Climate change has recently been disturbing coffee production in countries such as Cameroon, Haiti, and Côte d’Ivoire. The consumer’s concerns about reduced flavor quality and increased pricing for a cup of coffee (due to a diminishing supply of beans) become minor when compared to how extreme weather killing off coffee crops greatly reduces income for smallholder farmers in developing countries. According to a September 2016 report by the nonprofit Climate Institute, “Without strong action to reduce emissions, climate change is projected to cut the global area suitable for coffee production by as much as 50 per cent by 2050. By 2080, wild coffee, an important genetic resource for farmers, would become extinct” (Watts 1). If or when climate change leaves us with very few coffee beans, then what types of coffee substitute might we end up trying?
Consider how the French were still having “coffee” during periods of coffee shortage such as when Napoleon’s 1806 Continental System took place and World War II. Before Napoleon relaxed the blockade of British coffee shipments to France in November 1811, the French combined domestically grown chicory with what coffee they had left, and some even found chicory by itself to be a good enough drink. During World War II many people in Paris made “coffee” from roasted barley and chicory. A type of café national was made from acorns and chickpeas. The Nazis occupying France had ersatz coffee that had been created by chemists, such as a caffeinated acorn drink, for instance.
A method of making artificial coffee from chicory had been used in Holland for at least a century before two Frenchmen in 1801 learned of it and started using it: a Mister Orban in Liége and a Mister Giraud in Hornaing (near Valenciennes). In the June 1849 issue of the Journal de médecine, de chirurgie et de pharmacologie, an article by Alphonse Chevallier called “Falsifications du café-chicorée, son historique, sa fabrication, ses falsifications et des moyens de les reconnaître” notes that café-chicorée was sold under a variety of names: “les différents noms de café-chicorée gros grain, de chicorée royale, de chicorée poudre à canon, de semoule, de mignonette, de poudre superfine de moka, de moka en poudre, de café de dames, de crème de moka, de café pectoral, de café de Chartres, de café de santé, de café des îles, de café aux Chinois, de café aux Indiens, de café aux Javas, de café à la Tom-Pouce, de café à la polka, de café des colonies” (562). Several of these creative names do not reflect of course the fact that the chicory was grown in France.
But even before Mister Orban and Mister Giraud, another Frenchman had created a coffee substitute: Frenehard’s creation was made of rice, barley, rye, almonds, and sugar. An article in the September 1781 issue of the medical journal Gazette de Santé mentions that this coffee substitute can be a good option for anyone who has rheumatic pains and for insomniacs. This drink was sold under the name of café de santé. Frenehard’s “coffee” also received attention in a December 1781 issue of the Gazette du commerce and in a January 1782 issue of the Journal de l’agriculture, du commerce et des finances.
In the 1862 book Du café : son historique, son usage, son utilité, ses altérations, ses succédanés et ses falsifications, comprenant les condamnations prononcées contre les contrefacteurs, Chevallier notes that the high price of coffee during times of continental war inspired the French and others to come up with coffee substitutes, and he gives a list of the succédanés du café that appeared between 1761 and 1814. A rather peculiar one from 1825 that was proposed by a Mister Kait consisted of rye, eggs, and codfish skin (Chevallier 35). This drink was said to have appeared in the United States, and it was liked!
References & Suggested Reading
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“Café de santé. Extrait de la Gazette de Santé, no. 36.” Journal de littérature, des sciences et des arts, Tome VI, 1781, pp.287-8.
“Café de santé par le sieur Frenehard, à Paris.” Nouvelles instructives bibliographiques, historiques et critiques de médecine, chirurgie et pharmacie, pour l’année 1786 ; ou Recueil Raisonné de tout ce qu’il importe d’apprendre pour être au courant des connoissances et à l’abri des erreurs, relatives à l’Art de guérir, Volume 2. 1786. pp.527-9.
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