Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The virtues of coffee.

Today, October 16 ...

The first coffee house in London opened in St. Michael's Alley, Cornhill, in 1652. Like many newly introduced foods, it was first promoted as a health food. If you are suffering from the Spleen, Hypocondriack Winds, or the like, go and have a cup of coffee - this advertising broadsheet, produced sometime in the first year or two of the coffee house opening, says it will be good for you.


The Grain or Berry called Coffee, groweth upon little Trees, only in the Deserts of Arabia. It is brought from thence, and drunk generally throughout all the Grand Seigniors Dominions. It is a simple innocent thing, composed into a Drink, by being dryed in an Oven and ground to Powder, and boiled up with Spring water, and about half a pint of it to be drunk, fasting an hour before, and not Eating an hour after, and to be taken as hot as possibly can be endured; the which will never fetch the skin off the mouth, or raise any Blisters, by reason of that Heat.
The Turks drink at meals and other times, is usually Water, and there Dyet consists much of Fruit & the Crudites whereof are very much corrected by this Drink. The quality of this Drink is cold and Dry; and though it be a Dryer; yet it neither heats, nor inflames more than hot Posset.
It so closeth the Orifice of the Stomack, and fortifies the heat within...it's very good to help digestion; and therefore of great use to be drunk about 3 or 4 a Clock in the afternoon, as well as in the morning.
It quickens the Spirits and makes the Heart Lightsome. It is good against sore eys, and the better if you hold your Head o'er it, and take in the Steem that way. It suppresseth Fumes exceedingly, and therefore good against the Head-ach, and will very much stop the Defluxion of Rhuems, that distil from the Head upon the Stomack, and so prevent and help Consumption and the Cough of the Lungs.
It is excellent to prevent and cure the Dropsy, Gout and Scurvy.
It is known by experience to be better than any other Drying Drink for People in years, or Children that have any running humors up on them, as the Kings Evil.
It is very good to prevent Mis-carryings in Child-bearing Women.
It is a most excellent Remedy against the Spleen, Hypocondriack Winds, or the like.
It will prevent Drowsiness, and make one fit for business, if one have occasion to Watch; and therefore you are not to Drink of it after Supper, unless you intend to be watchful, for it will hinder sleep for 3 or 4 hours.
It is believed that in Turkey, where this is generally drunk, that they are not troubled with the Stone, Gout, Dropsie, or Scurvy, and that their Skins are exceeding clear and white.
It is neither Laxative nor Restringent.

It was a long time before coffee was used as cooking ingredient rather than a mere beverage, but you can browse the offering in the Coffee Archive if you are interested. Coffee was drunk with conversation in the seventeenth century, not cake. If you were to have cake in the seventeenth century, then the cake of preference was Seed Cake. We would classify it as a sweet bread (it was almost two hundred years before baking sodas were invented), and here is an example from the classic Hannah Woolley’s Accomplished Lady’s Delight, published in 1675.

To make a Caraway-Cake.
Take three pound and a half of the finest Flower, and dry it in an Oven*, one pound and a half of Sweet Butter, and mix it with the Flower, till it be crumbled very small, that none of it be seen; then take three quarters of a pint of New Ale-Yeast, and half a pint of Sack, and half a pint of New Milk, with six spoonfuls of Rose-Water, and four Yolks, and two Whites of Eggs; then let it lye before the Fire half an hour, or more, and when you go to make it up, put in three quarters of Caraway-Comfits, and a pound and a half of Biskets. Put it into the Oven, and let it stand and hour and a half.

*this was because it was often difficult to ensure flour was completely dry – no airtight plastic storage containers back then

Tomorrow’s Story …

Directions to Servants.

Quotation for the Day …

These consumers are always ordering mutant beverages with names like "mocha-almond-honey-vinaigrette-lattespressacino,"' beverages that must be made one at a time via a lengthy and complex process involving approximately one coffee bean, three quarts of dairy products and what appears to be a small nuclear reactor. Dave Barry.


Liz + Louka said...

I was interested to see that this recipe uses caraway comfits rather than just caraway seeds. And what would the biskets be?

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Coffee is indeed a health food. Nothing has changed in the last 350 years. I know my mental health benefits from at least one large cup a day. And, given that this is the era of Starbucks, it looks like nothing has changed from the marketing perspective either!

I support the seed cake with coffee, as well.

Anonymous said...

Caffeine is a nerve toxin. It is irresponsible to promote it as a "health" food.

The Old Foodie said...

Hello everyone, sorry for the late responses.
Liz (Louka?) - biskets are biscuits - the dry crisp crunchy kind, not American 'biscuits' which we call scones. They and the comfits must have added an interesting texture, dont you think.
t.w - agreed on all counts.
Anonymous: get some perspective! that was a historical document, I am not "promoting" a "nerve toxin". People can die of water intoxication, if they are of a mind to drink enough of it you know.