Friday, 17 November 2017

"One regular black, thick, nasty, bitter, stinking, nauseous puddle-water to go, please."

Wake up and smell the coffee? No thanks, mine's a beer...
Certainly our Countrymens pallates are become as Fantastical as their Brains; how ellse is't possible they should Apostatize from the good old primitve way of Ale-drinking, to run a whoring after such variety of distructive Foreign Liquors, to trifle away their time, scald their Chops, and spend their Money, all for a little base, black, thick, nasty, bitter, stinking, nauseous Puddle-water: Yet (as all Witches have their Charms) so this ugly Turskish Enchantress by certain Invisible Wyres attracts both Rich and Poor; so that those that have scarece Twopence to buy their Children Bread, must spend a penny each evening in this Insipid Stuff: Nor can we send one of our Husbands to Call a Midwife, or borrow a Glister-pipe, but he must stay an hour by the way drinking his two Dishes, and two Pipes. 
From The Womens Petition Against Coffee (1674)

A "glister pipe" was apparently a tube used for administering enemas.* If you think that millennials oversharing on the Internet is a problem, just consider that sharing photos of your smashed avacado on Instagram, although seemingly pointless, is at least a more hygienic form of networking than swapping enema pipes with your besties.

Talking of oversharing, The Womens Petition wasn't just a complaint about spouses frittering away the family money at the coffee shop, then coming back wired and super late. The anonymous pamphleteer was also worried that this suspicious foreign beverage was sapping husbandly libidos and wasn't shy about describing the supposed effects of:
...the Excessive use of that Newfangled, Abominable, Heathenish Liquor called COFFEE, which Riffling Nature of her Choicest Treasures, and Drying up the Radical Moisture, has so Eunucht our Husbands, and Cripple our more kind Gallants, that they are become as Impotent as Age, and as unfruitful as those Desarts whence that unhappy Berry is said to be brought.

For the continual flipping of this pitiful drink is enough to bewitch Men of two and twenty, and tie up the Codpiece-points without a Charm. It renders them that use it as Lean as Famine, as Rivvel'd as Envy, or an old meager Hagg over-ridden by an Incubus. They come from it with nothing moist but their snotty Noses, nothing stiffe but their Joints, nor standing but their Ears: They pretend 'twill keep them Waking, but we find by scurvy Experience, they sleep quietly enough after it. A Betrothed Queen might trust her self a bed with one of them, without the nice Caution of a sword between them: nor can call all the Art we use revive them from this Lethargy, so unfit they are for Action, that like young Train-band-men when called upon Duty, their Ammunition is wanting; peradventure they Present, but cannot give Fire, or at least do but flash in the Pan, instead of doing executions.
Whether this Seventeenth Century tweetstorm actually  persuaded any of London's coffee shop hipsters to kick their caffeine habit, I don’t know, but someone was eventually bound to question the dubious assertion that potency was best achieved by abstaining from coffee and having a few jars of ale, instead.

Nobody knows the true identity of the Restoration Twitter egg behind The Womens Petition. The author presented as female, but some people think it was written by an angrily anonymous male troll. Me, I think it was probably written by a hacked-off brewer, (most likely a bloke, as this was well after the medieval heyday of the alewife).

There's some interesting background on The Womens Petition, along with the full text of the pamphlet, here.

*and also for the Seventeenth Century wellness fad of blowing tobacco smoke up a patient's bottom.