What did medieval Muslims drink?

The group on these boards seem like a diverse bunch of knowledgeable individuals, so maybe enough people have heard enough anecdotes for me to get the big picture. The question is: What did medieval Muslims drink?

One of the oft quoted factoids is that fermentation was beneficial to humans, allowing them to drink something with a little alcohol and a friendly microbial colony, to prevent them from drinking often contaminated water. But that’s forbidden to Muslims. So what’s left?

I realize that there are many options. Boiled water for coffee, perhaps better sanitation in desert villages keeping wells clean, and they may have drunk alcohol on the sly. But during the time of the Crusader States, when both groups lived, side by side, somewhat peaceably, in medieval cities like Acre, Europeans were often drunk, and the Muslim population was merely peeved about it. But what were the Muslim population drinking – packed in like that, sanitation would have been a problem.

Wine was apparently quite common even in muslim communities back then, and tea would have been available through the Silk Routes. Coffee doesn’t seem to have become widespread until around the 15th century, however, so that would be more towards the end of the medieval period.

Coffee and tea are just things you add to water, so they would still go under the category water unless they boiled them(?) I have no idea if they did or not. I can hardly imagine hot, black coffee on a 100+ degree day, though. Blegch.

How do you make coffee or tea without boiling the water?

I don’t know, that’s why I said “I have no idea if they did or not.” Personally I don’t drink coffee and on the rare occasions I drink tea I just stick in the microwave and it doesn’t boil.

You steep it? (Besides, coffee or tea should generally be made with water that is a little bit under boiling temps, although when preparing Turkish coffee, it is boiled.)

Seeing as coffee originates in some of the hottest places on earth (Ethiopia), that clearly has not been a problem for most of its history.

I just said it sounds gross to me. I know some people believe a hot drink on a hot day will cool you off. I don’t want to find out.

heathen :eek: i think i shall retire for a cucmber sarni or two

If you didn’t boil it, it’s not tea. For shame!

Most cultures in hot places have a hot drink tradition and a belief that hot drinks have cooling properties. In my experience this usually involves small amounts drunk frequently. Nobody is lingering over a huge cup of coffee in the middle of the desert here. It all thimbleful sized cups knocked back frequently.

I was surprised by how different staying hydrated is in China. Besides tea, fruit seems to be a major contributor to hydration. My host family gave me practically a whole watermelon every day when I got home from school. The other is boiled water- just plain boiled water. I think more people drink water hot than cold. Finally, even the cheapest meals are served with a weak soup. Sometimes this is little more than a few pieces of cabbage floating in hot water. But it does quench the thirst.

Back to Muslims…could yogurt be a factor? Yogurt won’t set without some degree of sanitation.

I also imagine plenty of them drank. Some of the best poetry ever about being drunk was written by medieval Muslims.

When I lived in a mixed-Christian/Muslim village in Africa, the Muslims did drink a fair amount, but they kept it quiet. The Christian neighborhoods were always a rollicking party and full of improvised bars and liquor producers. Men and women drank with abandon. The Muslim neighborhoods were certainly calmer. Mostly they stuck to millet beer (as opposed to millet liquor) and kept it in among men their family compounds or secluded bars a short ways from the village. The general rule was “don’t go to mosque drunk” and you were good.

I guess in Cameroon, “What’s the difference between an Episcopalian and a Baptist? An Episcopalian will say ‘hello’ to you in the liquor store” becomes “What’s the difference between a Christian and a Muslim…”

Heh, I realized I had been there too long when someone was described to me as Christian and my first thought was “Oh, a drunk.”

Oman was a lot like that too.

The ḥadīth literature tells of Prophet Muhammad and his companions in Medina drinking a lot of milk. Also water and soup and a sweet drink called nabīdh, an infusion of dates or raisins in water. If left for a few days, it fermented, so the Prophet said to drink it before then. But the fermented version must have remained popular, because nabīdh is now the modern Arabic word for wine, replacing Classical Arabic khamr. Wine had been very popular among pre-Islamic Arabs, who drank like fish. A fermented grain preparation named boza was popular in the Ottoman realms in the later middle ages; it’s been described as in between a beer and a porridge.

What the OP seems not to have taken into account was how the sanitation in medieval Islamic culture was better maintained than in Christendom, which allowed for more potable water. A ḥadīth narrated by the Prophet’s wife ‘Ā’ishah told of a famine in Medina when for a period in which “we saw three new moons (i.e. more than two months), and lit no fire (for cooking), we survived on the two black ones” (al-aswadāni, i.e. dates and water). Although I never understood why water was called “black” here.

You might check out the drinks chapter of the Anonymous Andalusian Cookbook of the 13th Century some of them are medicinal, but there are some related drinks mentioned as beverages in Arabic literature. (I have to take this a little on faith, as I’m reading things in English translation only).
Of the drinks in the Andalusian, I’ve made the Syrup of Roses, the Syrup of Mint, Syrup of Simple Sikanjabîn (Oxymel), Syrup of Pomegranates, and the Syrup of Lemon. They’re pretty good, if a little sweet.
Notes on measurement from page A-78
1 ratl = 467 grams = about a pound
1 uqiya = 39 grams, about 1.33 ounces or 7 teaspoons
1 muthqal = 5.7 grams
1 dirham = 3.9 gram or 3/4 teaspoon

Didn’t they drink Sherbert?
I seem to recall reading that somewhere but couldn’t swear to it.

Yup, “sherbet”, “sorbet”, “shrub”, and several related words all come from Arabic sharaba, meaning “to drink”. Various kinds of sweet and/or alcoholic drinks were called sharab in Arabic or Persian.

I totally see where the OP is coming from with “tea / coffee in hot climates” but let’s remember that in desert climates, nights are very cold. You’d want something warm to drink after the sun went down, and maybe people saved tea and allowed it cool off. Drinking room temp tea during the day, (which had made with water that had been boiled) would help with sanitation. Also, in areas where religions lived to together, Muslims (like Jews) were washing their hands a lot more than the Christians, and I’m sure that helps with avoiding sickness as well.

Like The Devil’s Grandmother said, there are lots of medieval non-alcoholic drinks (essentially like cordial/squash which are diluted with water to drink ) that were made, such as Sekanjabin, which is a honey/sugar-and-vinegar drink flavoured with mint, Believe me, it’s a lot nicer than the thought of a vinegar drink makes it sound - we make cases of it every year for our Mediaeval Market and it always sells out. It’s also the favourite post-combat drink of our armoured fighters, very refreshing.