I’m doing research for a book I’m writing about coffee and came across this gem of a quote from Frederick the Great regarding the benefits of drinking beer rather than coffee. I’ve seen it before but only a snippet. Here is a more complete quotation provided by Antony Wild in his book Coffee: A Dark History (Norton, 2004):
It is disgusting to notice the increase in the quantity of coffee used by my subjects, and the amount of money that goes out of the country as a consequence . . . My people must drink beer. His majexty was brought up on beer, and so were his ancestors, and his officers.
Frederick waged a campaign against coffee due to what he felt were its deleterious effects on the working class. His solution, aside from beer, was a vaguely coffee-like drink brewed from chicory root. Judging from his dour demeanor in the painting above, perhaps he could have used a jolt of caffeine to liven him up a bit.
Napoleon later took up the cause of chicory root as part of his crusade for continental self-sufficiency, a strategy which he developed largely as a consequence of his failure to conquer Asia and his loss of colonies from which to extract cheap resources. The latter failure inspired his own disparaging quote regarding coffee: “Damn coffee! Damn colonies!”