A History of Caffeinated Drinks in Early Modern Europe

In the modern Western world, coffee, tea, and chocolate are viewed as daily necessities, found everywhere from convenience stores to chain restaurants to artisanal markets. These three caffeinated foodstuffs—all originally consumed as beverages—first made their way to Europe in the sixteenth century, awakening a continent accustomed to alcohol. Europeans adopted exotic drinks from faraway lands (Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and the Americas), assimilating foreign flavors into their daily diets. Over the course of three centuries, these drinks became popular in different pockets of Europe; geography, religion, class, gender, and politics highly influenced these preferences. Furthermore, these beverage preferences became entangled in the perilous economics of colonialism and slavery. Many contemporary texts and material goods were devoted to the consumption of coffee, tea, and chocolate. These included books and tracts by physicians, explorers, and theologians; recipes for the perfect cup of chocolate in manuscript recipe books and printed cookbooks; and dishware and tools for preparing and serving all three drinks. Through the evaluation of these and other sources pulled from early modern literature, art, economic records, maps, material goods, recipes, and more, many found within the Newberry Library’s own collections, we will examine the rise of coffee, tea, and chocolate in early modern Europe and the consequences of their popularity.