes and shepherds, coffee gained regional popularity for the sharpening and energizing effect it had on those who drank it. Coffee soon became synonymous with the Middle East, and Muslims were known for enjoying the beverage. While Islam prohibited alcohol, no such ban was placed on coffee. As it spread to Europe by trade routes, Church officials viewed the beverage’s rise in popularity suspiciously due to its Middle Eastern connections. It took Pope Clement VIII tasting coffee for the first time in the seventeenth century to bless the beans, declaring the drink so delicious that “it would be a pity to let the [non-Christians] have exclusive use of it.” Not long after, in 1645, Rome’s first café opened.

There’s more! The frothy milk and coffee cappuccino takes its name from the brown habits and white cords worn by Capuchin friars, an offspring of the Franciscan movement. The Italian word for their signature brown hood is cappuccio. Legend has it that a Capuchin friar, Marco d’Aviano, who also lived in the seventeenth century, was the first to suggest sweetening strong Turkish coffee by blending it with milk.

Catholic connections to coffee are everywhere. From ministries dedicated to coffee production for evangelizing with the hot beverage to monasteries that roast and sell coffee beans to support their orders, Catholic coffee culture is thriving – and not just at the parish coffee hour!

This light yet rich Crema al Caffè is often served as a dessert after lunch in Italy, but the possibilities are endless!

Paul McAvoy is a Catholic writer in upstate New York. He has won several Catholic Media Association awards for his feature stories.

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Crema al Caffè/Italian Coffee Cream

Recipe By Tina Folkertsma

  • 4 oz. espresso, or very strong coffee
  • 1 TBSP sugar, or to taste
  • 10 oz. heavy whipping cream

Prepare espresso or coffee, stir in desired amount of sugar while coffee is hot. Chill overnight or a few hours at minimum.

In large chilled bowl, whip cold cream with chilled beaters until soft peak stage. Slowly drizzle cold coffee into cream while whipping on medium high, beat until very thick. Serve immediately or cover bowl and refrigerate (or even freeze) for about an hour. Gently stir cream before serving.

To serve as a dessert, spoon into four small glasses, sprinkle with cocoa or chocolate flakes if desired. Or, spoon a generous amount over a cup of coffee.