Coffee is frequently in and out of the news as being good for us and then bad for us and then good again. While this back and forth is confusing, we do know that it has been the preferred drink of choice for many creative minds throughout history.
Some of our favorite writers relied on this magical elixir to get them going and sustain them throughout the day. So, let’s take a look at how they took their coffee and what they have to say about this toasty, invigorating beverage.
1. L. Frank Baum, Coffee Enthusiast
Best known texts: His Young Adult novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and its sequels.
Baum allegedly liked his coffee so strong that he could float a spoon on it. Frank Baum preferred to take his coffee with cream and sugar and reportedly drank four or five cups each and every morning. Baum stuck to a strict daily routine: wake at 8 a.m. (what a luxury!), eat breakfast, and then drink coffee prior to taking a walk in the garden for inspiration—although, all that caffeine likely helped stimulate his creativity as well.
2. Benjamin Franklin, Coffee Entrepreneur
Best known texts: The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin and Poor Richard’s Almanack.
Among the numerous luxuries of the table…coffee may be considered as one of the most valuable. It excites cheerfulness without intoxication; and the pleasing flow of spirits which it occasions…is never followed by sadness, languor or debility.
Since many of us know Benjamin Franklin as a jack-of-all trades, it should come as no surprise to learn that while he was living in London, he worked as a coffee-shop freelancer. One might say he made hanging out in coffee shops fashionable, because that’s where he held political meetings, played chess, and even just enjoyed good conversation.
3. Gertrude Stein, Coffee Philosopher
Best known texts: Her novel The Making of Americans and her book of poetry Tender Buttons.
Coffee gives you time to think. It’s a lot more than just a drink; it’s something happening.
Gertrude Stein is considered one of the most original, talented, and ingenious writers in history, her stream-of-consciousness style conveying some of the most thought-provoking ways of looking at the world, even ordinary objects. An American expatriate who emigrated to France early on in life, Stein established herself in Paris where she participated in the arts community. She had gatherings at her home to discuss art and work on projects. Among these admirers and attendees were Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sinclair Lewis, and more. Stein’s partner, Alice, became the hostess for such events, and given Stein’s praise of coffee, one can only imagine that these great thinkers always had plenty on hand.
4. Voltaire, Coffee Master
Best known text: His satirical masterpiece Candide.
If you have a mind for coffee, here it is; if not, why let it alone.
On this list, Voltaire comes in second as the most notorious drinker of coffee. Apparently, Voltaire drank between 20 and 40 cups of coffee a day. How did he take it? He mixed in chocolate—perhaps he was making his own kind of mocha? (If I drank that much sweet coffee, I’d either read everything in our library or my body would quit on me.)
Voltaire not only was a voracious coffee drinker but also considered coffee the primary inspiration for his work, claiming that it gave him the energy to work throughout the day. He reportedly paid enormous amounts of money to get his favorite coffee—even generously paying his servants who could find it for him.
Despite being told by his doctor that drinking so much coffee would kill him, Voltaire continued to enjoy his coffee vice and lived to be 83 years old.
5. Honoré de Balzac, Coffee God
Best known texts: His masterpiece, The Human Comedy, which features short stories such as “La Grande Bretèche” and “The Atheist’s Mass.”
Coffee is your ally and writing ceases to be a struggle.
Now we’ve come to the most notorious coffee drinker of all time, one might argue. Honoré de Balzac had many things to say about our favorite beverage, from the quote above to his claim that “Were it not for coffee one could not write, which is to say one could not live.”
Balzac allegedly drank 50 cups of coffee a day. Yes, 50. His daily routine consisted of waking up at 1:00 a.m., working until 8:00, napping until 9:30, and then drinking coffee the rest of the day. What’s more, after his tolerance to caffeine increased, he apparently started eating coffee grounds to maximize the effects.
If you’re wondering whether or not he suffered from so much caffeine, well, yes, yes he did. He was plagued with stomach cramps, headaches, and all the usual signs of caffeine overdose. In addition to this habit, Balzac enjoyed a “work hard; play hard” attitude towards life, drinking, eating, and partying to excess when not hyper focused on his work.
While there are certainly other famous authors to add to this list, I hope that you’ve enjoyed this little taste. And now, if you’re thinking “should I drink more coffee?”, remember that while it can increase productivity, we definitely don’t condone Balzac’s approach.