(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Coffee

“I like coffee because it gives me the illusion that I might be awake”*…

It’s Monday morning, an occasion to contemplate the favored fuel of the workday. Here, a late 18th century treatise..

How did coffee become so popular in the Middle East, turning the Yemeni port city of Mokha into a global marketplace of beans for nearly three centuries? Benjamin Moseley, eighteenth-century physician and early anti-vaxxer, offers an origin story for coffee culture in the expanded fifth edition of his Treatise Concerning the Properties and Effects of Coffee (1792). Noting that the account is a “ludicrous tale”, he nevertheless reproduces it in full. One night a Yemeni goat herder found his flock restless. They would not sleep, but “jumped and frisked about as if they had been infatuated”. The herder summons a religious official from the local mosque, who notices that the goats had foraged on “shrubs and berries [that] had always been considered among the wild and useless productions of the earth”. Intrigued, the holy man goes home and steeps himself a cup, which he “supped off hot”. Soon he too “began to dance and frisk about as the goats had done”. After the jitters wane, the man’s thoughts turn back to God, and he realizes that this concoction would “be an excellent thing to keep the Dervishes awake, when their duty obliged them to pray after dinner”. The experiment was an “utmost success” and soon the drink spread through every nearby nation and “among all the religious of the East.”

Moseley was the eighteenth-century precursor to today’s third-wave connoisseur. He had strong opinions on roasting that might still hold water — “the closer it is confined at the time of roasting, and till used, the better will its volatile pungency, flavour, and virtues, be preserved” — and high standards of taste: following François Bernier, he relates that only two people in 1650s Cairo were capable of making a proper brew. As a practicing physician, Moseley’s interest in coffee was mostly medical and, although these debates still continue, he had little time for the uncaffeinated. In a terribly-aged analogy, he compares coffee alarmists to those who raise “declamations against mercury” and “nonsense against tobacco” — equally bunk. Some of the proclaimed benefits of coffee are familiar. It combats “lethargy, catarrh, and all disorders of the head”. It “accelerates the process of digestion”, affects “the gastric powers”, and “diffuses a genial warmth that cherishes the animal spirits, and takes away the listlessness and languor”. It also helps hangovers: that “disorderly condition brought on by drinking bad fermented liquors, and new rum, to excess”. Other benefits are perhaps less well-known today. If bedridden with “bloody flux” or dysentery, drink four cups of hot coffee and cover yourself with heavy bed clothes — you will soon be cured through perspiration; for messengers commuting long distances, “the alternate effects of opium and coffee” can sooth “their tedious journies”. Aside from a caution to pregnant women and those with serious illnesses, the only negative account of coffee in this hundred-page treatise comes from a person Moseley met in Leyden: he “seldom drank much coffee, or continued the use of it for several days successively, without having a hæmorrhage from the nose.”

When the first edition of Moseley’s treatise appeared in the 1780s, Europe’s urbanites had been hooked on coffee for more than a century. London’s original coffee house opened in 1652; the French, who “knew nothing of it until 1645”, could enjoy a public café in Marseilles come 1671. As Matthew Green details, these were intoxicating spaces where strangers mingled and discussed news, politics, scholarship, and everything in between…

[Indeed, the London Stock Exchange was born in Jonathan’s Coffee House (later, Garraway’s coffee house), as stock trading was not allowed in the Royal Exchange. Until the LSE went fully electronic, the clerks who carried orders and papers to and from brokers were still called “waiters,” the title by which they are still known at Lloyds of London, which had a similar genesis.]

A 1792 appreciation: “A Treatise Concerning the Properties and Effects of Coffee,” from @PublicDomainRev. Read the Treatise at the Internet Archive (@internetarchive).

On a more modern note: “Nope, coffee won’t give you extra energy. It’ll just borrow a bit that you’ll pay for later.”

(Image above: source)

* Lewis Black


As we contemplate the cuppa, we might spare a thought for Prospero Alpini; he died on this date in 1617. A Venetian physician and botanist, he wrote several botanical treatises, many based on his travels in the Middle East, which covered exotic plants of economic and medicinal value. Because his description of coffee and banana plants are considered the oldest in European literature, he is said to have introduced them to the continent. (He was also the first to artificially fertilize date palms.) 


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February 6, 2023 at 1:00 am

“My favorite food from my homeland is Guinness. My second choice is Guinness. My third choice – would have to be Guinness.”*…

As Will O’Brien explains, Ireland’s most famous brewery has been ahead of the curve for 250 years…

Taken over its entire history, Guinness may just be the most successful company Ireland has ever produced. In 1930, it was the seventh largest company in Britain or Ireland. It is one of our oldest companies of note. Considering that it predates the Bank of Ireland and the State itself, it could even be said that Guinness is the longest-running successful large institution in Ireland.

The key to Guinness’ robustness has been innovation. Through a series of key innovations, Guinness was able to stay on top despite (among other things) a famine, mass emigration, two World Wars, a civil war, and the changeover from British to sovereign rule. Guinness is responsible for changes in workplace relations, several foundational advances in the physics of brewing, and even the famous Student’s t-test in statistics. Indeed, Guinness has been one of the key drivers of innovation in Ireland.

A determined founder began Guinness with a vision and took a bold decision with a 9000-year lease. The company then started a brewery which defied nearly every norm in workplace relations. They used the scientific method to radically rethink how beer is brewed and served, and created a world-class brand & marketing operation.

When Guinness released a subtly different pint glass several years ago, traditionalists decried it as blasphemous. The irony is that the brewery that creates this drink has eschewed tradition for over 250 years…

Lessons are where one finds them: “No Great Stagnation in Guinness,” from @willobri.

* Peter O’Toole


As we contemplate continuity, we might recall that it was on this date in 1903 that the first U.S. patent for instant coffee (No. 735,777) was issued to Satori Kato of Chicago, Illinois. The application was filed in April of 1901, when his Kato Coffee Company introduced the product at the Pam-American Exposition in Buffalo.

A brochure for the Kato Coffee Company, from the 1901 Pan-American Exposition


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August 11, 2022 at 7:59 am

“Even bad coffee is better than no coffee at all”*…




You’re reading this with a cup of coffee in your hand, aren’t you? Coffee is the most popular drink in many parts of the world. Americans drink more coffee than soda, juice and tea — combined.

How popular is coffee? When news first broke that Prince Harry and Meghan were considering Canada as their new home, Canadian coffee giant Tim Hortons offered free coffee for life as an extra enticement.

Given coffee’s popularity, it’s surprising how much confusion surrounds how this hot, dark, nectar of the gods affects our biology…

From drip coffee to pourovers to stovetop espresso, the variations in– and the effects of– coffee-based drinks are plenty: The Biology of Coffee.

[Image above, source]

* David Lynch


As we take a sip, we might recall that it was on this date in 1976 that Sesame Street aired episode #847, featuring Margaret Hamilton reprising her role as the Wicked Witch of the West from the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz.  It scared children so badly that the episode has never been re-aired. (This, after she had appeared as herself in three episodes of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, between 1975 and 1976– because Fred Rogers wanted his young viewers to recognize the Wicked Witch was just a character and not something to fear.)

220px-Sesame_Street_Margaret_Hamilton_Oscar_The_Grouch_1976 source


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February 10, 2020 at 1:01 am

“If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee.”*…




Cream, milk, skim milk, sugar, sweetener; more recently, soy milk, almond milk…  there’s not a lot of variation in the things one adds to coffee.  Phronk has devoted himself to blazing alternative paths…

This is a blog about putting weird things in coffee. I drink coffee every day, but get bored with the same old cream and sugar. I figured I might as well document my experiments for the benefit of all humankind…

From “Maple Bacon Latte” through “Tumeric and Matcha in Coffee” to “The Peanut Butter Solution: PB2 in Coffee.” he guides one through preparation, then assesses the results of dozens of adventurous brews.

Take a sip at “Putting Weird Things in Coffee.”

[TotH to Eureka!]

* Abraham Lincoln


As we broaden our horizons, we might recall that today is National Margarita Day.  While its origin is uncertain (there are several competing creation stories), it is indisputably the most-ordered cocktail in the U.S., accounting for almost 20% of all mixed drink sales in the U.S.

20150323-cocktails-vicky-wasik-margarita source


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February 22, 2019 at 1:01 am

“Even bad coffee is better than no coffee at all”*…


Over his forty-year career, he has become a shaman of coffee. He’s known among third-wave coffee producers as a prophet of the terroir-focused, light-roast way of life, a man who gives three-hour PowerPoint presentations detailing every facet of the production process, and the rare boomer in a scene made up mostly of people who were either in grade school or not even born when George opened his first shop. People who have worked with him, or seen him speak, or run into him in Ethiopia or Guatemala (“at origin,” in coffee-world lingo), talk about his enthusiasm, his taste, his curiosity, his strong opinions on coffee processing. But mostly they talk about his pragmatically mystical conviction that a higher truth of coffee exists, and that we can figure out how to get to it…

The highly-caffeinated story of George Howell, the man responsible for third-wave coffee– and the Frappuccino: “The Coffee Shaman.”

* David Lynch


As we take it black, we might recall that it was on this date in 1931 that the Dr. Miles Medicine Company of Elkhart, Indiana introduce Alka-Seltzer, an effervescent combination of aspirin for headache relief, fevers, and body pain and bi-carbonate of soda to neutralize acids and settle the stomach.  (Twenty years later, Miles introduced their “Speedy” mascot.)



Written by (Roughly) Daily

February 21, 2017 at 1:01 am

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