Coffee and the Chancellor of the German Empire
Among coffee drinkers a high place must be given to Otto Von Bismarck, who lived from 1815 until 1898. He liked coffee pure and unadulterated, without the chicory that many would use as a filler. While with the Prussian army in France, he one day entered a country inn and asked the host if he had any chicory in the house. He had. Bismarck said: “Well, bring it to me; all you have.” The man obeyed, and handed Bismarck a canister full of chicory. “Are you sure this is all you have?” demanded the chancellor. “Yes, my lord, every grain.” “Then,” said Bismarck, keeping the canister by him, “go now and make me a pot of coffee.”
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The First English Mention of Coffee
In 1599, Sir Antony (or Anthony) Sherley, a picturesque gentleman-adventurer, the first Englishman to mention coffee drinking in the Orient, sailed from Venice on a kind of selfappointed, informal Persian mission, to invite the shah to ally himself with the Christian princes against the Turks, and incidentally, to promote English trade interests in the East. The English government knew nothing of the arrangement, disavowed him, and forbade his return to England. However, the expedition got to Persia; and the account of the voyage thither was written by William Parry, one of the Sherley party, and was published in London in 1601. It is interesting because it contains the first printed reference to coffee in English, employing the more modern form of the word.
The passage is part of an account of the manners and customs of the Turkish in Aleppo. It
They sit at their meat (which is served to them upon the ground) as Tailers sit upon their stalls, crosse-legd; for the most part, passing the day in banqueting and carowsing, untill they surfet, drinking a certaine liquor, which they do call Coffe, which is made of seede much like mustard seede, which will soone intoxicate the braine.
Biddulph’s description of the drink, and of the coffee-house customs of the Turks, was the first detailed account to be written by an Englishman. It also appears in Purchas His Pilgrimes published in 1625. To quote:
Their most common drinke is Coffa, which is a blacke kinde of drinke, made of a kind of Pulse like Pease, called Coaua; which being grownd in the Mill, and boiled in water, they drinke it as hot as they can suffer it; which they finde to agree very well with them against their crudities, and feeding on hearbs and rawe meates. Other compounded drinkes they have, called Sherbet, made of Water and Sugar, or Hony, with Snow therein to make it coole; for although the Countrey bee hot, yet they keepe Snow all the yeere long to coole their drinke. It is accounted a great curtesie amongst them to give unto their frends when they come to visit them, a Fin-ion or Scudella of Coffa, which is more holesome than toothsome, for it causeth good concoction, and driveth away drowsinesse.
Some of them will also drinke Bersh or Opium, which maketh them forget themselves, and talk idely of Castles in the Ayre, as though they saw Visions, and heard Revelations. Their Coffa houses are more common than Ale-houses in England; but they use not so much to sit in the houses, as on benches on both sides the streets, neere unto a Coffa house, every man with his Fin-ionful; which being smoking hot, they use to put it to their Noses & Eares, and then sup it off by leasure, being full of idle and Ale-house talke whiles they are amongst themselves drinking
it; if there be any news, it is talked of there.
Introduction of Coffee to England
Although it seems likely that coffee must have been introduced into England sometime during the first quarter of the seventeenth century, with so many writers and travelers describing it, and with so much trading going on between the merchants of the British Isles and the Orient, yet the first reliable record we have of its advent is to be found in the Diary and Correspondence of John Evelyn, F.R.S., where he says:
There came in my time to the college (Baliol, Oxford) one Nathaniel Conopios, out of Greece, from Cyrill, the Patriarch of Constantinople, who, returning many years after was made (as I understand) Bishop of Smyrna. He was the first I ever saw drink coffee; which custom came not into England till thirty years thereafter.
Evelyn should have said thirteen years after; for then it was that the first coffee house was opened, in 1650.
Conopios was a native of Crete, trained in the Greek church. He became primore to Cyrill, Patriarch of Constantinople. When Cyrill was strangled by the vizier, Conopios fled to England to avoid a like barbarity. He came with credentials to Archbishop Laud, who allowed him maintenance in Balliol College.
It was observed that while he continued in Balliol College he made the drink for his own use called Coffey, and usually drank it every morning, being the first, as the antients of that House have informed me, that was ever drank in Oxon.