Maybe, just maybe, we’re spoiled a bit with our coffee these days.
Today, we have our choices of single-origin espressos, pumpkin lattes, and even grande vanilla lattes, iced, sugar-free, with soy. It was not so long ago that coffee options were black, cream and/or sugar.
Coffee During the Civil War
At the time of the Civil War, American’s actually drank a fair share of coffee.
According to LandrethSeeds.com, The U.S. soldier’s special relationship with coffee dates to 1832, when President Andrew Jackson ordered coffee and sugar added to the daily basic military food ration. Both eventually took the place of the soldiers’ daily whiskey ration, which was eliminated in 1837. When the Civil War broke out, soldiers quickly grew to love their coffee. It was easily transportable and not prone to spoil while in camp or on the march. Better yet, it provided energy and an opportunity for social interaction.
The soldiers received the beans either in raw or roasted form, and, if they were raw, they roasted them over a fire. The coffee was made by smashing the beans with the butt of a rifle and boiling with water.
Unfortunately, things changed for the Confederate soldiers when President Lincoln blockaded Confederate seaports on 19 April 19, 1861. Coffee supplies quickly ran dry for the South.
According the CivilWarTalk, there often wasn’t any coffee in the coffee. Substitutes used for coffee were various “parched, dried, browned or roasted” plant material that were boiled to extract flavor. The resulting hot swill was called “Lincoln Coffee” by unfortunate Confederate soldiers.
Here are Some of the Coffee Substitutes Used During the Civil War by Southerners:
- cotton seeds
- dandelion root
- okra seeds
- sugar cane seeds
- wheat berries
- asparagus seeds
- wood splinters
Here is a typical recipe for making Civil War coffee – this one using beets:
“Take the common garden beet, wash it clean, cut it into small pieces, twice the size of a bean of coffee; put into the coffee toaster or pan, and roast as you do your coffee–perfectly brown. Take care not to burn while …ing it. When sufficiently dry and hard, grind it in a clean mill, and take half a common size coffee cup of the grounds, and boil in one gallon water. Then settle with an egg, and send to the table, hot. Sweeten with very? little sugar, and add good cream or milk, … coffee can be drank by children with impunity, and will not (in my judgment,) either impair sight or nerves. Col. Wm. W. D. Wea… and myself have tried it, and find it almost equal, when properly made, to either the Java, Brazilian or Mocha coffee.” source: http://www.uttyler.edu/vbetts/coffee.htm
Here is another interesting recipe from the Arkansas Democrat using cigar stumps and bark:
—To Make Coffee.—Take tan bark, three parts; three old cigar stumps and a quart of water, mix well, and boil fifteen minutes in a dirty coffee pot, and the best judges cannot tell it from the finest Mocha. source: http://www.uttyler.edu/vbetts/coffee.htm
Coffee Drinking During World War II:
Though not as bad as the Civil War, things got tough again during World War II.
At the beginning of World War II, coffee consumption in the U.S. was about 20 lbs. per capita. Despite record coffee production in Latin American countries, it was decided that coffee should be one of the products rationed for the war – the reason being that coffee was needed for the military, and that U.S. shipping should be used for more important tasks than importing coffee.
When rationing took effect on November 29, 1942, however, coffee was cut back to 10 lbs. per year, or one pound every five weeks. In order for the coffee drinker to manage, Life magazine suggested “coffee stretching” in this article.
Coffee stretching could be achieved one of three ways:
- Not filling cups to the brim, thereby getting a higher yield of cups/batch.
- Double-dipping, which involved adding more water to used coffee grounds to produce a bit more coffee.
- Adding chicory to coffee at a ratio of one-half once of chicory to one pound of coffee, which wold result in a third more coffee.
Don’t take your coffee for granted. The next time your latte art is a little off, think of how fortunate you really are.