by Cassandra Dole Bates
During Jane Austen’s time that was the question. The first Coffee House in Britain came about in 1675 and coffee was in favor until 1830 when coffee houses became almost extinct. This was due to the heavy political and sometimes unsavory conversations had at coffee houses as well as it was a drink mostly favored by men (probably due to the discourses had at these establishments). It was said that because of these conversations women were not in favor of said coffee houses and by Jane Austen’s time, tea was much more preferred as it was a much more non-bias family friendly drink to be had as it could be enjoyed by all not just men and elite at clubs and coffee houses. Coffee drinking is mentioned in five of Miss Austen’s seven novels (Emma, Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, and Pride and Prejudice). In Pride and Prejudice in particular, Miss Austen uses coffee and tea as means to exacerbate Darcy and Elizabeth’s tension. Dr. Jessica Volz has an excellent write up on this very subject through the Jane Austen Literacy Project, check out the narrative here: https://janeaustenlf.org/pride-and-possibilities-articles/2017/2/21/issue-8-coffee-tea-and-visuality.
What would be a Coffee post without a recipe?
Mrs Maria Eliza Rundell, in A New System of Domestic Cookery, 1808,
To make Coffee
Put two ounces of fresh ground coffee, of the best quality, into a coffee-pot, and pour eight coffee-cups of boiling water on it; let it boil six minutes, pour out a cupful two or three times, and return it again; then put two or three isinglass-chips into it, and pour one large spoonful of boiling water on it; boil it five minutes more, and set the pot by the fire to keep it hot for ten minutes, and you will have coffee of a beautiful clearness.
Fine cream should always be served with coffee, and either pounded sugar-candy, or fine Lisbon sugar.
If for foreigners, or those who like it extremely strong, make only eight dishes from three ounces. If not fresh roasted, lay it before a fire until perfectly hot and dry; or you may put the smallest bit of fresh butter into a preserving pan of a small size, and, when hot, throw the coffee in it, and toss it about until it be freshened, letting it be cold before ground.
*Isinglass is a clarifying collagen, produced from the swim bladders of fish, prior to 1795 from sturgeon but after that also from cod; nowadays we would use gelatin. Lisbon sugar, otherwise known as clayed sugar, was manufactured in the colonies of France, Spain and, as the name suggests, Portugal. Wet pipeclay was laid on top of the sugar and water poured over which removed the molasses. Sugar candy is formed of large crystals of sugar, today known as rock candy or sugar. *