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From Curiosi to Consumers

From Curiosi to Consumers

(p.51) Chapter Two From Curiosi to Consumers
Eating the Enlightenment
E.C. Spary
University of Chicago Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter discusses urban consumption and the global trade of coffee. It discusses how coffee was viewed in France. Coffee was regarded as a symbol of increasing foreign invasion into French ways of life. This product featured in literature about the history of stimulants and luxury consumption. This chapter also looks at discourses that facilitated new forms of socialization at all levels.

Keywords:   France, coffee, stimulants, luxury consumption, foreign invasion, Colbertian foreign policy

The digestion debate of the early eighteenth century helped to fashion a new body politics for Paris. Successive generations of radical commentators from the 1710s onward presented alimentary hygiene as a tactic of political self-presentation. New mechanical physiologies were invoked to support calls for the cultivation of the strong body as an indispensable part of a reformed French nation, as we will see in later chapters. If one side in the conflict over diet and the politics of bodily knowledge explicitly sought the reform of the status quo, on the other side were those who not only welcomed, but even promoted the extension of European diet to foods hitherto regarded as outlandish and luxurious, and who viewed cuisine and courtly styles of consumption as desirable marks of taste and civilization. The knowledge projects associated with such positions rested upon rather different sorts of claims about the effects of foodstuffs upon body and mind, and often found favor in medical and scientific circles indebted to Crown patronage.

Perhaps the most significant difference European eating habits underwent in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was the increasingly generalized consumption of new and exotic foods, especially coffee, tea, chocolate, and sugar. In this chapter and the next, I take coffee as an exemplary substance for exploring one conjuncture of taste, expertise, and politics, which I want to argue was prominent in enlightened accounts of the effects of diet upon mind. Coffee, surely the drink that after wine is most associated with the French, exemplified the cultivation of reason and was therefore a valuable aid to an enlightened self-presentation. In addition, coffee stood for novelty. As an entirely new substance, not known to the ancients and not used in Paris before the 1650s, coffee provoked extensive commentary on (p.52) the significance of dietary change for bodies, society, and learning. The process of converting coffee consumption from the arcane to the everyday and the process of turning it into the object of knowledge proceeded in parallel. Coffee’s novel status allowed different groups to lay claim to scholarly expertise about its qualities, identity, and preparation. This makes it a useful focus for an inquiry into how knowledge about food was generated in enlightened Parisian society.1Coffee entered scholarship between 1670 and 1730. The first date coincides with a historical event widely taken to mark the beginning of wider public familiarity with coffee in Paris, namely the visit of the Ottoman ambassador to the capital in 1669; the second marks the decade by which coffee had become an everyday substance for many of the capital’s inhabitants. Coffee is also a microcosm of European relations with the rest of the world during a key historical period. As a commodity, coffee exemplifies contemporary transformations in world trading patterns that would fundamentally and permanently alter European tastes. What people in eighteenth-century Paris ate would from this time onward make a vast difference in very distant lands. In 1670 there was still little demand for coffee in France, except in towns with heavy concentrations of Levantine merchants, such as Marseille and Lyon. The production of coffee as a literary good thus preceded, but probably also fostered, its evolution into a major import commodity.2 Coffee was not indigenous to the Middle East—it was probably transplanted there from Ethiopia—but by the late seventeenth century plantations at Bayt al Faqih on the Arabian peninsula supplied demand across the Ottoman empire. The crop was sold at Mocha, largely to Cairoese traders, but increasingly also to European merchants, especially the Dutch, who formed colonial plantations in Java from the 1690s onward. By the 1730s, however, the Ottoman empire had become an important client for French coffee, grown in colonial plantations. By the 1750s the French had overtaken their rivals, the English and Dutch, to constitute the largest European presence (p.53) in Smyrna, the main Ottoman port for international trade.3 The embrace of exotic foods and of nouvelle cuisine by Parisian eaters thus mirrored a profound shift in French commercial and foreign relations between 1670 and 1730, which converted the kingdom into a major player in European imperialism and colonialism. The metropolis ceased to be a closed citadel; it was now a hub of trade and consumption, open to a growing global market in foodstuffs. Debates over the consumption of nouvelle cuisine and new or exotic foods now reflected anxieties over French national identity, as well as over European relations with the rest of the globe.4 The period covered by this chapter thus marks a critical turning point in the history of French commercial relations with the Levant and also with the rest of the world—a turning point that denotes not only a commercial change but also a transformation in the management of natural resources. French scholarship contributed to these transformations in important ways.

For the first part of the period covered by this chapter, French merchants did not deal in coffee themselves. It was a commodity about which they knew little, a trade already dominated by the minority peoples and tributary states of the Ottoman empire—Armenians, Persians, Jews, and Syrians. The Turks generally did not conduct long-distance trade, and at Red Sea ports such as Jedda and Basra it was traders from these minorities who exchanged coffee from Mocha for luxury goods from the Far East. With their networks of contacts stretching throughout the East Indies and the Ottoman empire, such merchants probably also dominated the fledgling coffee trade to Europe.5 The very first Constantinople coffee-house had been founded by Syrians in 1555. When the Turks knocked on the gates of Vienna, Armenian traders followed in their wake, bringing the small luxuries of the Ottoman empire to Europeans. In some accounts, the first coffee-house in Paris was founded in 1671 or 1672 by the Armenian merchant Pascal. Similar go-betweens also founded coffee-houses elsewhere in Europe, such as the Ragusan Pasqua Rosa in London and Amsterdam, and in Paris another Armenian, Maliban, a Persian merchant, Jobé Makara, and a street vendor known only as “Le Candiot,” the Cretan.6

(p.54) The coffee trade first became a focus of interest for the French as a byproduct of a larger program for reshaping commercial relations with the Levant, initiated by Louis XIV’s chief minister, Jean-Baptiste Colbert. But these commercial transformations also required a changed understanding of the Levant, the colonies, the luxury trade, and ultimately of coffee itself. How did coffee come to be understood in the metropolis, as plant, drink, and commodity? What disciplines and epistemological forms existed that could encompass this new substance, of interest to ministers creating foreign policy as well as to ordinary Parisians? Precisely because coffee was a newcomer in a society with an expanding print culture and increasingly exoticized consumption habits, it lends itself to a study of the conjuncture of knowledge and consumption. This chapter shows how the agency of experts in food knowledge came to be aligned with the interests of an increasingly centralized Crown administration between 1670 and 1730. It demonstrates how different sorts of claimants to expertise—Orientalists, merchants, colonial administrators, journalists, collectors, medical practitioners, and botanists— crafted public authority over a new natural substance, in part through representing it in texts and images.

As an object of knowledge, coffee first reached Parisians via a network of Orientalist experts: collectors, curiosi, and philologists who redefined the Levant for polite readers through their travel accounts and fictional writings, even as they worked on behalf of the Crown to reshape French commercial and political relations with the Ottoman empire. A couple of decades later, coffee had become the subject of attempts to create a new maritime trading network and of the first French colonial cultivation programs. For the first time, it became a focus of scholarly interest in its own right, as well as a playful source of literary creativity. Only after this date did metropolitan botanists begin to have direct access to coffee, and they sought to reinvent it as a subject of cultivatory and botanical expertise rather than literature or philology. Paris was an important site for the promotion of new exotic foods, drinks, and drugs as materia medica. Yet until the end of the reign of Louis XIV, botanists’ pronouncements on the subject of coffee did not rest upon knowledge of the living plant, and they had no involvement with colonial cultivation programs. It was not until later that they played an active (p.55) role in translating the main site of French colonial coffee production from east to west—to France’s Antillean rather than Mascarene colonies. This shift, brokered by many intermediaries, made it possible for coffee to become an everyday consumer good within the French metropolis.

The translation of coffee expertise from one field of knowledge to another thus accompanied the translation of coffee from a luxurious rarity into a commonplace beverage. In different ways, Orientalists, collectors, and botanists all interpreted and appropriated coffee to fit the needs of a centralizing absolutist State. Their expertise in the matter of coffee was a product of their ability to make their particular skills indispensable to the Crown’s administrative needs worldwide. By 1730 the effects, composition, source, and public significance of coffee had become topics on which learned experts could advise both public and administrators with authority. To describe these changes, sociological models of networks, rather than the linear commodity histories or object biographies favored in most historical sources, provide the most useful model of the history of foodstuffs. In this chapter, I explore three networks, which, reflecting their geographical and commercial remit, I refer to as the Oriental, Indian, and American networks.7

The “Oriental” Age of French Coffee

Most historians date the beginnings of Parisian coffee consumption to a visit by the Turkish ambassador, Soliman Aga, to the city in 1669. At his lodgings, elite visitors from court and city were served coffee in tiny cups by servants dressed in exotic Turkish garb. Coffee had been drunk throughout the Middle East since the second half of the sixteenth century; one hundred years later, it had become an established part of daily life in the Ottoman empire, and a leading luxury import. At the time of Soliman Aga’s visit, there was a considerable French presence in Levantine and Eastern Mediterranean seaports. The French négociants or long-distance merchants who frequented such ports mostly originated from Marseille; such coffee consumption as occurred in France prior to Soliman Aga’s visit can often be tied to these very groups. In the Ottoman empire, French merchants established ghetto settlements in port towns, represented by a royal official, a consul or (in the Porte) the king’s ambassador himself. They brought minerals, precious metals, coin, New World commodities, and European manufactured goods, especially silk or wool cloth, to the vast market that was the Ottoman empire, a congeries of states sharing a common administrative (p.56) structure but a diversity of languages, religions and ways of life. Here they exchanged their wares for goods from the East: spices, drugs, porcelain, cotton, and silk.8

From Curiosi to Consumers

Figure 2.1. French coffee trade routes, 1670–1730. (1) The Levantine route, between Marseille and Cairo. (2) The East Indies route, from St. Malo via the Cape of Good Hope to the Mascarene Islands, the Indian trading outposts, and the Yemen. (3) The American route, between western French ports and the Antillean colonies. Prepared by the author using Inkscape software and a free downloadable map from

Soliman’s embassy was made possible—some even said his passage to France was paid—by the French ambassador to the Ottoman empire, Denis de la Haye Vantelet, whose embassy to the Levant coincided with a program for restoring wealth to the realm in the wake of lengthy European wars, promoted by the minister Colbert. As the latter noted in 1671, “the only extensive [international] trade conducted in France” was that with the Levant, but merchants from Marseille had contributed to the decline in French profits from this trade—and, more significantly, in France’s international reputation—by passing bad coin. It was for the ambassador, a Crown employee independent of the Marseille merchant dynasties, to rectify the situation and restore trade with the Ottoman empire to its former profitability. Among de la Haye’s orders from Colbert were to negotiate a renewal of the trade agreement between France and the Ottoman empire on terms more favorable to the French. In addition, Colbert sought direct trading access (p.57) to the Indies via the Red Sea for French merchants, as part of an attempt to secure French global trade monopolies.9

With de la Haye, we are immediately plunged into the niceties of diplomacy in the age of Louis XIV. The fate of coffee as a historical and epistemological object was bound up with the changing balance of power between Europe and the Ottoman empire; as the centralized administrative apparatus of the old empire crumbled, coffee in France would shift from being an imported Oriental luxury to becoming a leading colonial product. In 1669, however, this shift was not yet apparent. De la Haye’s embassy made little headway even in obtaining due ambassadorial courtesies from the Grand Vizier, chief official of the Ottoman empire, Köprülüzade Fazil Ahmed Pacha, let alone in brokering a vital new trade agreement. Despite his attempts to portray the power and magnificence of his own monarch as on a par with those of the Grand Sultan, de la Haye thus failed to manifest French monarchical authority successfully before the Ottoman court.10 At home this failure was viewed as damaging to Louis XIV’s presentation of himself as a ruler on a par with the Roman emperors of classical antiquity. To compound matters, de la Haye encountered hostility from local French traders, who availed themselves of every opportunity to send unfavorable reports of his activities and conduct back to court. Though the ambassador was not sacked, he was given the order to withdraw from the Levant embassy. But he did not board the royal ships sent to collect him; instead, it was Soliman Aga who traveled to France in his stead. The ability to send an envoy from the Grand Turk himself back to court might well have counted in de la Haye’s favor, but the Provençal merchants proclaimed Soliman Aga nothing more than de la Haye’s puppet, a fake without any power to assist in negotiating the treaty that Colbert desired.11

From this perspective, the creation of a coffee fashion in Paris looks somewhat different. The journey by Soliman that supposedly brought coffee to the attention of Parisian and court society may well have been a tactic in de la Haye’s attempt to bolster his perceived diplomatic prowess. (p.58) If the ambassador could not reach the Grand Sultan, the Ottoman empire would be brought back to France by someone who could enact Orientalism before an audience of French consumers. This event took place at a time of profound upheaval in political and commercial relations between France, other European nations, and the Ottoman empire. It is significant for our understanding of the historical relationship between politics, consumption, commerce, and culture that what is remembered of Soliman’s role was not de la Haye’s reputation, nor indeed some new political or commercial relationship between the Ottoman empire and France, but rather a fashion that was an apparently accidental byproduct of an attempt to stage the Ottoman empire credibly at the heart of the French court. In fact, the status of Soliman Aga and the precise nature of his relations with de la Haye were never fully clarified, either in Paris or at court. We can explore his reception in France through Molière’s satire, Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, a play commissioned by Louis XIV himself after Soliman’s visit. Here everything turns on the theme of people who are not what they seem. The hero, originally played by Molière himself, is a wealthy bourgeois (in other words a town-dweller rather than a courtier) who hopes to appear a gentleman. To that end, he hires music, dancing, and philosophy masters, and dresses in expensive garb. But in his turn, he too is deceived when a “Turk” purporting to be the son of the Grand Sultan appears to claim his daughter’s hand in marriage. For this is none other than the daughter’s existing suitor, disguised as a Turk. The plot thus turns on a double deception: the impersonation of a Turk by a Frenchman, but also the impersonation of a gentleman by a rich commoner. Both events are identical transactions in one sense, for dress and manner deceive others into taking the individual for better than he is.12

Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme touched a nerve in French high society. Not long before, Louis XIV had imprisoned the intendant Nicolas Fouquet, whose house and lifestyle rivaled the splendor of Versailles, on charges of embezzlement.13 Concern about the pretensions of the upwardly mobile to rank, connoisseurship, and learning, and about the role of consumption and display in that process, formed a central theme in debates about the relationship between wealth and taste from these decades onward. In the metropolis, where even poor residents rapidly learned to manipulate the trappings (p.59) of luxury consumption and display, critics addressed the individual and collective implications for French society of the new material goods that were flooding it. From its very beginnings, the coffee habit in Paris would be a sign of the power of consumption to permit upward mobility, to seal the success of impersonations of a higher social state. Accordingly, all histories of Soliman Aga addressed the theme of impersonation: was he merely a domestic of the Grand Sultan, or an official ambassador? His ambiguity is reflected in modern histories, which confer on him several different titles and names. The memoirs of the chevalier Laurent d’Arvieux, an equally enigmatic figure, offer an explanation that aligns with what we know of the Ottoman empire’s diplomatic and administrative structure in these decades. D’Arvieux had begun life as Laurent Arviou, from the Marseille branch of a family of long-distance traders originally from Lombardy. After extensive commercial travels in the eastern Mediterranean, he became something of a general fixer for the Crown in the Levant, resolving tricky diplomatic and military issues thanks to his detailed knowledge of languages and politics in the region. The particle de (which implied nobility) was added to his name later, when Arviou began to move in ministerial and diplomatic circles.14

As with d’Arvieux, Soliman’s name became corrupted. In some sources he appears as “Soliman Aga Mustapha Raca.” “Mustapha Raca” was not Soliman’s name but his Turkish title, “muteferaca,” an administrative rank translatable as “distinguished man.” From seraglio gardener, a post in the Sultan’s household, the Ottoman civil servant Süleymān Agha had been promoted to this position which, as d’Arvieux said, “is best compared to that of Gentleman- in- Waiting to the King’s household.” In d’Arvieux’s account, Süleymān occupied the position of a royal valet: of gentlemanly standing, certainly, but with doubtful credentials as an official political representative of the Ottoman empire. In passing, d’Arvieux also remarked that Süleymān was a native of Bosnia. The capture of children from conquered Christian states had begun as a form of tribute levied by the Ottoman empire but by the late seventeenth century was a routine means of recruiting high-ranking civil servants, educated to their posts from infancy in a special school in the Sultan’s palace, the Topkapi. Bosnia, where a substantial part of the population (p.60) had converted to Islam over several centuries of Ottoman rule, had supplied several prominent administrators. Thus Süleymān—the most famous Turk in French history—was not even a Turk.15 After Süleymān landed at Toulon, the whole affair increasingly took on the air of a comedy of errors, in which the minister for foreign affairs, Hugues de Lyonne, charged to give audience to the envoy, “was to play the Grand Vizier.” He performed the role under the direction of d’Arvieux, who set the stage at Suresnes, just outside Paris, where de Lyonne, dressed in a black satin robe embroidered with silver thread, received Süleymān after “the manner in which the Grand Viziers give audience to Foreign Ministers.” And there was no more appropriate way of doing so than by serving Süleymān a cup of coffee, the conventional Ottoman sign that one’s audience with the Grand Vizier was now over. This dramatic reconstruction of the Ottoman court in France was undertaken for the benefit of a man who, himself, was to dramatize the Orient for the French, and the whole process was observed, through windows of Venetian glass, by “a number of persons of distinction, drawn to this ceremony out of curiosity.” Throughout this game of international diplomacy, no one, in the last analysis, was what he appeared. Coffee was a commodity that embodied a culture of impersonation and parody, a political weapon from which no one in literate circles of absolutist France, not even the king and his ministers, was immune. Hence it was also a dangerous weapon; for a subsequent audience with the envoy, d’Arvieux advised the minister to conduct himself in his normal manner, since “it would have been better to receive the Envoy in accordance with French grandeur, than to stoop to adopting their [manners], while abandoning our own.” The minister, in making a spectacle out of himself, was potentially compromising royal dignity. But the damage was done: “Turkish manners” had been adopted by a minister, however briefly, and they would be emulated throughout high society.

Coffee’s introduction to Paris, its status as an object of knowledge, cannot be divorced from international or domestic politics in a world where (p.61) the Ottoman empire was still the leading international power and European states competed for its favor. But its history is also entangled with late seventeenth- century scholarship and the culture of curiosity. Parisians drove out to Issy to watch Süleymān taking his walk, eating, and praying, and lined the streets to see him making an official entry into Paris on December 3, 1669. They came in such numbers—as if to marvel at a new exotic animal in the royal menagerie—that Swiss guards were called in “to prevent disorder.”16

The Ottoman empire was not only the scene for debates over international trade and diplomacy, but also an important nexus in France’s network of scholarly curiosi. De la Haye was still in Constantinople in 1670 to greet his successor, Charles Olier de Nointel, a Jansenist magistrate from the parlement of Paris. It was Nointel who in 1673 finally brokered the revised Franco- Ottoman trade agreement sought by the Crown. He was also a major collector of antiquities and Oriental curiosities, forming a cabinet that quickly ruined him, coupled as it was with his attempts to live in an ostentatious manner so as to overawe Ottoman civil servants. Recalled to France, he soon fell from Crown favor, and died in poverty.17 But among the network of contacts and correspondents in which he participated, even among those who passed through his embassy, were scholars responsible for most of the French-language texts about coffee written before 1700. Metropolitan knowledge of coffee was largely created by this scholarly network of Orientalists and antiquarians, which had close ties to the Crown. These men were almost all experienced travelers in the Levant, who became indispensable royal aides during the execution of Colbert’s foreign policy toward the Ottoman empire. Moreover, they represented a new sort of expertise: back in France, they supplanted a cohort of royal interpreters, érudits with a reading knowledge only of Turkish, Arabic, Greek, and Hebrew. In place of erudition, these men could offer their personal experience of the East, its languages, customs, antiquities, and politics.18

(p.62) In other words, knowledge about coffee in Paris was produced by the very same people who helped to craft a new understanding of the Levant, and to invent Orientalism as a foreign policy, a literary genre, a collecting fashion, and a new domain of erudition. It was they who helped to commodify the Orient for polite society, and to process the Levant as part of a cultural politics intricately bound up with Louis XIV’s attempts to represent himself as heir to a Roman imperial tradition, and with Colbert’s attempts to manage the wealth of the State. The French owed that artifact “the Orient,” as well as that artifact “coffee,” to such individuals. The same network of philology, diplomacy, and commerce, at its other extremity, also produced the main French-language book on coffee of the seventeenth century. De l’Vsage du Caphé, du Thé, et du Chocolate (On the Use of Coffee, Tea, and Chocolate), published in 1671, was an immediate success, the edition rapidly selling out. De l’Vsage du Caphé has a complex publishing history, typical of early modern eclecticism. The work was compiled and edited by Philippe Sylvestre Dufour, a Protestant grocer-apothecary of Provençal origin, trading from Lyon. A much extended edition appeared in 1684, this time under Dufour’s name, as Traitez Nouveaux & Curieux du Café, du Thé, et du Chocolat (New and Curious Treatises upon Coffee, Tea, and Chocolate), and a Latin translation appeared the following year.19

The first edition of De l’Vsage du Caphé consisted of little more than quotations from travelers’ accounts of coffee drinking and physicians’ accounts of its properties and uses. The 1684 edition, however, was a very different matter. It gave coffee substantially more coverage: in 1671 chocolate had received 91 pages, coffee 47, and tea 24, but by 1684 coffee occupied 215 pages, the bulk of the book. The reviewer of this second edition for the official learned periodical Journal des Sçavans noted: “There is nothing which is more fashionable nowadays than Coffee.” By the 1690s, coffee towered over the other two drinks in its importance as a consumer good, and it would continue to be the focal point for literary interest in new exotic foods throughout the eighteenth century. Coffee’s significance for French (p.63) (p.64) consumers led to its becoming a major symbol of the problems and possibilities of exotic and luxury consumption, as we will see.20

From Curiosi to Consumers

Figure 2.2. Philippe Sylvestre Dufour, Traitez Nouveaux & curieux du café, du thé et du chocolate (Lyon: Jean Girin & Barthelemy Riviere, 1685), plate opp. p. 1. Coffee is represented by a seated, cross-legged man dressed as a Turk, with a branch of the plant, some coffee beans, and a roasting device below. Copperplate engraving, unknown artist. British Library.

The three beverages addressed in De l’Vsage du Caphé have remained linked in food history ever since. Yet there is nothing self-evident about their association. In the 1680s, coffee was imported to France from the Ottoman empire, tea traveled from China or Japan, while chocolate came from the Americas via Spain. Only the pattern of European commercial relations with the rest of the world as it was shortly before 1700 makes sense of this literary geography of foodstuffs. Dufour wrote of exotic ingesta that were reasonably well known because they had become established commodities along international trade routes. Yerba, kava, betel, coca, and a host of other substances that were used recreationally elsewhere in the world did not feature in his work or the genre it created.21 The dyad of East and West Indies constituted the commercial geography of early modern France upon which Dufour’s wealth depended, and, as in Rameau’s opera-ballet Les Indes Galantes (The Gallant Indies) fifty years later, it was unproblematic for him to amalgamate these different parts of the world into a common “exotic” encompassing Turks, Persians, Chinese, Indians, and Americans. Of the three beverages Dufour discussed, however, he only had direct access to coffee; as he explained in 1684, “I was not content to consult a great number of Savants inside & outside the kingdom who do me the honour of engaging in commerce with me. I also extended my research into the depths of the Orient, where I conduct my trade.”22 And coffee, its properties and correct usage, was the subject in which he interested himself most actively.

An important stage in the domestication of coffee within French culture involved its medicinal properties. Like other new foods and drinks, it created uncertainties that were resolved by technologies of knowledge drawn from medicine and other well-established European disciplines: case histories— cures and illnesses caused by coffee—as well as printed denunciations and defenses of its effects on the health. Dufour’s primary concern was to justify coffee as a medicinal preparation, not a recreational substance. In his (p.65) eyes, its history was part of a bigger history of materia medica, rather than the foundation of a new genre, the history of stimulants. All the themes he included in the 1684 treatise point toward this medicinal understanding of coffee. There was a chemical analysis of the drink, conducted by Dufour and a local apothecary, Cassaire; there were reflections on the theological significance of consuming exotica; and there were descriptions of cures effected by coffee, culled from letters sent to Dufour by physicians in Grenoble, Montpellier, and elsewhere. There was also an account of Dufour’s use of coffee to treat his own migraines.23

The 1684 treatise also represented a much bolder project, however. It constituted Dufour’s claim to be an author, and thus a member of the Republic of Letters. Many references within the book tied Dufour to the network of diplomatic antiquarians and philologists who were the acknowledged contemporary authorities on the Levant, in the eyes of Crown and public alike. Even Dufour himself felt it necessary to defend the role of author, however, for this was not a self-evident role for a merchant in late seventeenth-century France. In particular, he daringly laid claim to public expertise on the basis of his commercial experience rather than his scholarly reputation:

The profession I make of Merchant seems to me not to be incompatible with that of Author, especially on this occasion, where it is a matter of a drug of which Merchants have given us knowledge. It is to those who have traded in the Levant, that we in France owe the discovery of Coffee.… For a subject of this sort, I will even cover a great many things about which a Merchant may be better informed than a Philosopher.

These facts included the source, preparation, and preservation of coffee, all areas “in which [Dufour’s] correspondence makes him more instructed, than a Savant could be by all his meditations.”24

Merchants had been used as advisors and consultants to the Crown by ministers from Colbert to the Pontchartrains. Nevertheless, Dufour’s claim to be a coffee expert was cautiously received by the reviewer of his book in the Journal des Sçavans, the nation’s most respectable scholarly periodical:


raising himself above the profession of Merchant which he wants it to be known that he practises, & reasoning as a Natural Philosopher, [the author] shows that the primary qualities [of coffee] depend on the primary parts which enter the composition of the mixts, & that the secondary [qualities] are but the effects of the latter. After having gone so far as to mock the Philosophers who assign degrees of heat or cold to different compounds, he says that things are only hot or cold relative to ourselves, or by comparing them to one another.

Though the reviewer hesitated to endorse Dufour’s critique of these already rather outdated claims from humoral medicine concerning the degrees of heat, cold, humidity, and siccity to be attributed to different foodstuffs, he was nevertheless impressed by the range of witnesses, scholarly and gentlemanly, which Dufour could muster in support of his account of coffee. Dufour’s correspondence with François Bernier, Gassendist physician and noted traveler in the Indies, “shows that he has taken care, as he avows, to consult the most skilful men of his acquaintance, & draw what he ought to give the public from their learning [lumières].” Coffee would repeatedly confront the French learned world with the same problem: it exemplified new approaches to learning, some of which were commanded by persons not within traditional spaces of scholarship or gentlemanliness. A literature about food constituted a new epistemological domain, where the likes of merchants, shopkeepers, and artisans could credibly feature alongside érudits and academicians. The expanding world of print permitted encounters between different knowledge experts, all of whom laid claim to be “enlightened.”25

For the Journal des Sçavans reviewer, Dufour’s treatise was noteworthy for the contrast between the commercial background of its author and its learned treatment of sources and etymology, values espoused by the network of French Orientalist antiquarian scholars with whom Dufour was in close contact. His production of coffee as an object of knowledge, consumption, and cure was made credible by his insertion into this network—he was himself a collector of coins and antiquities. In consequence, his correspondence (p.67) placed him firmly within the Republic of Letters, which united scholars across Europe. Several of his correspondents were renowned curious travelers in the Levant, who had direct personal knowledge of Nointel or de la Haye. Dufour’s close friend and translator, Jacob Spon, planned a journey around the Mediterranean area in the mid-1670s with Jean-Foy Vaillant, a royal antiquarian and numismatist also given collecting commissions by Colbert. Though they ended by traveling separately, Spon was able to admire Nointel’s collection of antiquities in Constantinople. Jean Chardin, another Protestant merchant, described Dufour as “one of my Illustrious and most intimate Friends,” and recommended his treatise as the authoritative source for information on coffee. Chardin’s journal of his second voyage to Persia remains one of the most famous travel accounts of the period and contains a detailed account of de la Haye and Nointel’s struggles to obtain trading concessions from the Ottoman empire. Laurent d’Arvieux was another of Dufour’s correspondents, and he published several travel accounts, as well as providing Molière with notes on Turkish customs for Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme. Other well-known Levantine travelers like Jean-Baptiste Tavernier formed part of this network, whose members wrote travel accounts covering much of the Levant, including Syria, Armenia, Georgia, Persia, the Lebanon, Palestine, Greece, Italy, and Dalmatia.26

There was thus direct continuity between the brokers of Colbertian foreign policy in the Ottoman empire, the network of curious collectors, and the authors or translators of coffee treatises. One individual who exemplifies this was Antoine Galland, a Norman Jansenist numismatist and antiquarian who accompanied Nointel when the new consul took up his post in 1670. He returned to the Levant twice more, on the third occasion accompanying Nointel’s successor, de Guilleragues (yet another Dufour correspondent). On his travels, Galland procured inscriptions, books, manuscripts, and antiquities for French scholars such as Spon and Melchisedech Thévenot, for courtiers including Colbert, and even for the king himself. The pamphlet on the “origins and progress of coffee,” which he published in 1699, was based on a letter written twenty years earlier to a Parisian antiquary at whose private (p.68) academy coffee was served in imitation of Eastern hospitality. Though generally described as a translation of an Arabic manuscript on coffee, Galland’s short pamphlet included etymological and philological commentaries, as well as a detailed refutation of an earlier account published by a Marronite scholar in Rome. As such, it contributed to the program of learning pursued by his network of collectors and correspondents.27 While in Paris, Galland maintained a tenuous foothold in high society, moving from household to household as secretary, librarian, and curator for a succession of wealthy patrons, trading on the expertise he had acquired in antiquities and matters Oriental. He would become best known as the translator of a collection of “Oriental” tales still well known as the Arabian Nights. After the publication of the first installment in 1704, he finally achieved public visibility as an expert on the East, and was appointed professor of Oriental languages at the prestigious Collège de France in 1709. The literary fashion for Orientalism that his writings fueled would continue into the eighteenth century with works like Montesquieu’s Lettres Persanes.28

Individuals like Galland both created and capitalized upon the metropolitan taste for Orientalism after 1670, to which the habit of coffee drinking belonged. But it is also obvious that the penniless Galland was able to make a living as a scholar on the basis of his expertise in the matter of coffee and other Oriental curiosities. Once again, it is possible to see that a new domain of expertise, knowledge, and capital was being constructed, in which such novel matters as coffee could find a place. Coffee drinking in Paris between 1670 and 1700 was, first and foremost, a way of displaying a fashionable familiarity with the cutting edge of academic scholarship, of marking out one’s credentials as a member of the curiosi. In turn, coffee found its cultural niche in the need for new ways of displaying hospitality that befitted a self-consciously rational public, an elite that was beginning to legitimate its status through the possession of lumières—enlightenment—and through forms of sociability designed to display that possession.29

(p.69) The Indian Ocean Network

Colbert himself was central to this Oriental network as a collector and patron. He was also central in setting in motion a “reversal of flow” in trading patterns that would eventually make French exports to the Levant more profitable than Levantine imports to France. His interventions in the Levant trade in the 1670s had two aims: to preserve the Ottoman empire as a market for goods coming from the new French manufactures established, as Laurent d’Arvieux nicely put it, “to counterfeit the woollen cloth of England, Holland, & Venice”; and to facilitate French commerce in luxuries from the Indies currently generating profits for other European nations, primarily spices, porcelain, and silks. Coffee, with which Colbert was able to give himself insomnia before he died in 1683, would be grafted onto these enterprises.30

As part of his plan for the Levant, Colbert sought a guarantee from the Ottomans that the maritime commerce route into the Red Sea to the crucial ports for the East Indies trade would be protected. The Portuguese were blockading the entrance to the Red Sea in order to protect their Indies trade route around the Cape of Good Hope. Colbert’s efforts to insert France into foreign trade took place with an eye to this successful diversion of the spice route from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean. The subsequent history of coffee as an object of knowledge is entangled with these maneuvers. Neither de la Haye nor Nointel could prevail upon the Sultan and his Grand Vizier to accord French merchant ships trading rights at Red Sea ports. As it became clear that French Levantine merchants would not be permitted to use the Red Sea route to Jedda for luxury goods from Asia and Africa, Colbert began to explore other ways of establishing a regular East Indies trade. Long-distance commerce in the Indian and Atlantic oceans became a priority for him and his successors, and in late 1669 and early 1670 he was engaged in assembling a “grand Asian fleet.” Pierre Pluchon has argued that the cultivation of maritime commerce routes between the Indies and France was merely a diversion from France’s colonial program. But the fate of coffee between 1670 and 1730 allows a different story to be told. This good was not one of the spices originally sought out by Europeans in the East Indies. It was a new commodity in European markets, whose precise function—spice? medicament? recreation?—was not clear for some time after it began to be consumed in the West. However, it rapidly became one of the major exotic imports and, like sugar, would become inextricably implicated (p.70) in European programs of colonization and slavery over the next two centuries, leaving a dismal legacy of problems still unresolved today. Coffee is the commodity that, more than any other, exhibits the continuities between the trading emporia system that had long dominated Asian commerce, and the spread of European colonization and the slave trade in the Americas and Africa. Its history as a traded good exemplifies this process and reveals how intricately natural knowledge was bound up in the process of empire- building.31

In the late seventeenth century, the principal long-distance merchants were shipowners and wealthy négociants from the port towns. Marseille in particular, with its Chamber of Commerce, played a prominent role as the sole French port to which coffee could legitimately be imported. Marseille hegemony over coffee was fragile, however, threatened as it was by rival programs for importing coffee via new routes or from new sources. These rivals included maritime trading companies founded by the Crown. Best-known among these merchant consortia was the Compagnie des Indes, founded in 1664, which changed hands several times during its fifty-year privilege. By 1707, at the end of the Spanish War of Succession, the consortium that had held the Compagnie’s Indian Ocean trading privileges since 1683 had become mired in debt. Its inability to undertake further voyages provided an opportunity that was seized by a new consortium of investors based in the Breton port of Saint Malo, and headed by two financiers, Antoine Crozat and Samuel Bernard. This Malouin consortium, which already monopolized French South Sea commerce, was headed by Jérôme de Pontchartrain. On becoming minister of the navy in 1699, de Pontchartrain promptly secured the right to import coffee direct from Mocha by sea for his former associates. This phase of the French coffee trade demonstrates how long-distance trading activities, formerly highly regionalized, gradually came under centralized Crown control after 1700.32

The Malouin investors financed an initial voyage to Mocha in 1707–10, followed by a second one in 1711–13. Their new East Indies Company was (p.71) largely controlled by the Crown, which appointed its directors and part of its administration. Between 1702 and 1720, the Malouins would outfit ten voyages to Mocha and twenty-seven to the East Indies. In Pluchon’s words, Saint Malo now became the “metropolis of commerce” for the South Seas, China, and the Indies.33 The significance of this shift for the history of coffee lay in the routes by which coffee reached France. Rather than seeking to break into existing trading networks, the East Indies Company endeavored to take a short cut by exploring completely new ventures. Initially the Malouin enterprises were principally commercial in nature; in 1708 and again in 1711 ships were sent out to the port of Mocha with a view to opening up a direct trade route around the Cape of Good Hope to the Yemen, making access to the Red Sea ports superfluous.34 One sound commercial reason for doing so was that between 1707 and 1720 the Porte imposed a ban on the export of coffee outside the Ottoman empire. The irregular nature of the coffee supply from Cairo resulting from the intermittent enforcement of this ban ensured that the activities of the Malouin consortium were highly profitable. And within a few years, the new Compagnie des Indes also added a new string to its bow. Rather than merely trading in coffee, it began to fund experiments for the introduction of coffee and other exotica to the colonies it administered, becoming a leading player in projects to naturalize exotic plants of commercial value in the French colonies. In this, the French Compagnie was following the example of the Dutch, whose colonial botanical gardens contributed to their consolidation of monopolies over the European market in nutmeg and clove. Such projects may have been a response to threats to the Compagnie’s Crown privilege from other entrepreneurs. In 1711, for example, the négociant Vauvré had approached the king and his ministers with a plan to redress what he represented as the unpatriotic neglect of natural productions by the Compagnie des Indes on its Indian Ocean base, the Isle de Bourbon (now Réunion). Instead, he promised to produce enough pepper, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and coffee to supply the needs of (p.72) French consumers within eight years, in return for the concession of the island and its dependencies.35

Horticultural knowledge now became central to coffee’s colonial and metropolitan identity. During the 1710s Compagnie des Indes administrators on the Isle de Bourbon developed a plant introduction program, beginning with coffee, whose domestic profitability was already well established. This project unfolded quite independently of institutional botanical intervention, but had strong Crown ties. La Grélodière, one of the travelers on the 1711–13 Mocha voyage, negotiated a promise from the sultan of the Yemen to recognize French trading rights at Mocha and to supply young coffee plants for cultivation in the Mascarene colonies, of whose existence the sultan proved well aware. The plan came to fruition in June 1715, when the Compagnie’s agent in Mocha shipped sixty young coffee plants aboard the Chasseur, bound for Bourbon. Just twenty of the plants reached Bourbon alive the following September, and this number dwindled to two after they were planted out in the colony. An assiduous program of cultivation and propagation nevertheless allowed the island’s governor, Desforges-Boucher, to begin sending coffee back to France by the mid-1720s.36

From a metropolitan standpoint, acclimatized coffee created fiscal dilemmas. The Malouin merchants had a trade monopoly in goods from the East Indies, but they could only import their coffee to mainland France through the port of Marseille, where it incurred a 20 percent entry duty. This monopoly system generated conflict between rival merchant groups, but also encouraged commercial collaboration between merchants from different cities. The leading work on coffee dating from this period was written by Jean de la Roque, who may himself have participated in the 1711 voyage, even though he came from a Marseille rather than a Malouin merchant family. Like Dufour’s book, de la Roque’s Voyage de l’Arabie Heureuse (Journey to Arabia Felix, 1716) is now regarded as one of the principal resources for writing the history of coffee. A long discourse on commercial and political relations between France and the Levant is leavened by curious anecdotes about eating crocodile eggs and ceremonial encounters with (p.73) governors. There follows a scholarly account of coffee, making extensive reference to all other published botanical descriptions of the coffee plant, together with an explanation of how the beans and the drink itself were prepared. Next is a treatise on the habit of coffee drinking in Europe, listing all the learned persons who had previously written on that subject. Antoine Galland supplied notes on the uses and nomenclature of coffee among the Arabs for the next essay, which also included an account of the origins of cafés in France and contemporary medical critiques of coffee. The book ends with a reprint of a poem on coffee originally published in a collection of fashionable songs, and the author’s personal description of visiting the Jardin des Plantes in Paris in July 1714, in the company of Galland and a Chinese scholar, Ouange. Here Antoine de Jussieu, professor of botany at the garden, showed the three visitors the first coffee plants ever grown on French soil.37

In many ways, the new Indies network resembled the sort of world in which knowledge about coffee had been constituted in the 1670s and 1680s. The Compagnie’s founders, Samuel Bernard and Antoine Crozat, moved between their provincial place of origin and courtly or metropolitan high society. Samuel Crozat and his brother Pierre, both rich financiers, were close to the Regent. Pierre Crozat, like Jean de la Roque’s brother Antoine, was a celebrated collector. However, these collectors specialized in fine art— paintings and sculpture—rather than coins and antiquities, and in modern Italian, Dutch, or French art rather than in classical and Oriental antiquity and philology. Pierre Crozat funded a vast project to publish engravings of the Italian art collection sold by Queen Christina of Sweden to the Regent, and his cabinet was frequented by leading artists and critics. Art historians have portrayed Crozat’s circle of private criticism and connoisseurship as the source of a new form of curiosity based on equality of taste, and of a new language of appreciation.38 Collecting was an important way for wealthy financiers to exchange financial resources for cultural credit; it permitted entry into the social and literary circles of the metropolis and was one way in which financiers achieved high social status during these very (p.74) decades. The lucrative privilege of editing the national newspaper, the Mercure, was held from 1721 to 1740 by Antoine de la Roque, assisted by his brother Jean; it gave ample space to collecting. For this network, coffee was an object of commercial gain and scholarly interest in its own right, rather than an advertisement for Orientalism. Yet the new status of coffee as a subject of learned inquiry and a fuel for mental creativity was mocked by other authors. Works like Jean de la Roque’s Voyage were seen as emanations of the new scholarship, dealing with absurd rather than elevated themes. This concern about the superficiality of fashionable knowledge arose in part from coffee’s status as a marker of new wealth and upward mobility, like the financiers themselves.

From Curiosi to Consumers

Figure 2.3. Antoine de la Roque sketched by Antoine Watteau, after 1709. Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

(p.75) In 1716 the royal treasury was declared empty. The Regent, with his trusted minister, the Scottish banker John Law, turned to private investment to rebuild French fortunes. Over the next decade, the funds invested in the Compagnie des Indes by shareholders great and small were absorbed into ministerial fundraising policies. This was also the decade in which the tax farmers’ role as Crown creditors became a permanent feature of national finance, a state of affairs that would last until the fall of the monarchy. Law began his reform program by yoking the Compagnie des Indes first to the Compagnie d’Occident, then to the national bank he founded. In the process, the Malouins’ monopoly was weakened. Law himself became the principal shareholder in the new merged company. With the advent of closer ties between Crown and colonial administration, new opportunities opened up for metropolitan scholars to insert themselves into the coffee trade. This brings us to the third network.39

The American Network

One might remark upon the low profile that natural history had within all of this, compared to its prominence in colonial administration after about 1750. Writing in the 1740s, Pierre Barrère, traveling naturalist, would date the beginnings of coffee cultivation on the South American island of Cayenne to 1721, when “some French Deserters, who had taken refuge in Suriname, and afterwards returned to Cayenne, thought they could obtain an amnesty by bringing some Coffee berries with them, which the Dutch had already cultivated for some time in their Colony.” Plants for political amnesty? This exchange conveys a sense of the political status that cultivatory skills, practices, and objects were acquiring in the eighteenth-century French colonial setting. It was during the eighteenth century that natural resources became an explicit focus for Crown investment and a highly politicized issue. Ministers now began to rely more heavily than ever upon the expertise of scientific practitioners, who collaborated with administrators in the effort to diversify natural resources both at home and in the colonies. Long-standing proposals for capturing lucrative global commerce in natural productions monopolized by other European powers were renewed and—quite literally—bore fruit. Thus coffee, having passed through successive (p.76) incarnations as a curiosity and and an aid to diplomacy, would become a major commodity, an everyday recreation, and a botanical species, pretty much in that order.40

It is important to emphasize that the initial impetus for colonial coffee cultivation was entirely unconnected with the activities of metropolitan botanists. At the royal natural history garden, the Jardin du Roi, the professor of botany, Antoine de Jussieu, had no contact with the coffee trade prior to 1714 except via his correspondent Gaudron, a master apothecary at Saint Malo. Both Gaudron and Jean de la Roque had received their descriptions of the coffee plant from Desnoyers, a ship’s surgeon on the second Mocha voyage of 1711–13. It was Gaudron who forwarded Desnoyers’s memoir to de Jussieu, and the botanist relied on it for a description of coffee he presented to the Académie Royale des Sciences in November 1713, when reporting that coffee seeds sent him by the Amsterdam botanist Caspar Commelin had germinated. The following year de Jussieu received a young coffee plant from the Regent Burgomaster of Amsterdam, Pancras, a replacement for one given to the king in 1712 by de Resson, a lieutenant-general of artillery, which had died.41 This showy, mature plant from Amsterdam was transported to the Jardin du Roi, where it flowered and fruited. Though several coffee plants in various stages of development were probably growing in Paris in 1714, this highly visible diplomatic gift became an icon for subsequent enterprises of naturalization. As late as 1788, the head gardener at the Jardin du Roi in Paris would suggest that colonial coffee production had originated at that metropolitan institution: “For a century the greater part of the plants introduced to France have had the Jardin du Roi for their nursery and there are some which have now become the subject of an extensive trade which has generated several million for the State, for example the revenue from coffee cultivation.”42

(p.77) How then did the arrival of the coffee plant in Paris help to reconfigure botanical expertise as a necessary part of commercial and colonial profitability, given that hitherto coffee had stood for quite different domains of knowledge and expertise, other networks, and distinct spaces? No author writing before 1700 had suggested that metropolitan botanical expertise was essential to the development of the coffee trade, and naturalization projects were in the hands of merchants or colonists, not centrally driven by the Crown. In 1713 coffee was already widely drunk on the streets of Paris, but it was still not accessible to the botanists of the Jardin du Roi: it was easier for this metropolitan scientific institution to acquire a plant from the Dutch, France’s old commercial and military rivals, than from the nation’s own East India Company. This tells us much about the lack of integration of botany within colonial and commercial policy circa 1700. The transformation can be traced through de Jussieu’s relationship with coffee between 1713 and 1723.

The papers presented to the Académie Royale des Sciences in 1713 were not published until 1716. In the meantime, Antoine de Jussieu had jettisoned his original account of the coffee plant to the Académie. In the published memoir, he substituted a new description and depiction of the coffee plant, as known to him through firsthand experience of the Jardin du Roi’s specimen, and used this to correct the accounts of earlier authors. The epistemological transformation that coffee underwent in this three-year period is evident from its new iconography. The ability of botanists to involve themselves in the global coffee trade depended in part on a displacement of attention away from the commodity, the domain of merchants’ skill, and toward the flower, the domain of botanists’ expertise. De Jussieu’s text was cited in later natural historical publications; significantly, it omitted any account of the Saint Malo consortium’s commercial enterprise or of its plans to introduce Arabian coffee to the Indian Ocean colony of Isle de Bourbon.43

In 1716 de Jussieu also defended a thesis on coffee in the Paris medical faculty in which he demonstrated his support for iatrochemistry and his enthusiasm for coffee as a new exotic drug. Following the traditional format of medical theses, it asked, “Whether coffee is healthy for men of Letters?,” a question resoundingly answered in the affirmative:

[De Jussieu] vividly depicts the misfortunes of studious people, exposed by their sedentary lifestyles, dogged efforts [and] regular late nights to a (p.78) (p.79) (p.80) host of diseases. The exhaustion they experience from the dissipation of animal spirits is the most common cause; the loss of that precious liquor destroys them. This principle of life extracted from the purest blood, subtilises in the brain to the point of meriting the name of spirits in some sense, spreads via the nerves throughout our whole machine; an instrument of the soul, it animates the body [and] is the link uniting them.

From Curiosi to Consumers

Figure 2.4. [Jean de La Roque,] Voyage de l’Arabie Heureuse (Amsterdam: Steenhouwer and Uytwerf, 1716), plate 3, opp. p. 240: “Rameau d’un Arbre de Café chargé de fleurs et de fruits, d’après le Naturel.” Jacob Deur. Cambridge University Library.

From Curiosi to Consumers

Figure 2.5. Histoire de l’Académie Royale des Sciences. Année M.DCCXIII. Avec les Memoires de Mathématique & de Phisique (Paris: Imprimerie Royale, 1716), “Mémoires,” plate opp. p. 298, showing a branch of the coffee tree according to Antoine de Jussieu’s botanical system. Copperplate engraving, P. Simonneau fils. Cambridge University Library.

Excessive loss of this “principle of life” weakened the link between body and soul, causing myriad health problems, beginning with stomach troubles, vomiting, and colic, and ending with thickened humors: “if one does not die, one lives with the pain of gout, nephritick, the stone, dropsy, asthma, hemorrhoids, the sorry fruits of assiduous labour.” In this regard, coffee was better than tea, which provoked transpiration without increasing the levels of spirits, or chocolate, which contained an indigestibly thick oil, harmful to studious consumers. Coffee “is fortunately coming to take the place of these drinks, and to take their place to advantage;… it remedies all the bad effects of mental labour through its oily, saline, [and] volatile principles.” The first salutary effects of coffee were experienced in the stomach; it eased digestive and circulatory processes, expedited secretion “& by giving the brain a new resource of esprits, sustains the body during great application & long wakefulness.” Early in the century, iatrochemists viewed the mind as a corporeal reserve that could be topped up from diet. Unlike other spirit-rich foods, however, coffee was hailed as a wonder drug because its volatile salts were chemically bound in such as way as to prevent excessively violent chemical activity within the body or mind, unlike wine. According to de Jussieu, coffee “seems to cheer [the mind], make It more fit for work, recreate it and dissipate Its cares.” Coffee thus exemplified a particular iatrochemical conjuncture of pleasure and learning: more than any other foodstuff, it epitomized the dietary ambitions of those aspiring to a state of enlightenment. This optimism was not universal, however. Some physicians claimed coffee had no medicinal properties at all, but was “only… an amusement suitable for interrupting [scholars’] work”; habitual consumption would soon cancel out any positive or negative health effects. Others cited coffee drinking as the cause of ill effects ranging from weight loss and insomnia to dysentery, and insisted that coffee was and must remain a remedy. By the 1750s certain physicians were arguing that coffee was especially unsuitable for men of letters.44

(p.81) De Jussieu’s personal commitment to coffee as a remedy encouraged his interest in the botany of the plant and explains his attempts to promote coffee cultivation in the French colonies in the 1710s and 1720s. Unlike previous commentators on coffee, he also moved from literary representations of coffee to practical intervention in coffee cultivation. Subsequent botanical involvement in naturalization programs for other plants rested on three types of interrelated knowledge-claims, which in anachronistic terms we might characterize as “biogeographical” “replicatory,” and “taxonomic”: naturalists needed (1) to recruit reports concerning the distribution of species around the globe, (2) to possess the skill to preserve and propagate exotic plants in metropolis, province or colony, and (3) to proclaim their exclusive right to define classificatory boundaries and especially species identity and difference. The immediate significance of such moves became evident in the case of wild coffee.

Wild Coffee

What excited particular interest both among botanists and within the Compagnie des Indes during these same years was the discovery of coffee plants growing wild on Bourbon itself. Louis Boyvin d’Hardancourt, a Compagnie official on an inspection tour of the Asian comptoirs, visited Bourbon in 1711 to find “wild coffee trees, of a height of ten to twelve feet, full of fruit” growing in the forest. “The coffee in the mature pods was falling to the ground.… I had as much as possible gathered up and had it made into two small bales, which I brought back to France in order to know its quality.” The plants’ identity was affirmed by the Bourbon settlers after comparison with the specimens recently arrived from Mocha.45

Back in Paris, Antoine de Jussieu only received news of indigenous coffee secondhand. Once again, it was Gaudron, his Saint Malo contact, who sent him news of the discovery, which was enthusiastically reported in the Académie des Sciences’ published history for 1716: “It would be an advantage for the Kingdom to have a Colonial source for this fruit which is so much in vogue. The difference between coffee from the Isle de Bourbon and that from Yemen might be to the advantage of the former, once it is better (p.82) known; if not, a way of correcting it might be found.” The discovery of wild coffee provoked Bourbon’s administrative council to propose a systematic survey of the island’s natural resources. The island’s governor traveled to Paris to present specimens of wild coffee to the Company, accompanied by a Bourbon creole, Jean-Baptiste Daillau, whose father had been involved in earlier acclimatization projects.46

Cross-questioned at the Jardin du Roi concerning the indigenous productions of Bourbon, with a view to ensuring no other natural treasures were going to waste, Daillau claimed to recognize coffee and pepper, but not vanilla. Armed with this authentication and eager for profit, the directors of the Compagnie des Indes and the island’s council joined in promoting wild coffee production. In September 1717 the Mocha plants on Bourbon flowered for the first time. The island’s military commander, Henri de Justamond, reported to his French correspondents that although the flowers were similar to those of wild coffee, the “wood and the leaf” were different. Wild coffee fruited once a year, not twice, and bore much smaller crops. The fruits were oval and pointed, in contrast to those borne by the Mocha plants. Nonetheless, during the autumn of 1717, fifty pounds of indigenous coffee were sent to the Compagnie’s directors in France, who congratulated themselves that the beans they had received were indeed “coffee whose cultivation will correct its small defects.” Contemporary accounts show that the flavor and mode of preparation were different also. Indigenous coffee still needed to be roasted, but one-third less ground coffee was required to make the drink. It also produced a beverage that was noticeably bitter. This too was ascribed to the lack of cultivation: the bitterness dissipated after three or four years of storage, and at least one Saint Malo optimist claimed that grafting would improve the flavor until “the finest connoisseurs can in no way distinguish the natural coffee of the island from that of Mocha.” By 1718 there were plans to make concessions of indigenous coffee cultivation on the island.47

Wild coffee flourished for a few years within an optimistic and ambitious program of inventorizing, cultivating, and improving natural resources, central (p.83) to which was a portrayal of Bourbon as a natural paradise: “This island has no animal, reptile or insect which is harmful; the water, and the air are marvellous here, one can sleep on the ground everywhere, day and night, without any risk… everything one sows or plants from Europe and the Indies grows and fruits to perfection here.” The wild coffee cultivation program was supported by the Compagnie des Indes, a body tied to John Law’s financial projects. When Law’s bank collapsed in 1720–21, the company’s future was only secured by a Crown takeover and the extensive reforms described above. De Jussieu, who had known of the existence of the Bourbon coffee plant since 1716, again only managed to obtain specimens of wild coffee following the collapse of the Malouin monopoly. This was thanks to the intervention of the new contrôleur général des finances, Law’s replacement. Félix Le Pelletier de la Houssaye was the son of the tax collector and parlementaire Nicolas Le Pelletier de la Houssaye, one of those to whom de Jussieu had personally exhibited the Jardin du Roi’s coffee plant in 1714.48

The new minister found himself in the midst of a pitched battle. Port customs officials were confiscating wild coffee cargoes, arguing that if it was the same as ordinary coffee, it must be imported to Marseille and properly taxed. If, however, wild coffee was not the same as ordinary coffee, then there was the possibility that a fraud was being perpetrated. When a cargo of Bourbon coffee arrived at L’Orient in 1721, ministerial intervention was necessary to obtain its release from customs. This fiscal dilemma prompted the minister to turn to botanical expertise as the means of settling whether wild coffee was, or was not, real coffee. In the summer of 1722 Antoine de Jussieu thanked the minister for inducing Le Cordier, a director of the Compagnie des Indes, to send him specimens of Bourbon coffee, which he identified as a member of the coffee genus, though not the same species as the plant that produced Mocha coffee. In spite of all the ways in which wild coffee differed from Mocha coffee—morphology, flavor, yield, geographical origin—de Jussieu supported the claims of the colonists that wild coffee and Mocha coffee were both “real” coffee, and argued for the commercial viability of the indigenous crop. The minister had evidently also asked de Jussieu to indicate whether wild coffee’s distinctive flavor could be disguised, for the botanist had experimented on mixtures of one part wild coffee to two parts Mocha coffee: “I can even confirm that when this coffee was presented (p.84) at the end of the meal to persons who had not been informed of the existence of another coffee, they were unable to perceive any difference.”49This last maneuver, deceiving the consuming public, in fact proved crucial to the commercial future of wild coffee, as to many subsequent state-approved surrogates. An unsigned memoir of 1722 proposed, similarly, that Bourbon coffee be sold in the East Indies in Mocha coffee wrappings. This was a way of dealing with widespread suspicion on the part of metropolitan merchants and consumers concerning the authenticity and quality of exotic drugs and spices, for unscrupulous traders commonly substituted, adulterated, or counterfeited these valuable goods. The claim that wild coffee was “real” coffee, and that its defects would be overcome by cultivation, proved difficult to sustain, however. The collapse of Law’s colonial program marked the end of a transparent relationship between metropolis and colony where wild coffee was concerned. After 1722, the company’s new directors pressed Desforges-Boucher to abandon wild coffee experiments and to increase the production of Mocha coffee beans on the island. Indigenous coffee, they informed him in 1725, was not wanted in France; the earlier shipments had remained rotting in the stores. The plan to wait until cultivation improved wild coffee had failed, it was implied, because the claim that wild coffee was real coffee could not be sustained among domestic vendors and consumers. Despite such injunctions, wild coffee continued to be grown on Bourbon, and was apparently mingled with the Mocha coffee crop, then shipped to Europe. Its distinct botanical identity was not made public until 1783, when Lamarck named it Coffea mauritiana in a botanical dictionary. Even today, this species forms a small percentage of the global coffee crop, and it has been joined by several other species and subspecies, mostly originating from Western Africa. Yet its very existence is scarcely noted in most historical treatises on coffee.50

A second acclimatizatory enterprise has attracted more historical attention. Young coffee plants grown from seed at the Jardin du Roi were transported to the French Antillean colony of Martinique by the botanist Michel Isambert, a protégé of de Jussieu who traveled with the official sanction (p.85) of the Paris Académie Royale des Sciences. The cultivation attempt failed when Isambert died soon after his arrival in July 1716. It was the intendant of the Antilles from 1719 to 1722, Charles Bénard, who finally convinced the Crown of the value of trialing coffee cultivation in French colonies. On June 25, 1720, the Conseil de marine voted to “Take [Bénard’s proposal] to the Regent. It seems [coffee] could be sent from here, it not being possible to get any from Mocha.” Later that year, a naval officer, chevalier Gabriel-Mathieu d’Erchigny de Clieu, was appointed by the director of the Jardin du Roi to accompany cuttings of the royal coffee plants to Martinique. Departing Rochefort that October, he famously shared his shipboard water ration with the plants, planting them out in Martinique in 1723. This journey was rapidly worked into an emblematic and oft-recounted history of naturalizatory heroism, with a trajectory from center to periphery. Its historical significance is, however, somewhat diminished by the fact that by 1724 only seed-grown plants, from several different sources, were known to exist on the island. Acclimatizing coffee was a multifocal event, involving planters, administrators, botanists, the academy, and the Crown. Only in retrospect would it be interpreted as a process driven by central botanical authority.51

From Martinique, coffee plants traveled to other French Antillean colonies, including Guadeloupe and, especially, Saint-Domingue, where coffee production rose with dramatic speed. Antillean coffee began to be imported to France by 1727, at first in very small quantities. By 1729 one Marseille merchant reported from Martinique that there were at least three million plants on the island, and that the plant grew “like a weed”; in 1732 he would estimate the population at some 25 million plants.52 The Compagnie des Indes fought hard to maintain its privileges against the tidal wave of coffee, wild, naturalized, adulterated, and smuggled, which began to reach (p.86) French shores by the end of the 1720s. Its directors solicited the Crown to defend the company’s exclusive right over the coffee trade between France and Mocha, proclaimed in 1723 and repeated in 1725.53 But the Compagnie singularly failed in its bid to control colonial coffee commerce. One reason for this lay in the fact that colonial coffee created a legislative loophole in the tightly woven fabric of French commercial society. Colonial coffee was not covered by the existing network of monopoly legislation, which covered most trade routes, land areas, and specific commodities. The battle was already lost by the time the Compagnie des Indes made a bold bid for proprietorship in 1730, arguing that its right to import coffee from one French island, Bourbon, gave it the right to trade in coffee produced by any and all French islands. The Compagnie’s claim, not surprisingly, fell foul of other legislation privileging coffee entry to the port of Marseille and also raised public concerns over the adulteration of exotic imports. A memoir defending its monopoly, which was being undermined by smuggled American-grown coffee, highlights the problem:

For fear that merchants would mix [Bourbon] and Mocha [coffee beans], And out of concern not to interfere with Public taste, the Compagnie des Indes has hitherto adopted the policy of not selling any [Bourbon coffee] within the Kingdom, & of exporting it all. Before offering it for consumption in France, it has been waiting until the finest taste would mistake the Coffee from that Island for that from Mocha. Bourbon Coffee is on the point of reaching that degree of perfection.

As late as 1731, the Compagnie was still not selling Bourbon coffee to French consumers, but was anticipating some future moment when the semi-wild qualities of the colonial product should have been corrected by cultivation. A horticultural knowledge-claim about the important differences in flavor and quality introduced into food plants by cultivation underpinned both this organization’s failure to dominate the colonial coffee trade to mainland France, and Antoine de Jussieu’s advice about how to manage the potential problem of public perception created by colonial coffee. Moreover, in a commercial move quite incomprehensible in today’s terms, (p.87) the Compagnie defended its policy regarding Bourbon coffee by presenting itself as the defender of French connoisseurship, protecting the drinking public against the evils of inferior-tasting coffee. Paris merchants, indeed, were asserting that Bourbon coffee “cannot call Itself coffee, as it only roughly resembles it, and is good for nothing, According to the trials that have been performed.” A memoir sent to the Conseil de Commerce in 1733 is redolent of the Bourbon taste experience: “Up to now,” the author commented, “the Coffee from that island which has reached Europe has smelt unripe, with a complex taste of mildew which it is impossible to remove.” This author argued, however, that the problem was one of inadequate methods of preservation, rather than an innate shortcoming of the colonial product. In general, therefore, the response to Bourbon coffee was not unanimously favorable, in spite of the claim by one traveling naturalist-clergyman that “the coffee of this island is more bitter and healthier than the other [i.e., Mocha coffee].” Bourbon coffee, instead, was sold to the Dutch, where it fetched prices almost as high as Mocha coffee. The company’s caution about selling Bourbon coffee within France indicates that the whole concept of a colonial coffee trade was still problematic by the 1730s, and for reasons connected with contemporary understandings of cultivation and connoisseurship. As with naturalization programs for spice plants, success depended on defending the claim that over time naturalization and cultivation would operate profound changes in the plant, enhancing its useful properties. For the remainder of the Old Regime, Parisian botanists continued to insist that the appropriate management of wild forms of particular plant species would convert them into valuable plantation crops. After 1750 colonial agriculture and experimental botany gained increasing Crown support thanks to these accounts of naturalization.54

It is only by considering such limiting cases, the uncertainties and hesitancies over wild coffee, colonial coffee, and adulterated coffee—goods that resembled coffee but were not quite the same, that threatened the boundaries of coffee as it was already known—that we can come to understand what coffee “was” for contemporaries. Clearly, its identity was not constant, but was the end product of many negotiations over value, meaning, and authenticity, which took place under very specific social and political circumstances. In effect, the colonial coffee offered by the Compagnie was (p.88) precisely what French consumers already knew to reject, an adulterated product. Either colonial coffee producers would need to sit out the period of time supporters of naturalization predicted it would take for the flavor of their product to improve, or else French consumers would have to compromise their connoisseurial standards.55 In the event, it was the second of these two changes that occurred, after legislation of 1736 and 1737 finally made the sale of Antillean coffee within the kingdom of France legal.56 The effect on the international coffee trade was rapid: according to Carrière, the trade in Mocha coffee declined in value over the course of the eighteenth century. Mocha coffee became a luxury good sold to the few, at twice the price of Antillean coffee, and preserved a “select clientele.” Antillean coffee undermined the huge profitability of the Levant coffee route, but made coffee accessible to many more Parisian drinkers. During the 1750s Antillean coffee production overtook that of Bourbon, and by the end of the century Bourbon coffee was a small fraction of a market dominated by the American product. At Beaucaire fair in the South of France, for example, the total coffee trade approximately tripled between 1744 and 1789, but the market sector of Antillean coffee increased twelvefold.57

As cheap colonial coffee conquered the metropolis in the second half of the century, it became available to many more consumers. Coffee, as a commodity, was now priced not only by its sensory properties, such as smell or appearance, but also by its place of origin. Works of natural history, medicine, and commerce advised the literate consumer as to the best qualities of coffee on the market. The product from Saint-Domingue was known as “the common Coffee,” that from Martinique was the best “Coffee of the Islands,” while Levantine coffee still reigned supreme. By the 1780s Mocha coffee was still regarded as “the richest in volatile principles, the most agreeable to the [senses of] taste and smell, and the one which, generally speaking, has always been preferred up to now and probably always will be.” One academician (p.89) (p.90) and traveler complained: “I left for the Indies with the prejudice that there was no difference, or at most a very slight one, between [colonial and Mocha] coffee: this prejudice, which I had acquired from experiments at the home of a person… at the head of the Compagnie des Indes, soon deserted me at Pondicherry.”58 In other words, well after colonial coffee had garnered a significant portion of the domestic market, it continued to suffer from a second-class reputation among eighteenth-century consumers.

From Curiosi to Consumers

Figure 2.6. Abbé Guillaume-Thomas-François Raynal, Histoire philosophique et politique des établissements & du commerce des Européens dans les deux Indes (La Haye: Gosse fils, 1774), vol. 2, frontispiece. Coffee and other colonial goods being unloaded from ships in Marseille harbor. Copperplate engraving by De Longueil after Charles Eisen. Cambridge University Library.

From Curiosi to Consumers

Figure 2.7. “Le Café du Bel Air ou les Gourmets du pont au Change en jouissance” (c. 1790). A polite consumer encounters “open air gourmets” drinking what they consider to be coffee. Note the fraudulent composition of this street “coffee” hinted at by the dog urinating into the cups. Ink and wash drawing, probably by François-Nicolas Martinet. Johann Jacobs Museum, Zürich, E87/229.

As coffee consumption became ubiquitous in the city, the commodity itself was reclassified in scientific, medical, and economic texts to sustain connoisseurial hierarchies of taste and social standing, giving rise to caricatures (p.91) such as that penned by the pharmacist, poet, philosophe, and spy Jacques-François Demachy in 1775.

For a Philosophe, it will always be a singular spectacle to see, on the one hand, a woman of high society, comfortably settled in her armchair, who consumes a succulent breakfast to which mocca has added its perfume from a well-varnished tea table, in a… gilded porcelain cup, with well-refined sugar & good cream; & on the other, a vegetable seller soaking a bad penny loaf in a detestable Liquor, which she has been told is Café au lait, in a ghastly earthenware pot far from being new, on a willow basket; especially when that Philosophe reflects that the breakfast is, at the least, superfluous for both of them.59

But now, the connoisseurial judgment of the coffee drinker was classified in accordance with a hierarchy based on financial value, rather than innate discriminatory powers.


Coffee is an especially interesting historical subject, but neither because it belongs within a history of stimulants nor because its history provides us with an ancestry for modern-day coffee drinking. Instead, coffee illustrates the epistemological peculiarity of comestibles. Coffee was exotic, novel, neither food nor medicament: a troublesome matter. It was also seen as a symbol of the increasing penetration of the foreign into French ways of life. As Philippe Hecquet put it in 1710, “The Romans… were lost for drinking like the Greeks; the French drink like the Arabs and Chinese: isn’t that to adopt a barbarous taste, & shouldn’t we be worried about it?”60 Coffee disrupted established conventions about eating and diet, and during the period covered by this book it underwent a complete transformation from a rare and foreign curiosity into an everyday and quintessentially French substance.

Ever since, coffee has been a familiar accompaniment to everyday life. It has figured in an extensive literature on the rise of European luxury consumption, commodity history, and the history of stimulants. The books and pamphlets that were written about the plant, the drink, and the habit between 1670 and 1730, and which have been the subject of this chapter, (p.92) have been plundered for “facts” about coffee, its origins and its consumption, or for colorful anecdotes. Our historical accounts of coffee are built upon these past attempts to make coffee known to Europeans, yet the status of such printed materials as the products of particular knowledge projects remains neglected. My reading frames this coffee literature within three networks, in which trade and knowledge overlapped: a Levantine network, in which antiquarian and philological experts became involved; an Indian Ocean network, in which connoisseurs of modern European art became involved; and an American network, in which botanical experts became involved. My claim is that the politics of coffee commerce and the practices of coffee consumption were entangled with the ends and knowledge-claims of these groups of learned practitioners, and vice versa.Rather than a continuous narrative thread, a winner’s history of how one stimulant entered European life, therefore, this chapter proposes a history of coffee written as a process of selective appropriations, rejections, and accommodations by various actors. This strategy calls for a different methodological approach to foodstuffs as historical subjects, at one and the same time material substances, commodities, political symbols, and epistemological categories. Such an approach must take into account the circumstances of production and circulation of the texts in which commodities were described, explained, and illustrated. In the existing secondary literature, however, the questions raised here have found little place. Within commodity history, the identity and historical continuity of individual commodities are taken for granted. This chapter shows the identity of coffee to have been a complex historical construct, built around models of metropolis and province, connoisseur and plebeian, rich and poor, natural and artificial. In his classic study of sugar, Sweetness and Power, Sidney Mintz gave commerce and economics priority as the real motors of changes in consumption. Both of these genres treat knowledge-claims about food as illustrative, a resource rather than the subject of historical investigation. But those who wrote about coffee were not isolated authors, passively responding to the impact of a new social practice. They were actively involved in fostering new political and scholarly meanings and identities for coffee, as well as in advancing or opposing its use. Many were members of networks of sociability, learning, trade, travel, and correspondence, the same networks that during this very period were advancing Crown agendas for the development of global trade and colonialism. Different categories of learned experts—philologists, collectors, travelers, physicians, botanists, gardeners, even merchants—were aligning their expertise with the Crown’s need to relate to its subjects in new ways as consumption habits changed. Metropolitan scholarship and (p.93) foreign policy came into alignment as scholarship became a resource for resolving problems of colonial government, international commerce, or foreign diplomacy. It was partly thanks to coffee that French scholars became implicated in political and commercial programs central to European global imperialism.

The new imperial France required new sorts of knowledge. Merchants could lay claim to an expertise that the Crown could not otherwise access, while traditional forms of metropolitan erudition might prove inadequate to grappling with problems such as conversing with Ottoman envoys, or preserving and propagating the coffee plant. New types of learned expert thus became useful to the Crown because they specialized in new forms of knowledge such as Orientalism, horticulture, or botany, or had new sorts of skills. The terrain of public alimentary expertise to which these scholars of coffee laid claim altered as coffee consumption spread throughout French society between 1670 and 1730. Coffee’s history is thus not one of continuity, but one of transformation. Its translation from the Levant to the colonial world, marking a shift in global trade patterns, was also accompanied by epistemic shifts. Against world or global histories, with their emphasis on environmental transformation and the “big-picture narrative,” against commodity histories that take the subject of circulation and exchange as a fixed datum, we need to understand past narratives that compose the good as an ontological unity in time and space as themselves historical products requiring analysis.61

The increasingly central place of coffee in everyday life was underlined when naval wars threatened trade routes; at such times, coffee became news. During the Seven Years’ War, consumers like François-Marie Arouet de Voltaire anxiously awaited announcements of coffee cargoes captured from the enemy and auctioned in French ports by word of mouth or in the public papers. What makes coffee a commodity with distinctly modern hallmarks is the signal role it came to play in public life and a global financial market. When Jean de la Roque’s father returned from his travels in the Levant with Denis de la Haye’s father to drink coffee in Marseille in 1644, coffee was so rare that his supply and the associated equipment were housed in his cabinet of curiosities. Between 1670 and 1730 coffee was naturalized not only in the colonies, but also in the metropolis, where Parisian consumers came to regard it as both ubiquitous and indispensable. Public responses to shortages highlighted the ways in which habits of consumption were essentially forms of political action. As early as the 1690s an anonymous correspondent (p.94) of the newspaper Mercure Galant conferred on coffee a status akin to that of bread as a barometer of public feeling: “People are concerned with its availability & cost, & fear shortages of [coffee] as they do those of bread… news that it is rare & dear is upsetting news for the Public.” If early modern rulers began by attempting to curb the consumption of exotica using sumptuary legislation, by the middle of the eighteenth century British and French governments were following behind the taste trend, shaping colonial policy to fit domestic demand. Rather than controlling consumption, ministers now only tried to stem the flow and ensure that the State, rather than rival nations, companies, or private individuals, would become the prime beneficiary of the growing habit for the exotic. As Raynal remarked in the closing years of the Old Regime, “The passion of Europeans for this foreign luxury has been so lively, that neither the heaviest taxes, nor the most severe prohibitions and penalties have been able to stop it. Having battled in vain against an inclination which chafed against hindrance, all governments have been forced to give way to the torrent.” Contemporaries attached much significance to these overwhelming desires in the age of reason precisely because they seemed to be a social phenomenon which it was beyond the power of traditional forms of authority to control. Taste was neither static nor apolitical in the eighteenth century, but was rather a meter of profound concerns about the effects of changes in consumption upon society.62

As coffee became more widespread, it ceased to be an exclusive property, belonging to a narrow social elite. The social trajectory of coffee was this: it had begun as a curiosity, became a fashionable luxury, and ended as an everyday good. In the process, it also transformed the everyday. By the 1770s it had come to belong to the wider public domain of vegetable-sellers, inter alia. But by this point it was also no longer a unitary substance or good; in commercial and gustatory terms, it was stratified to accommodate multiple groups of users, each of which valued it in different ways, and that stratification was mirrored in the expanding classification of coffee and other commodities in dictionaries and encyclopedias. As the epistemological identity of “coffee” was reconfigured around the questions of authenticity raised by the introduction of colonial and naturalized coffee grades, so metropolitan consumers were likewise reclassified into connoisseurs and those who aped their habits but lacked the ability to discriminate between real and fake coffee. This identification of consumption and discrimination with personal authenticity might be, I suggested at the start, a microcosm of the fears, opportunities, (p.95) and dilemmas that the rise of luxury created in French society. In this sense, coffee possesses a wider significance than just as a means for measuring how linguistic, horticultural, botanical, chemical, and gustatory knowledge shaped public and administrative relations with new foodstuffs. Rather, in the words of Natacha Coquery, the transformations of coffee and of knowledge about coffee reflect “the passage from a civilisation of rarity and a stationary economy to one of development and abundance.”63


(1) . On the introduction of coffee to Europe, see, among others, Wild 2004; Ellis 2000; Weinberg and Bealer 2001; Pendergrast 2001. The chronology of the introduction and consumption of coffee varies between sources; the scholarly rigor and thoroughness evident in Ellis 2004a has yet to be emulated for France, but see especially Turner 2004.

(2) . Provençal traders and traveling scholars, including Jean de Thévenot, who returned from a voyage to the East in 1659, were apparently the first Parisian coffee drinkers. By the 1660s, some coffee was already being drunk in the south of France (Turner 2004, 39; Courdurié 1980, 75; Boulanger 1980, 3). Coffee became a literary theme in the same decade; see D[u] F[our de la Crespelière] 1671, 646 (approved by the Royal censors in 1668); Franklin 1887–1902, 13:34–35 (quoting a poem of 1666).

(3) . Panzac 1996, 27, 183, 198–99; Rafeq 2001, 139–40. Archives de la Chambre de Commerce de Marseille, ms. B 152, “Instructions Données a M. fabre…, “ fos. 374–397, reveals that between 1680 and 1706 coffee was among the most profitable goods traded from the Levant.

(4) . Chaudhuri 1985; Smith 2002; Abad 2002; Pennell 1999.

(5) . Ellis 2004a, 144; Chaudhuri 1985, chap. 8; Sandgruber 1991.

(6) . According to [de la Roque] 1716, 253–343. See also Hattox 1991, 76–79; Rafeq 2001; Teply 1978; Sandgruber 1994, 76–77. Numerous sources claim that Pasqua Rosee or Pasqua

(7) . Spary 2005.

(8) . Panzac 1996, 95, 201; I?nalcik 1994; Raymond 1984, chaps. 1 and 2; 1999, vol. 1, chap. 4. The embassy of Soliman Aga is mentioned in most histories of coffee, though few discuss the circumstances outside France that led to his visit.

(9) . Clément 1861–82, 2:628–30, 841–49. On relations between the Ottoman empire and European traders, see Goffman 2002, esp. 197–205; Sundeen 2003. Ottoman authorities began intervening in the coffee trade to Europeans from 1696 onwards (Genç 2001).

(10) . On the problems diplomats faced in impersonating the monarch, see especially Jettot 2010.

(11) . Faroqhi 1994, 519–22, 616; Mantran 1984, chap. 4; Abdel-Halim 1964, esp. 27–81; Labat 1735, 4:127–32. This embassy and its successors received much attention in newspapers (Martino 1970, 90–91).

(12) . Molière 1962; Martino 1970, 93, 227–31.

(13) . On the political significance of Fouquet’s ostentation, see Burke 1992, chap. 4; Foucher-Wolniewicz 1992, 29–45; on his fall as part of Colbert’s “cultural politics,” cf. Mazauric 2007, 35.

(14) . See Hossain 1990. D’Arvieux later became French consul at Aleppo in Syria. The editor of Molière 1962, 506 describes him as an Italian adventurer; see also Martino 1970, 228. On D’Arvieux’s name, see Labat 1735, 1:iij–xvj; Pettet 2003. A royal edict of August 1669 had recently permitted nobles to undertake overseas trade, but D’Arvieux’s commercial activities still threatened his social standing. See Schaeper 1983, 38–39.

(15) . Labat 1735, 4:119–25, 176–81. D’Arvieux also suggested that the Divan contributed to Süleymān’s predicament by sending him to France without proper authority, to see whether Louis XIV could be cowed. Many variants of “muteferaca” are given in Leclant 1951, 3–4. In Clément 1861–82, 2:491n, 849n, “Soliman Aga Mustapha Raca” is described as the director of the Seraglio gardens, who later became a valet to the Sultan. Abdel-Halim 1964, 30–32 offers almost the only fully accurate account: the problem was that the Sultan’s official letters to Süleymān identified him as a servant, not an ambassador (Labat 1735, 4:148–49, 168, 174–75). On Bosnian Christians in the Ottoman civil service, see Hegyi 1989, 52; Lovrenović 2001, 121; Faroqhi 1995, 52; Kiel 2004; Zirojević 2004, 169.

(16) . Labat 1735, 4:131–32, 135, 144–45, 150–51, 153–54; Vandal 1900, 25. French luxury fabrics were coveted import goods in the Ottoman empire; see Mantran 1986; Raymond 2002, chap. 2. On curiosity, display and power, see Wintroub 2006; Mukerji 1997; Robbins 2001; Pomian 1990; Daston and Park 1998; Evans and Marr 2006; Kenny 1998, 2004; Jones-Davies 2005.

(17) . Hossain 1990; Meignen 1976, 119–20; Vandal 1900, X–XI, 35–37, 111, 232–40, 256; Omont 1902, 1:198.

(18) . D’Arvieux was involved in the training of interpreters (Labat 1735, 4:147–50; Hossain 1990, 1992, 1993; Bléchet 1997; Ter Minassian 1997). On “Orientalism” and on European scholarly contacts with the Ottoman empire, see Dew 2009; Brentjes 1999. According to Jettot 2010, 218, the norm at this time was for French diplomats to be ignorant of all languages other than their own.

(19) . The three editions are Dufour 1671, 1684, 1685. The authorship of the original Latin treatise is highly contested, but often attributed to Dufour’s close friend Jacob Spon, albeit with little foundation; see Pommier 1993; Duval 1912; Turner 2004, 41; Vicaire 1890, cols. 2983–96; Quérard 1869, 1014; Biographie Universelle 40:76–78. Certainly Spon was responsible for the Latin translation in 1685. Dufour and Spon were also related by marriage (Santschi 1993; Biographie Universelle 11:447–48). Dufour’s Provençal origins are mentioned in Nouvelles de la République des Lettres 3 (1685): 497. On Orientalism under Louis XIV, see especially Dew 2009.

(20) . Journal des Sçavans 11 (January 1685): 46. The letters of Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, Mme de Sévigné, document the fluctuating fortunes of coffee at court after 1676. Bayle (1685, 505) observed that “one hardly sees a family in Paris or Lyon above the artisans, in which the Coffee pot is not to be found by the fire after dinner every day,” while the Paris grocer Pomet (1694, 143–44) claimed that coffee and chocolate had completely replaced tea in fashionable circles since the 1670s. See also Franklin 1887–1902, 13:47–58; Leclant 1951, 9–10; Lansard 1991, 130.

(21) . Courtwright 2001, chap. 3; Cowan 2007, 214.

(22) . Dufour 1684: unpaginated preface.

(23) . Dufour 1684, chap. 12; Cowan 2007, 217–18. For a discussion of stimulant history, see chapter 4 in this volume.

(24) . Dufour 1684, unpaginated preface. Dufour 1679, a travelers’ manual, was dedicated to Jean Chardin. On the Republic of Letters, see Goldgar 1995; Daston 1991; Brockliss 2002; Bots and Waquet 1997.

(25) . Journal des Sçavans 11 (January 1685): 49. Bayle 1685 likewise viewed Dufour’s coupling of commerce with learning as exceptional; see also Jeannin 1995; Julia 1995. On the recruitment of another merchant family, the Savarys, by the French Crown, see Schaeper 1983, 5–6; “Preface historique,” in Savary Des Bruslons and Savary 1759–65, vol. 1, I–XXXIII. On Bernier, see Ames 2003; Dew 2009, chap. 3.

(26) . Chardin emigrated to England in the 1680s, after acting as a translator at the Persian court thanks to his extensive knowledge of Levantine languages and etiquette (Chardin 1927, 241; 1686, esp. 1–83; Eurich 2003; Martino 1970, 56). For other travel accounts penned by Dufour’s correspondents, see Spon and Wheler 1724; Galland 2002; Labat 1735; Tavernier 1679. For Dufour’s other correspondents, see Nouvelles de la République des lettres 3 (1685): 498. Another coffee work produced by this network, no longer extant, was written by Vaillant’s son Jean-François-Foy Vaillant, probably in the early 1680s (Biographie Universelle 42:409).

(27) . Galland 1992. For the publishing history of this work, see [de la Roque] 1716, 269–71. On Nointel and Galland’s collecting activities, see Vandal 1900, 49, 74–76; Omont 1902, 1:175–221; Abdel-Halim 1964; Biographie Universelle 15:438–41. Colbert was the first of several ministers for whom Galland and his fellow curious travelers collected in the East; see Omont 1902, 1:222; Saunders 1991; Dew 2009, 16–40. On Thévenot, see Dew 2006; 2009, chap. 2; McClaughlin 1975. On the dedicatee of Galland 1992, Chassebras de Camaille (possibly the Italian traveler Jacques Chassebras de Cramailles), see Abdel-Halim 1964, 95.

(28) . Mille et une nuits was dedicated to the daughter of Galland’s deceased patron, the ambassador Gabriel-Joseph de Lavergne Guilleragues; see Cary 1963, chap. 4; Mantran 1986; Martino 1970, 29, 87, 253–79; Pomeau and Ehrard 1984, 62–64.

(29) . On Spon’s travels, see Omont 1902, 1:197–98.

(30) . Raymond 1999, 1:133–35, 144–57; Labat 1735, 4:204; Duncan 1705, 113.

(31) . Savary des Bruslons and Savary 1723–30, 1:1097–1107; Clément 1861–82, 2:841–49; De Blégny 1687, 113; Ames 1990, 548; 1992; 1996, chap. 3; Pluchon 1991, 149–51. On the Red Sea trade, see Raymond 1999, vol. 1, chap. 4; on trading emporia, see Chaudhuri 1985, 209.

(32) . Haudrère 2005, 1:23–24; Durand 1971, 134, 330; Schaeper 1983, 51–52; Saint-Germain 1960. Jérôme de Pontchartrain succeeded his father Louis as naval minister in 1699; see Pluchon 1991, 1:114–19, 105. Antoine Crozat made a fortune speculating on the Mississippi bubble. Samuel Bernard was a member of the Crown’s Conseil de Commerce and held the tobacco monopoly.

(33) . The Malouins viewed their trade as an integral part of Colbert’s program for increasing French manufacturing exports and replacing ancient East Indies trade routes in luxury goods like cotton, spices, and porcelain with French long-distance maritime trade. The Dutch paid 4,000,000 livres for their Mocha coffee cargo (Archives Nationales, Aix-en-Provence, C2 14, fos. 206 ro.–212 ro.) On the Compagnie des Indes, see Raynal 1774, 2:144–63; Haudrère 1993; Kaeppelin 1967.

(34) . Haudrère 2005, 1:27–29; [de la Roque] 1716. The Yemen was at this time only partly under Ottoman control, and its sultan made trading agreements with European merchants that infringed directives from the central Ottoman administration. See Panzac 1996, 202; Raymond 1999, 1:144, 150–51.

(35) . Lougnon 1956, 64–65; Kaeppelin 1967, 600–601; Courdurié 1980, 76; Malleret 1974, 93–99; Archives Nationales, Aix-en-Provence, C3 3, fos. 83 ro.–131 vo., 179 ro.–194 vo., with quote at 98 ro. See also Wijnands 1988; Stearn 1962; Courdurié 1980, 78; Spary 2000, chap. 2; Regourd 1999; Drayton 2000. Raymond 1999, 1:175n, calculates that coffee constituted 67 percent of French Levantine purchases by 1715, so these plans addressed what was by now a substantial sector of French imports.

(36) . Archives Nationales, Aix-en-Provence, C3 3, fos. 209 ro.–210 vo.; Lougnon 1956, 73–75; Biographie Universelle 28:78; anon. 1798, pt. 1, 38.

(37) . Carrière [1973], 1:359–74; [de la Roque] 1716; Kaeppelin 1967, pt. 5, chap. 1; Buti 2001, 227.

(38) . Biographie Universelle 36:441–42. In the secondary literature, there is confusion over the identity and relationship of the Crozats. Some write of two financier brothers, Pierre and Antoine, others of a father and son, Antoine and Joseph-Antoine, and there is disagreement over which of them was the famous collector (Scott 1995, 226; Haskell 1987, 18–57; Biographie Universelle 9:540–41; Banks 1977, 69–76; Crow 1985, 41; Pomian 1990, 160; Chaussinand-Nogaret 1972, 22–30).

(39) . Durand 1971, 449; Faure 1977; Murphy 1997; Cellard 1996; Hamilton 1991; Chauss-inand-Nogaret 1972, 30–37. The Compagnie d’Occident was founded in 1717, when Samuel Bernard ceded Louisiana to the Crown, and was united to the Compagnie des Indes in 1719 (Haudrère 2005, 1:37–51; Pluchon 1991, 1:49).

(40) . Barrère 1743, 110. Aublet 1775, 51, dated the introduction of coffee to Surinam to 1719. According to Franklin 1887–1902, 13:106–7; Masson 1912, 165; Legrand d’Aussy 1783, 3:121, the two individuals involved were a Marseillois, de Mourgues, and one de la Mothe Aigron, a lieutenant in Cayenne. In 1713 there was a proposal to approach Guy-Crescent Fagon, intendant of the Jardin du Roi, to recommend a botanist to travel to the Yemen and supervise the gift of coffee plants from the Sultan, though nothing came of it. See Archives Nationales, Aix-en-Provence, C3 3, fos. 209 ro.–209 vo. On French colonial botany after 1750, see Regourd 1999; Spary 2000, chap. 2.

(41) . Turner 2004, 52; anon. 1798, 10. De Jussieu’s report to the Académie Royale des Sciences, presented on November 18, 1713, is in Archives de l’Académie des Sciences, Paris, “Procès-verbaux,” 1713, fo. 339 vo. [De la Roque]De la Roque 1716, 239–40, identifies Desnoyers as de Jussieu’s source. On Commelin, see Wijnands 1983, chap. 1.

(42) . Archives Nationales, Paris, AJ15 502: André Thouin, draft project for the regulation of the Jardin, September 1788. See also Gentil 1787, 14; Aublet 1775.

(43) . French medicine had been transformed by the introduction of new, high-profile remedies such as quinquina and ipecacuanha. De Jussieu’s project continued this tradition (Spary 2004).

(44) . Mémoires de Trévoux (1716): 674–80; see also Archives de l’Académie des Sciences, Paris: “Procès-verbaux,” 1715, fos. 102ro–102vo; review of [de la Roque] 1716 in Journal des Sçavans 60 (September 1716): 243–53. As Franklin 1887–1902, 13:76–77, shows, there was no unanimity among medical practitioners over coffee’s health effects. For a representative spectrum of views on the medicinal properties of coffee, compare Dufour 1684, 89; anon. 1696, 27?29; Duncan 1705; L?mery 1705, chap. 9; Hecquet 1710a, vol. 2, chap. 10; anon. [1711?]. On coffee as a cause of nervous disease, see also chapter 5 in this volume.

(45) . Quoted in Lougnon 1956, 132–33; on D’Hardancourt, see Haudrère 1989, 1:52–53, 99.

(46) . Fontenelle 1718; Archives Nationales, Aix-en-Provence, C3 4, fos. 7 ro.–36 ro. For earlier attempts by colonists to acclimatize profitable plants on Bourbon, see Lougnon 1956, 75–78; Archives Nationales, Aix-en-Provence, C3 3, fos. 75 ro.–76 vo.

(47) . Lougnon 1956, chap. 4, with quotations, 114, 116, 149; Archives Nationales, Aix-en-Provence, C3 4, fos. 37 ro.–43 vo. De Justamond was commander of the island and played an active part in encouraging wild coffee cultivation. Le Gentil de la Barbinais 1728, 3:98–99, similarly claimed that cultivational techniques would improve flavor.

(48) . Archives Nationales, Aix-en-Provence, C3 3, fos. 75 ro.–76 vo.; compare fos. 83 ro.–131 vo. On Le Pelletier de la Houssaye, see Lacroix 1936.

(49) . Archives Nationales, Aix-en-Provence, C3 3, fos. 75 ro.–76 vo., 83 ro.–131 vo.; Lougnon 1956, 150; Lacroix 1936, 206–14. On the Law scheme as it affected the colonies and the Compagnie des Indes, see Haudrère 1989, chap. 1; Hilaire-Pérez 1997, 217–21.

(50) . An exception to the general neglect is Turner 2004, chap. 1. Archives Nationales, Aix-en-Provence, C3 4, fos. 56 ro.–58 vo.; Lougnon 1956, chap. 10. Wild coffee still lacked a definitive botanical identity at the end of the eighteenth century. See “Caffeyer,” Lamarck 1783, 550–51; anon. 1798, pt. 1, 18–19. On coffee substitutes and fraud, see Pomet 1694; Spary unpublished, chap. 8.

(51) . Archives Nationales, Aix-en-Provence, C8A 21, fo. 156; C8A 26, fos. 325 ro.–329 vo.; C8A 27, fos. 254 ro.–260 vo.; C8B 4, fo. 67. Bénard was active in founding a botanic garden in the colony. De Clieu accorded the Jardin and himself a central place in coffee acclimatization, but this was not unchallenged; cf. anon. 1774. All accounts of his voyage in fact date from considerably later, e.g., [Chanvalon]Chanvalon 1763, 122; anon. 1773; de Clieu 1774; Cassan 1789; anon. 1798, pt. 1, xxix, 17. For secondary accounts, see Franklin 1887–1902, 13:105–6; Stella 1997, 30; Masson 1912, 165. From contemporary documents I construct a somewhat different picture of events: Archives Nationales, Aix-en-Provence, C8A 33, fo. 49 vo. shows that by 1724 no adult plants existed on Martinique, though colonists had successfully germinated coffee beans brought by de Clieu as well as beans from Bourbon and Surinam. On the Jardin du Roi and early colonial cultivation, see Bourguet and Bonneuil 1999.

(52) . Trouillot 1982; Turner 2004, 59; Carrière [1973], 1:360–66; Courdurié 1980; Archives de la Chambre de Commerce, Marseille, ms. H 112: “Memoire,” February 17, 1730. The growth in coffee imports from the Antilles after 1723 may have been encouraged by exceptionally high prices for Yemeni coffee. See Raymond 1999, 1:138–40.

(53) . Archives de la Chambre de Commerce de Marseille, ms. H 112, “Memoire sur l’arret du Con.l d’Etat…, “ October 1, 1723; ACE 1723; Service Historique de la Marine, Brest, ms. 50, fos. 257–86. Archives de la Chambre de Commerce de Marseille, ms. H 112, “Memoire sur Le Commerce du Caffé,” September 6, 1726, claimed that by 1726 the legitimate coffee trade accounted for less than half of the coffee consumed in France.

(54) . Carrière [1973], 1:366–67; Service Historique de la Marine, Brest, ms. 50, fos. 268, 318; Archives de la Chambre de Commerce de Marseille, ms. H 112, “Coppie du Memoire presentée a Monseigneur Le Controlleur General,” October 20, 1723, fo. 1 vo.; Lougnon 1939, 204–12; Spary 2000.

(55) . On the problem of identity and quality, cf. Stanziani 2007, 395; Spary 2005; on the effects of cultivation, Archives Nationales, Aix-en-Provence, C3 3, fos. 95 vo., 98 ro.

(56) . Déclaration [1732]; ACE 1736; Masson 1912, 167; see also Buti 2001, 230–37. The legislation was extended to Cayenne in December 1732. There were several subsequent suspensions and reinstatements of this legislation.

(57) . Carrière [1973], 1:360–73; see also Raymond 1999; Lougnon 1956; Tuchscherer 2003; Meignen 1976, 130–35; Carrière and Courdurié 1975, 97; Trouillot 1982. By 1723 French merchants had virtually abandoned the land coffee route and were trading directly with Mocha by sea. See Archives de la Chambre de Commerce de Marseille, ms. H 112, “Memoire sur Le Commerce du Caffé,” fo. 2 vo. The decline of the coffee trade from Mocha and Bourbon was hastened by other factors such as shipping costs, irregular supplies, and naval warfare. See Haudrère 1989, 1:318–19.

(58) . Gentil 1787, 93; Le Gentil de la Barbinais 1779, 2:685–86; Legrand d’Aussy 1783, 3:123. Déjean 1759, 271, described Bourbon coffee as having “a more seductive appearance than Mocha” so that even “connoisseurs deceive themselves over it,” but he observed that the other senses, smell and taste, were not similarly deceived.

(59) . Demachy 1775, 115; see also Legrand d’Aussy 1783, 3:105, 125–26; [Mercier]Mercier 1781, pt. 2, 205–6. On the hierarchization of quality, see Stanziani 2007, 407–8.

(60) . Mémoires de Trévoux (1710): 289–90.

(61) . Courtwright 2001, 2; Spary 2005.

(62) . Voltaire 1950, 352, 462, 548, 562; [Chanvalon]Chanvalon 1763, 17?18; [de la Roque]de la Roque 1716, 307?11; anon. 1696; see also De Saint-Haippy 1784, 2?3; Buti 2001, 214.

(63) . Mintz 1985, chap. 3, 2006, 4; Raynal 1774, 2:354; Coquery 2003, 190. The abandonment of sumptuary legislation after about 1720 was an effective admission by the Crown that government policy followed innovation rather than vice versa. See Roche 1983, 13; Galliani 1989, chap. 4; Schaeper 1983, 176–77; Olivier-Martin 1938, 165–67; Minard 1998, 338–40.

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