Most students drink coffee to keep up with their tireless lifestyles, but on Tuesday night more than 90 students from diverse backgrounds gathered to sip coffee and tea while learning of its importance throughout the world.
Arab Cultural Association (ACA) president Mazin Ibrahim, a sophomore majoring in biomedical science, explained to students the prominence of coffee in Arabic culture at the event in the Marshall Student Center.
“The popularity of coffee was unequal,” Ibrahim said. “(Drinking) it was very much a leisure activity.”
Brewing coffee since the 15th century, the region of the world then known as Arabia was possibly the first country to cultivate coffee, he said.
Public coffee houses were a central part of the community where citizens listened to music, played chess and overheard the news.
The region was also the first country to trade coffee, Ibrahim said.
Thousands of pilgrims from around the world visited Mecca and brought the popularity of the “wine of Arabia” back home.
Students of India Association (SIA) president Adhokshaja Prasad spoke to the audience about the comparable significance of chai — a black tea made with cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger — in Indian culture.
According to legend, an Indian king inadvertently concocted the drink after leaves from a tree fell into his brewing pot. The king claimed it to possess rejuvenating qualities, and the popularity of chai soon spread.
Chai is increasingly popular in the U.S., Prasad said, and is still preferred over coffee in India.
Both Ibrahim and Prasad referred to the scientifically proven and the mystically perceived homeopathic benefits of coffee and tea.
Hot coffee and tea is effective in warm climates by cooling the body, said Rifai. This property is helpful in the Indian and Arabian heat.
Modern science also recognizes chai for its antioxidants that help lower blood pressure and cholesterol and may prevent some cancers.
Nicholas Orlando, a senior majoring in cultural studies, said he now appreciates coffee and tea more after learning about its origin and social significance.
“I’m not going to lie, the free cup of coffee sounded awesome,” Orlando said. “I sort of depend on it because of, well, college. But I came in with an open mind and took it as it came.”
Ibrahim said he thinks coffee and tea plays a more significant role in Western culture, but not for its traditional or social aspect.
“We drink coffee due to our dependence in terms of staying on top of our work and our studies,” he said.
The ACA collaborated with African Students Association, Bengali Student Association, Cuban American Student Association, Latin American Association and the SIA to bring a different cultural perspective the USF student body, Ibrahim said.
“It’s a great learning experience for everyone. It increases cultural awareness,” he said. “It’s an incredible experience for everyone to appreciate the mutual similarities between the different cultures of the world.”
The ACA looks forward to collaborating with more USF organizations, as well as repeating the event again next year, he said.
Ibrahim said he believes all cultures view food and drink as a way to bring the people together.
“The mutual similarities between our cultures helps us understand that we, as different cultures and different peoples of the world, are ultimately the same,” he said. “We should focus on our similarities and mutual aspects of our respective cultures instead of looking our differences that cause conflict and hate.”