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Saturday, May 18, 2019

Life in 1700 - Coffee spies!

I had no idea until I looked up information about how coffee was served in the 1700’s that there was such a thing as a coffee spy! So for this post, I just HAD to look up this phenomenon and see what it was all about. 

Old Time Farm Crime: The Coffee Spies of the 1700’s

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Bounty image coin from the Cook Islands

I came across this interesting coin recently and thought some folks might be interested in it. It is a commemorative image of HMS Bounty issued by the Cook Islands. 

Cook Islands 2018 Bounty 1 Oz. Silver Dollar Brilliant Uncirculated

Price: $39.00

SKU: 49126
Description Collectors and investors both love the Cook Islands Bounty bullion issues. The obverse of this 2018 one ounce .9999 fine silver coin carries an engraving that displays the sailing vessel, HMS Bounty featured in the well-known novel, Mutiny of the Bounty. An intricate wave-like design in the background adds fantastic depth to the image. Queen Elizabeth II graces the reverse. The Cook Islands are comprised of 15 individual volcanic islands as well as coral atolls spread throughout more than 770,000 square miles of the South Pacific Ocean. Brilliant Uncirculated quality.

The web site to order the coin is here: 


Sunday, April 14, 2019

Coffee in 1700

While reading a book titled Duel with the Devil, I came across a reference to a foreign merchant having to dump a cargo of spoiled coffee. It got me to thinking about just when it was that coffee became such a popular drink. 

Here are a few tidbits of the history of coffee around 1700. 


• 1696

It's a big year for the clever Dutch. They finally broke the Muslims' world monopoly on coffee. Some say the Dutch stole the seedlings, while others claim they were legally exported. Adrian Van Ommen, the Dutch Governor of Malabar in India sends Arabian coffee seedlings to his friend, the Dutch Governor on the island of Batavia (now Jarkata, Indonesia).

After several natural disasters, more seedlings were planted and by 1704 the first coffee was harvested and eventually establishes "Java" coffee as a household name. The decedents of these plants would be given as precious gifts to European Kings. Later thefts from these Royal Gardens would lead to the eventual spread of coffee cultivation throughout the world from the Caribbean to South America.

• 1698

Something is brewing in London within Johnathan's Coffee House in Change Alley. John Castaing begins to issue a list of stock and commodity prices. It is the earliest evidence of organized trading in marketable securities in London. Men gather not only for their morning fix, they trade information and end-up dealing in commodities. Alas, the London Stock Exchange is born, one of the world's oldest!
• 1710
Those clever French create a new way to make coffee by submersing the ground coffee, enclosed in a linen bag in hot water and letting it steep until the desired strength of brew is achieved. Yummy. No more grinds in the cup or in your teeth.
• 1713-14
More coffee intrigue... The Dutch did an odd thing that leads to the greatest heist in history! The Mayor of Amsterdam presents a gift of a young coffee plant to King Louis XIV of France. He has it placed, this most valuable of plant, within the walled protection of the Royal Botanical Gardens in Paris for those in his court to be in awe of. He too would stop by and admire this singular coffee plant that could - that would... change the world. More about the thief, the clever heist and this plant's offshoot little sprout that takes a great global adventure later...
• 1715

Back to some fun factoids: London is on the verge of becoming the largest city in Western Europe with more than 630,000 residents. Can you believe it? And coffee has really taken off. There are more than 2000 coffee houses in and around London to satisfy these enterprising busy Brits on their quest to become #1. Onward and upward! Keep up the good work.

• 1720
Café Florian opens in Venice, Italy in Piazza San Marco. It's still open to this day. When in Venice do as the Venetians do... Stop by for an espresso.

• 1721

Berlin gets its first coffee house. Finally, something to wash down the strudel!

You can read the rest of the web page here:

Along with that, I found this web page with instructions on how to make coffee the way it was don in the 1700’s:

It's hard to imagine life without coffee. The stuff has an uncanny ability to slip itself into any type of meal, at any time of day, and into any type of social situation. But in spite of the fact that Americans drink about 150 billion cups of it each year, we should remind ourselves that consuming coffee is a relatively new habit. Tobacco smoking has been around for thousands of years. Making opium is virtually a Stone Age technology. Drinking coffee, by contrast, is only one thousand years old. While Sufi monks were the first to popularize the habit around 1000 AD, it wasn't for another six hundred years or so that coffee drinking got going in the West. European pharmacopeias up until then had included intoxicants, sedatives, and even psychedelics. None of this prepared them for caffeine.
While some complained about the insomnia, and others worried about the potential sexual side effects, the vast majority of Europeans were completely enamored with the caffeine buzz. They lauded its ability to deter drowsiness, enhance memory, and suppress the appetite (a particularly useful effect in an age when famine always lurked around the corner). Most of all, they praised coffee's mood-enhancing qualities. Coffee promised its drinkers the best of both worlds; you got the fun of the tavern without the awful hangover the next day.

They weren't so excited about coffee's distinctive taste. Contemporaries described it as a "syrup of soot" and an "essence of boiled shoes" that "smelled like old crusts and leather" with a mouth-feel akin to "puddle water." Critics likened coffee to the black waters of the mythological River Styx of ancient Greek legend, which dead souls crossed to enter the underworld.
Did these seventeenth-century coffee-haters have a point? I was curious to find out. Luckily, I realized I could prepare my own in four easy steps.
Find some beans. Until the first European coffee plantation was established in Java around 1700 AD, the entire world's coffee beans were grown in Ethiopia and southern Yemen. Most coffee shops today don't offer unroasted beans, but eventually I managed to find some at a specialty roaster down the street.

Roast your beans over a fire. After the arduous journey from the Arabian city of Mocha -- center of the early modern international coffee wholesale market -- to Europe, it was time to roast those beans. This was done the old fashioned way: in a frying pan or skillet over a fire. Now, this sounds easier than it actually is. Once you get your fire going, briskly stir your beans in the skillet until you hear them begin to "crack," sort of like popcorn. But keep those babies moving, the whole process happens in a matter of minutes and it's frighteningly easy to unevenly roast them. I completely burned my first batch. I had marginally better success once I resorted to the stove. No wonder people wanted to entrust this task to the experts; as early as 1700, merchant-roasters began to market their own "brands," which they distributed to popular coffee houses around town.

Grind and boil your coffee beans. Once the beans were roasted, they were ground in a mortar, strained in a sieve, and then boiled for about 15 minutes. There was no such thing as a 17th century espresso; that wouldn't be available for another two hundred years. The finished product was a lot closer to thick, unfiltered Turkish coffee. And the potency? That's hard to tell. Historians estimate that the typical 17th century cup of coffee was made using one or two ounces of coffee to three or four cups of water. Compare that to the single drip we enjoy today, which uses about one ounce of coffee to 1 and 1/2 cups of water. It's pretty safe to say that we're a lot more caffeinated in the 21st century.

Drink your coffee. At last, drink your coffee in a small, shallow "dish" -- the handles evolved a little bit later. Although my coffee tasted a little smoky and burned, and the texture was decidedly muddier than the stuff I'm used to, I did detect some nice fruity notes from the freshly roasted beans. This certainly wasn't the best cup I've ever had, but it was far from the worst.
Am I giving 17th century coffee too much credit? That's entirely possible. A bean's journey from Mocha to London could take weeks, even months. And since coffee was in such high demand and quality beans were hard to come by, unscrupulous coffee sellers were frequently accused (with good reason) of reusing beans or mixing them in with dirt and twigs to stretch out the product.

Tune in to my interview with Phil Johnson!

Tune in to my interview with Phil Johnson!
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