The Vertue of the Coffee Drink [c.1652]

Posted on July 30, 2013


The Vertue of Coffee Drink-cropped

“It is a simple innocent thing,” says this very first English-language advertisement for coffee.  There the document stands on solid ground.  Today there are some indications—possibly too eagerly seized upon by the likes of me, maybe—that coffee is a wonder drink.  However no present-day claim can come even close to the wonders and “vertues” of the beverage sold by Mr. Pasqua Rosee, late of St. Michaels Alley. 

Have too much fruit in your diet like the improvident Turks?  Coffee will cure it.

Head-ache?  Indigestion?  Coffee will cure it.

Sore eyes, too?  (You really must take better care of yourself.)  Coffee will cure it.  Just lean over your cup and let the steam give ease to your ailing peepers.

Dropsy?  Tuberculosis?  The king’s evil?  Miscarriages?  Scurvy?  Gout?  Kidney stones?  Dropsy?  Spleen or Hypocondriack Winds?

Coffee’s the drink for you.

(And maybe you ought to pay a doctor a call, just in case.  Just saying….)

The ad does have some advice that us clever modern folk might recognize, however.  It will help you stay awake, make you alert for business, but by the same token shouldn’t be indulged in closer than 3 or 4 hours before bedtime “unless you intend to be watchful.”

Unless of course you’re more worried about kicking off in the night from an attack of Hypocondriak Winds or scurvy or TB or something than losing a bit of sleep.

The Vertue of the COFFEE Drink.

First publiquely made and sold in England, by Pasqua Rosee.

THE Grain or Berry called Coffee, groweth upon little Trees, only in the Deserts of Arabia.

It is brought from thence, and drunk generally throughout all the Grand Seigniors Dominions.

It is a simple innocent thing, composed into a drink, by being dryed in an Oven, and ground to Powder, and boiled up with Spring water, and about half a pint of it to be drunk, fasting an hour before and not Eating an hour after, and to be taken as hot as possibly can be endured; the which will never fetch the skin off the mouth, or raise any Blisters, by reason of that Heat.

The Turks drink at meals and other times, is usually Water, and their Dyet consists much of Fruit, the Crudities whereof are very much corrected by this Drink.

The quality of this Drink is cold and Dry; and though it be a Dryer, yet it neither heats, nor inflames more than hot Posset.

It forcloseth the Orifice of the Stomack, and fortifies the heat with- [………] its very good to help digestion, and therefore of great use to be [……..] bout 3 or 4 a Clock afternoon, as well as in the morning.

[………] quickens the Spirits, and makes the Heart Lightsome.

[………] is good against sore Eys, and the better if you hold your Head o’er it, and take in the Steem that way.

It supresseth Fumes exceedingly, and therefore good against the Head-ach, and will very much stop any Defluxion of Rheumas, that distil from the Head upon the Stomach, and so prevent and help Consumptions and the Cough of the Lungs.

It is excellent to prevent and cure the Dropsy, Gout, and Scurvy.

It is known by experience to be better then any other Drying Drink for People in years, or Children that have any running humors upon them, as the Kings Evil. &c.

It is very good to prevent Mis-carryings in Child-bearing Women.

It is a most excellent Remedy against the Spleen, Hypocondriack Winds, or the like.

It will prevent Drowsiness, and make one fit for Busines, if one have occasion to Watch, and therefore you are not to drink of it after Supper, unless you intend to be watchful, for it will hinder sleep for 3 or 4 hours.

It is observed that in Turkey, where this is generally drunk, that they are not troubled with the Stone, Gout, Dropsie, or Scurvy, and that their Skins are exceeding cleer and white.

It is neither Laxative nor Restringent.

Made and Sold in St. Michaels Alley in Cornhill, by Pasqua Rosee, at the Signe of his own Head.

Posted at England’s first coffee shop, St. Michael’s Alley, London, c. 1652.


Ellipses represent parts of the original  document (presently on display at the British Museum) which are missing or unreadable.

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