Coffee Lovers in the Age of Enlightenment

Author: Rob   Date Posted:11 December 2013 

Today, just about everybody drinks coffee, but it wasn’t always so. In times past, coffee was considered an eccentric habit and was even frowned upon in some societies. What turned the tide of popular opinion?

Arguably, it was the vocal praise given coffee by some of history’s most famous coffee lovers. We mentioned some famous coffee lovers in our earlier blog, Coffee in Literature, but that just scratched the surface. These coffee aficionados changed the world.
The Age of Enlightenment (1650-1800) has been all but forgotten now, but had a revolutionary effect on the way we live our lives today. During that period in history, intellectuals and artists questioned the wisdom of all that had come before. While the invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in 1436 set the stage for the Age of Enlightenment (or Reason), coffee played a major role, too -- at least according to some of the period’s most important thinkers:

  • We mentioned Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) in our previous blog, but it’s worth quoting another immortal line from his Coffee Cantata: "How sweet coffee tastes! Lovelier than a thousand kisses, sweeter than Muscatel wine!"
  • Alexander Pope (1688-1744) was an influential British essayist, translator (he translated Homer’s Iliad) and poet. Best known for his satirical wit, Pope wasn’t being altogether satirical when he wrote these words in one of his most famous poems, Rape of the Lock:: "Coffee, which makes the politician wise, and see through all things with his half-shut eyes."
  • Voltaire (1694-1778) was one of the Age of Enlightenment’s most prolific and influential authors. Over the course of his career, Voltaire wrote over 2,000 books and pamphlets. Outspoken and controversial, Voltaire was also famed for his coffee habit, allegedly drinking up to 40 cups a day. Voltaire not only loved the taste of coffee, he loved its aroma, saying: "Ah, that is a perfume in which I delight; when they roast coffee near my house, I hasten to open the door to take in all the aroma."

The political thinking of the Age of Enlightenment played a big role in the formation of the United States. So did coffee, if these influential early American coffee lovers are to be believed:

  • Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) was not only one of America’s most influential political thinkers, he was a prolific author and inventor as well. What fuelled his prodigious creative output? Arguably, some of the credit has to go to coffee, about which he wrote: "Among the numerous luxuries of the may be considered as one of the most valuable. It excites cheerfulness without intoxication; and the pleasing flow of spirits which it never followed by sadness, languor or debility."
  • Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) was not just the principle author of the Declaration of Independence and third President of the United States. He was also a dedicated coffee lover. Two years before his death, Jefferson declared coffee to be “the favorite drink of the civilized world." Jefferson loved coffee so much, he stocked his cellar with green coffee beans, which his staff at Monticello roasted and prepared for him and his guests.

The printing press has been credited with playing a big role in the dissemination of information during the Age of Enlightenment. Today, we are in the midst of another intellectual revolution known as the Information Age. As important as the internet is for the spreading of information, in our opinion, it’s just as important for its ability to share the pleasure of coffee with the world. How much easier could it get? With just a few mouse clicks, you can have Lavazza coffee pods and a free Lavazza espresso machine delivered directly to your door. 

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