15 Famous Coffee Fiends

You seriously could not talk to these people before their morning cup of java.


François-Marie Arouet reportedly downed between 40 and 50 cups of a chocolate and coffee mixture every day and paid enormous fees to have luxury coffee imported. While his doctor told the writer and philosopher that his habit would kill him, Voltaire lived to the ripe old age of 83.


Kierkegaard was like Voltaire in that he needed a little something sweet to cut through coffee’s bitterness. Biographer Joakim Garff writes of his ritual: “Delightedly he seized hold of the bag containing the sugar and poured sugar into the coffee cup until it was piled up above the rim. Next came the incredibly strong, black coffee, which slowly dissolved the white pyramid.” It added up to about 30 sugar cubes in a single cup. He also owned about 50 coffee cups, and tasked his secretary with not only choosing one for each serving, but also providing a sound philosophical reason for the decision.


Beethoven played a strict numbers game when it came to his cup of joe. His morning routine consisted of counting out exactly 60 beans per cup of coffee.


The 26th President of the United States accomplished a lot in his life, and much of the credit in the history books should be given to caffeine and sugar. Roosevelt drank a gallon of coffee a day and would often add five to seven lumps of sugar to the drink, though he eventually switched to saccharin. His son described the volume of Teddy’s consumption as “more in the nature of a bathtub.”


The writer of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was a morning person. He got up at 8 a.m. every day, ate a hearty breakfast, and downed five cups of strong coffee with cream and sugar. Then he’d visit the garden for some time with the flowers and only begin writing after lunchtime. He’d write in the garden if the weather was nice, with a cigar dangling from his mouth. Now that’s an admirable workday.


The Canadian poet might be the most emphatic coffee fiend on our list, lending her name to Balzac’s Coffee Roasters’ "Bird Friendly" blend to raise money for Canada’s Pelee Island Bird Observatory. “The Atwood Blend” is mild and contains a “supple, caramel finish,” and will only cost you $18 a pound. In her daily life, Atwood subsists each morning on a breakfast of coffee with cream or steamed milk. In her novel Cat’s Eye, a little of Atwood’s coffee bias takes shape in her prose: “I don’t even glance at the herbal teas, I go straight for the real, vile coffee. Jitter in a cup. It cheers me up to know I’ll soon be so tense.”


The mind of David Lynch doesn’t seem like it would need much stimulation, and yet the director reportedly drinks four to seven cups of coffee with sugar each day. The most famous character he created—Dale Cooper from Twin Peaks—was a nut for the stuff, and Lynch even has his own David Lynch Signature Organic Coffee. He's written about his coffee obsession and describes the habit in the sort of feverish nostalgia we’ve come to know and love in his work: “For seven years I ate at Bob’s Big Boy. I would go at 2:30, after the lunch rush. I ate a chocolate shake and four, five, six, seven cups of coffee—with lots of sugar. And there’s lots of sugar in that chocolate shake. It’s a thick shake. In a silver goblet. I would get a rush from all this sugar, and I would get so many ideas! I would write them on these napkins. It was like I had a desk with paper. All I had to do was remember to bring my pen, but a waitress would give me one if I remembered to return it at the end of my stay. I got a lot of ideas at Bob’s.”


While many of the writers and thinkers on this list seem to get more from consuming more, Proust got his energy from a kind of regimented deprivation. According to his housekeeper, Celeste, the writer had two bowls of black coffee, hot milk and two croissants upon waking in the late afternoon, and then consumed little else. “I’ve never heard of anyone else living off two bowls of café au lait and two croissants a day. And sometimes only one croissant!” she wrote. Proust occasionally did dine out in the evenings, where he reportedly ate enormous quantities. The life of the artist: feast or famine.


Louis XV of France reigned in the 18th century, but he would have been very popular today in the age of locally-grown, organic and DIY sensibilities. He grew his own coffee beans in greenhouses at Versailles, handpicked them, roasted and ground them, and loved to serve his carefully crafted brew to guests.


A deeply held—and cognitive as opposed to physical—appreciation for the virtues of coffee is its own kind of devotion. Of coffee, novelist Stein wrote: “Coffee gives you time to think. It’s a lot more than just a drink; it’s something happening. Not as in hip, but like an event, a place to be, but not like a location, but like somewhere within yourself. It gives you time, but not actual hours or minutes, but a chance to be, like be yourself, and have a second cup.”


Among the Founding Fathers of the United States, Franklin was also a bit of a coffee snob as well as one of the first well-known coffee shop frequenters. Franklin used coffee shops to hold meetings, play chess or just hang out with his friends. When he was in London, he had his mail sent to his favorite Birchin Lane shop (which was common at the time). 


Franklin wasn’t the only one of our nation’s founders to harbor a serious love for a cup of mud. The Declaration of Independence author called coffee “the favorite drink of the civilized world”—though, admittedly, that might have had a thing or two to do with an aversion to British tea.


Balzac’s work regimen consisted of punctuated periods of intensive work and then pure relaxation—extremes that were aided by caffeine consumption. During periods of work, he ate dinner at 6 p.m., then went to bed, waking at 1 a.m. to work for the next seven hours. The all-nighter was rewarded at 8 a.m. with a nap, and at 9:30 the coffee parade began. Balzac drank as many as 50 cups a day and later as his tolerance rose, he ate pure coffee grounds. He suffered physically for it, plagued with stomach cramps, twitches, headaches and high blood pressure until he died of heart failure at 51. There are a plethora of his powerful, coffee-related quotes out there in the world, but here’s one for the road: “Were it not for coffee one could not write, which is to say one could not live.”


The French military and political leader reportedly asked for a spoonful of coffee while on his deathbed, and the subsequent autopsy revealed coffee grounds in his stomach. He is also responsible for a quote that has appeared on many a coffee cup: “I would rather suffer with coffee than be senseless.”


Bach loved coffee so much that he literally wrote a song about it: the Coffee Cantata, about a father and his coffee loving daughter. I don’t want to give too much away, but let’s just say that a lot of turmoil ends in a joyous celebration of song and a marriage contract.

Ah! How sweet coffee tastes,
more delicious than a thousand kisses,
milder than muscatel wine.
Coffee, I have to have coffee,
and, if someone wants to pamper me,
ah, then bring me coffee as a gift!

Just Smelling Coffee Can Give You a Brain Boost

Coffee’s pleasures have long been proven to go beyond its function as a social and mental stimulant. For instance, its anti-inflammatory properties may contribute to greater longevity and it might lower your risk of type-2 diabetes. Most of these benefits are typically attributed to ingestion. But what if the smell of coffee led to a boost in your productivity? And what if that scent didn’t have to come from coffee at all?

The results of a new study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology lend a lot of credence to the idea, as Newsweek reports. The paper describes 114 undergraduate business students who were asked to take a Graduate Management Aptitude Test (GMAT). One group was led into a room filled with the scent of coffee (which was generated by an electric diffuser) to take the 10-question algebra exam; another was taken into a room that didn’t carry the aroma. Participants who were in the Starbucks-esque environment scored significantly higher than students deprived of the scent.

The subjects later disclosed that they felt emboldened by the coffee smell as soon as they walked into the room, believing they would be more cognitively focused and better equipped to deal with the pending math problems. Since these students had higher expectations of themselves, it’s clear the smell created a placebo effect. It’s also possible that their past experience with coffee boosting their alertness created an olfactory association with its benefits. Even without actual caffeine, the students were still able to improve their mental functioning. Previously, scientists have discovered that sleep-deprived rats who smell coffee were able to ease their fatigue-related stress.

Still, while it’s perfectly fine to huff the aroma coming from your cup, you should stop short of actually snorting it. Powdered caffeine can easily facilitate an overdose of the drug that can lead to heart failure.

[h/t Newsweek]

Drinking Up to Eight Cups of Coffee a Day Could Help You Live Longer

Good news for coffee fiends: That extra cup of joe in the afternoon could help you live longer, according to a new UK-based study spotted by Newsweek. Researchers determined that people who drink between one and eight cups of coffee per day may have a lower chance of death, regardless of whether their bodies are able to metabolize caffeine well.

To reach these conclusions, the team of researchers analyzed data from the UK Biobank pertaining to the lifestyle choices, demographics, and genetic information of 500,000 people, 87 percent of whom were coffee drinkers. More than 14,000 participants died during the course of the study from 2006 to 2010, and an inverse relationship between coffee drinking and the risk of death was recorded.

These findings were published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, but scientists say more research is needed to determine the link between coffee and other health outcomes. A similar study last year by the European Society of Cardiology suggested that people who drink up to four cups of coffee a day are 64 percent less likely to die early than those who hardly drank coffee. Every two additional cups of coffee improved one’s odds of an extended life span by 22 percent, researchers determined.

However reassuring these results may be to latte lovers, public health specialist Robin Poole of the University of Southampton told Newsweek that this doesn’t necessarily mean non-coffee drinkers should suddenly start caffeinating. (Poole was not involved in the study.)

"We know that some people metabolize caffeine quite slowly and are less tolerant of the apparent physical affects of caffeine, which of course comes from many sources other than coffee,” Poole said. “Such people would be better to avoid too much coffee, or move toward decaffeinated choices, [which] this study has shown still have beneficial associations.”

[h/t Newsweek]


More from mental floss studios