Coffee, Tea, and Chocolate

In the 1700s, coffee, tea, and chocolate offered Europeans a tantalizing taste of far-away cultures that most had never encountered. Initially, using coffee, tea, and chocolate to make the mornings more bearable or to stay awake later was a luxury available only to the wealthy. But by the end of the 1700s, they were enjoyed by people from all classes.

The Spanish imported chocolate from Latin America in 1503. At first, Spaniards followed the Mesoamerican custom of drinking chocolate: blending cacao with water. But Europeans soon began adding sugar to the bitter concoction, along with other costly imports such as cinnamon, vanilla, rosewater, pistachios, and almonds.

Before long, drinking chocolate became essential to Europe's breakfast ritual. Some people even enjoyed chocolate as a social, evening beverage, with just the right amount of caffeine and sugar (sometimes even spiked with wine) to help them perk up and party on.

In 1755, Madame de Pompadour, Louis XV's mistress, glamorized the widespread caffeine habit when she commissioned this portrait of herself receiving her cup of coffee—all the rage at the time. She wears similarly stylish and exotic Turkish dress.

Chinese tea was something of a novelty in 1600s Europe, but by the late 1700s it was a major part of daily life. Contemporaries regarded tea as a drug, praised by some for inspiring imaginative thinking, while others warned of its similarity to opium. It was widely appreciated as an energy boost and digestive aid.

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