Request to Readers: Coffee and Divorce in the Ottoman Empire

On behalf of a fellow historian, I have a request for information for you. Apparently, some coffee histories claim that Ottoman women could file for divorce if their husbands did not provide enough coffee. This is a fascinating claim and, if true, could say a lot about the significance of coffee in the Ottoman Empire. But my colleague has not found any original Ottoman source to back up this claim. If anyone knows of a good primary or secondary source that could document this, please let me know. Thanks!

2 thoughts on “Request to Readers: Coffee and Divorce in the Ottoman Empire”

  1. Dear Professor McCook,

    I just wanted to say hello 🙂 and that I love that you’re blogging. I don’t expect that you remember me. I was a student of yours from the University Guelph (grad 2009). You supervised my two senior projects on tourism, race, and national identity and tobacco production in Bermuda. I took your seminar on Global Commodities, and most of your Latin Am history classes. I still have the book, Sweetness and Power :), and very fond memories of that class.

    Re: your question: has this been resolved? Via the Turkish Coffee Culture and Research association website, I found two books, “Kahve – Kirk Yillik Hatirn” (A Cup of Coffee – A Special Memory of 10 Years” and “Türk Kahvesi Kitabı (The Turkish Coffee Book),” by “well-known culture historian Prof. Emine Gürsoy Naskali that apparently cites this. I think it may be in the first one. These are published by Yapi Kredi Culture and Arts Publishing (2012) and Kitabevi Publishers (2011) respectively.

    It’s also mentioned in “The Coffee Book: Anatomy of an Industry from Crop to Last Drop” refers to this law in Part 1, Chapter 1 “The Social Drink” but I don’t have a physical copy of the book to check the citations.

    That wasn’t much help, but hopefully it leads somewhere! Also, whether it’s myth or fact, the American history of this notion is traceable to at least 1921. Check out this 1921 newspaper ad from the Milwaukee Journal.,603052

    I’m curious now! Please let me know the status of this question.

    Take care,


  2. I came across this claim about the Turkish law in a Facebook post. My search for references brought me the this page. The Facebook page that posted the claim cited this book from 1843 that makes a reference to this supposed law, but starts by saying “it is said…”

    Still nothing definitive, unfortunately, but to anyone else looking this up and chancing upon this page, I thought it might be useful information.

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