Coffee in Khezvaros
Of all the elements of imperial culture introduced to the City of Ten Thousand Daggers, by far the most enthusiastically adopted has been the widespread use of coffee. While there had always been coffee drinkers in the city, the empire brought with them a culture of coffee that was previously unknown. Among imperials, coffee plays a vital role in many social interactions, both formal and informal. It seals the bonds of hospitality, signals goodwill in business or political negotiations, and has a place in most imperial rituals and milestones.
History & Usage
Coffee has been an important import to the central empire since before there was an Eternal Empire. When the empire began its expansion, its first wars of conquest were against the coffee-growing lands to the south. As the Eternal Empire grew and spread its culture to other lands, coffee rose in popularity and became an important commodity. It's widely speculated that one of the empire's motives in annexing Khezvaros was to serve as a port for new trade routes bringing coffee from the southern jungles.
The most common (and least expensive) coffee is thin and black, but those who can afford it often flavor the beverage with honey or sugar. Most coffee houses serve stronger and more elaborate concoctions featuring various kinds of milk, spices, and other flavorings. A uniquely Khezvaran tradition (which most imperials consider disgusting) is coffee poured over cheese. Even the Horse Lords have adopted coffee in the form of Karsk, a mixture of coffee and strong distilled spirits.
Cultural Significance and Usage
The people of Khezvaros have adopted many of the empire's social norms regarding coffee drinking, but generally treat it more informally than the imperials. The most widespread element of imperial coffee culture--and the one most directly responsible for introducing widespread coffee use to the City of Ten Thousand Daggers--is the coffee house. Imperial bath houses, theaters, and other structure often include a coffee house, and those that don't are usually within walking distance of a public coffee house. Private coffee houses ("kahve kabulas" in the imperial language) have also become increasingly popular in Khezvaros since the coming of the empire. Initially Khezvarans who attempted to gain admission to these imperial enclaves were seen as traitors and sycophants. Even the first non-imperial private coffee houses--mostly established by guilds, trading companies, and similar organizations--were seen as attempts to gain favor with the imperials through assimilation. As Khezvarans learned more about the traditions associated with kahve kabulas, however, they grew in popularity. Under imperial law, a chartered private coffee house is practically a sovereign entity. Even imperial officers aren't allowed to enter a kahve kabula without an invitation except under order by an Imperial Magistrate. In addition to providing those who resented imperial rule with a way to hide from the prying eyes of the empire, private clubs offered a perfect base of operations for all manner of nefarious activities. Today, most private kahve kabulas are publicly organized around a particular interest, vocation, or other common bond, but many are rumored to be covers for criminal organizations, decadent activities, or revolutionary groups.