During the Middle Ages in Europe, the drink of choice was alcohol. In France and other areas that grew grapes, wine was the dominant drink, while beer and ale were popular further north. Drinking water was actually rare, as it was believed that alcoholic beverages were cleaner than water and more filling. The result of this belief was constant drunkenness among the European population.
In Yemen in the middle of the 1400s, a new drink that was made from coffee beans was beginning to become quite popular. The Yemenis were roasting and then boiling coffee beans in water to produce a drink that was rich in caffeine, a stimulant that causes the body to have more energy and the brain to think more clearly. Through the 1400s and 1500s, coffee spread throughout the Muslim world, and coffee shops began to pop up in major cities. These coffee shops became a center of urban society, as people met there to socialize and enjoy the company of others.
By the 1600s, these coffee houses had spread to Europe as well. Although there was initial resistance to drinking a “Muslim drink” in Christian Europe, the beverage caught on. The coffeehouses became a central aspect of the Enlightenment, particularly in France. Whereas previously Europeans had been drinking alcohol regularly, they now met in coffee houses, where they discussed philosophy, government, politics, and other ideas that were the cornerstones of the Enlightenment. French Enlightenment philosophers such as Diderot, Voltaire, and Rousseau were all regular customers at the coffeehouses of Paris.
Were it not for this drink from the Muslim lands, Europe might never have had the Enlightenment, as the philosophers would never have met to discuss ideas, nor had the mental clarity (due to alcohol consumption) to think philosophically.