The story of the introduction of coffee into Constantinople shows that it experienced much the same vicissitudes that marked its advent at Mecca and Cairo. There were the same disturbances, the same unreasoning religious superstition, the same political hatreds, the same stupid interference by the civil authorities; and yet, in spite of it all, coffee attained new honors and new fame. The Oriental coffee house reached its supreme development in Constantinople.
Although coffee had been known in Constantinople since 1517, it was not until 1554 that the inhabitants became acquainted with that great institution of early eastern democracy—the coffee house. In that year, under the reign of Soliman the Great, son of Selim I, one Schemsi of Damascus and one Hekem of Aleppo opened the first two coffee houses in the quarter called Taktacalah. They were wonderful institutions for those days, remarkable alike for their furnishings and their comforts, as well as for the opportunity they afforded for social intercourse and free discussion. Schemsi and Hekem received their guests on "very neat couches or sofas," and the admission was the price of a dish of coffee—about one cent.
Turks, high and low, took up the idea with avidity. Coffee houses increased in number. The demand outstripped the supply. In the seraglio itself special officers (kahvedjibachi) were commissioned to prepare the coffee drink for the sultan. Coffee was in favor with all classes.
The Turks gave to the coffee houses the name kahveh kanes (diversoria, Cotovicus called them); and as they grew in popularity, they became more and more luxurious. There were lounges, richly carpeted; and in addition to coffee, many other means of entertainment. To these "schools of the wise" came the "young men ready to enter upon offices of judicature; kadis from the provinces, seeking re-instatement or new appointments; muderys, or professors; officers of the seraglio; bashaws; and the principal lords of the port," not to mention merchants and travelers from all parts of the then known world.