was first introduced into England
in the late 1600
s, it was largely drunk by men
only, and in coffeehouse
s rather than at home. Doctors welcomed this as a substitute for drinking alcohol
s, but married women were not so happy with the new drink
. In 1674
a group of London
women put out "The Women's Petition Against Coffee." I couldn't originally find a copy of the entire thing (added later: viscousmemories
was kind enough to inform me of one at http://www.staff.uni-marburg.de/~gloning/wom-pet.htm) but the excerpts found in Maureen Waller's 1701
give a good idea of the tone of the piece:
"Coffee leads men to trifle away their time, scald their chops, and spend their money, all for a little base, black, thick, nasty, bitter, stinking nauseous puddle water."
The "excessive use of that newfangled, abominable, heathenish liquor called coffee, which riffling nature of her choicest treasures, and drying up the radical moisture, has so eunucht our husbands, and crippled our more kind gallants, that they are become as impotent as age, and as unfruitful as those deserts where that unhappy berry is said to be brought."
Men came home with "nothing moist but their snotty noses, nothing stiff but their joints, nor standing but their ears: They pretend 'twil keep them waking, but we find by scurvy experience, they sleep quietly enough after it."
Rather than keeping the men from getting drunk, "the coffee-house being in truth, only a pimp to the tavern, thus like tennis balls between two rackets, the fopps our husbands are bandied to and fro all day between the coffee-house and the tavern...for when people have swill'd their morning draught of more ale than a brewer's horse can carry, hither they come for a pennyworth of settle-brain, where they are sure to meet enow lazy pragmatical companions, that resort here to prattle of news, that they neither understand, nor are concerned in; and after an hour's impertinent chat, begin to consider a bottle of claret would do excellent well before dinner; whereupon to the Bush they all march again together, till every one of them is drunk as a drum, and then back again to the coffee-house to drink themselves sober."
Men tried to fight the accusation of impotence by saying coffee "rather assists us by drying up those crude flatulent humours, which otherwise would make us only flash in the pan
, without doing that thundering execution which your expectations exact." They also said home wasn't the most fun place to be: "You may well permit us to talk abroud, for at home we have scarce time to utter a word for the insufferable din of your active tongues." The protesting women didn't accomplish much; it reached the point where newspaper
s and mail
were delivered to coffeehouses rather than home
Waller, Maureen. 1700: Scenes From London Life. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 2000.