Balzac doesn’t discuss coffee much in either novella in this book but he must be considered a patron saint of the Classics and Coffee Club. In “The Pleasures and Pains of Coffee" he gives some advice:
I have discovered a horrible, rather brutal method [of consuming coffee] that I recommend only to men of excessive vigor, men with thick black hair and skin covered with liver spots, men with big square hands and legs shaped like bowling pins. It is a question of using finely pulverized, dense coffee, cold and anhydrous, consumed on an empty stomach. This coffee falls into your stomach, a sack whose velvety interior is lined with tapestries of suckers and papillae. The coffee finds nothing else in the sack, and so it attacks these delicate and voluptuous linings; it acts like a food and demands digestive juices; it wrings and twists the stomach for these juices, appealing as a pythoness appeals to her god; it brutalizes these beautiful stomach linings as a wagon master abuses ponies; the plexus becomes inflamed; sparks shoot all the way up to the brain. From that moment on, everything becomes agitated. Ideas quick-march into motion like battalions of a grand army to its legendary fighting ground, and the battle rages. Memories charge in, bright flags on high; the cavalry of metaphor deploys with a magnificent gallop; the artillery of logic rushes up with clattering wagons and cartridges; on imagination’s orders, sharpshooters sight and fire; forms and shapes and characters rear up; the paper is spread with ink - for the nightly labor begins and ends with torrents of this black water, as a battle opens and concludes with black powder.
(translated by Robert Onopa)
Read the rest of the essay to find out what happened when a friend of Balzac’s with fine, blond hair followed his advice.
Do you have a picture of one of our books with coffee or tea (finely pulverized and dense)? Send it to this address and we’ll post them here (making you an honorary member of the Classics and Coffee Club).