How did coffee get to Europe? Thanks to a Pole, obviously!

Jerzy Franciszek Kulczycki was born in 1640 in Kulczyce (today a village in Ukraine). When he grew up, he got a job at the East Trade Company and thanks to this merchant’s job, learnt a few foreign languages, among them also – Turkish! And it was exactly a business trip in 1683, when the siege locked him in Vienna…

After five weeks of fighting, some of the city defenders were so exhausted, they started to talk openly and loudly about giving up to Kara Mustafa! That moment, our fellow countryman Jerzy discussed the matter with the mayor of Vienna and decided to sneak through the enemy’s camp, dressed as a Turkish soldier, to call for help! He succeeded! He was very lucky, but also, the fact that he knew Turkish language and Turkish culture so well helped him (what’s the moral from the story for us all – let’s learn languages! :D)

After he went through the camp of the enemy, he got to Charles V, who promised him a fast rescue. Kulczycki once more went through the Kara Mustafa’s camp, back to Vienna, to tell the citizens not to give up. After they won the battle (with the help of the Polish army led by our king John III Sobieski!) Kulczycki became a real hero – both for Poles and for the citizens of Vienna.

He received a lot of money and a house at Leopoldstadt. The king John III Sobieski, willing to award his spy properly, let him choose whatever he picks from all of the treasures taken from the Turks. To everyone’s great surprise, instead of taking bags of gold or expensive cloth, he chose… 300 – 500 bags of coffee grains!

He was lucky again! They wanted to throw them out, thinking it was camel food! 😀 Of course, Kara Mustafa didn’t feed his camels with coffee, but the black and thick drink was given to the solders to keep their adrenaline and physical condition on the right level. The emperor Leopold I, gave the Pole 20 years of tax exemption as an award and let him chose the profession he likes.

And that is how Kulczycki opened his very first cafe in Vienna, at the Domgasse street. At first, people didn’t like the bitter liquid. Their taste changed, when he started adding honey and milk to it, and at the same time, became the very first inventor of white sweet coffee! Some stories even say, he served coffee dressed in a traditional Turkish outfit, with little crescent shaped biscuits on the side.

Years later, Vienna became the world capital of cafes, and our compatriot – the patron of cafe owners. Kulczycki kept selling his places just to buy and open a new one in a new, better location. His second cafe was at the very Stephansplatz, in the famous „Stock im Eisen” house, the third one is the still famous today „Hof zur Blauen Flasche”, by the cathedral on the Schlossergassl street. The most amazing and well known Viennesians would visit!

Kulczycki passed away in 1694, due to tuberculosis. But the cafe owners didn’t forget him. Apparently every year in October they would have a „Kolschitzky Fest”, during which they would decorate the cafes windows with his protraits. And almost 200 years after the battle of Vienna, one of the streets of the city received Kulczycki’s name, and the owners of one cafe at the corner of the Kolschitzkygasse street, decorated the building with Kulczycki sculpture, which you can still see there today!

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