The Coffee Cantata

Coffee’s cultural influence dates back centuries and was immortalized artistically almost 300 years ago by one of Europe’s most important and beloved composers Johann Sebastian Bach.

Bach’s (1685–1750) vast body of work is performed almost every single day in almost every country on Earth.

Bach also had a special passion for coffee. So much so that he wrote a composition about the beverage. Although known mostly for his liturgical music, his Coffee Cantata is a rare example of a secular work by the composer. The short comic opera was written (circa 1735) for a musical ensemble called The Collegium Musicum based in a storied Zimmerman’s coffee house in Leipzig, Germany.

Coffee Cantata is about a young vivacious woman named Aria who loves coffee. Her killjoy father is, of course, dead set against his daughter having any kind of caffeinated fun. So he tries to ban her from the drink. Aria bitterly complains:

Father sir, but do not 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.

Ah! How sweet coffee tastes,

more delicious than a thousand kisses, milder than muscatel wine. Coffee, I have to have coffee, and, if someone wants to pamper me, ah, then bring me coffee as a gift!

Eventually, daughter and father reconcile when he agrees to have a guaranteed three cups of coffee a day written into her marriage contract.

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