Book extract: Death by coffee from Coffee fables, tales, and truths

Coffee fables, tales, and truths is TheQueenBean’s take on the history of coffee. From the origin story to modern-day coffee barons, Coffee fables, tales, and truths shares our laughter, lessons, and love for the beloved bean. Below is an excerpt from one of our fables. To purchase or learn more about our book, please click here.

Death by coffee

By the late 1700s, mighty King Gustav III of Sweden decided enough was enough. Coffee, Sweden’s dark, bitter, new obsession had quite literally caused his cup to run over. Coffee arrived in Sweden nearly a century earlier without much notice but Gustav and coffee had a contentious relationship from the start. In 1746, Gustav’s birthyear, the then-King Adolf Frederick, issued a royal edict against coffee, levying a heavy tax on consumption. Unfortunately, the tax did little to curb the Swedes’ enthusiasm and they drank on … to Adolf’s vexation. Adolf’s next step was taken with the intensity only a weak, powerless man can take against a drinkKing Adolf issued a full-scale ban on coffee, going so far as to send the King’s men round to troublesome homes to confiscate all things coffee-related — right down to beloved coffee cups and saucers. Gustav studied his father closely, learning, observing, and developing a bitter hatred for the desired cup. Gustav, a far more forceful leader than his father, remained intent on perpetuating his father’s disdain for the rancid brew. So possessed was he with the idea that coffee must be toxic that he publicly declared it so … and set about testing his assumption. By the order of King Gustav, two murderers were sentenced to death by coffee. Specifically, twin brothers who had their death sentences commuted to life imprisonment on the condition that they participate in Gustav’s death by coffee experiment. One brother was forced to drink three pots of coffee, the other three pots of tea (Gustav’s second-greatest enemy) per day until it killed them. Gustav was so certain coffee would kill these violent men in a horrible death, that he ordered doctors to remain on standby to document the point at which coffee killed. One cup, two cups, twenty cups… and on went the drinking but death did not come for these men on that day. Days passed, weeks passed, years passed and the convicts drank on.  First, the doctors passed away followed by Gustav, who was assassinated and then went the tea drinker, who lived to the age of 83. The coffee drinker lived on with his three pots a day, and Sweden went on to develop a thriving coffee culture, going so far as to create a word to describe the coffee break, fika. Long live the bean. Click here to learn more or to purchase Coffee fables, tales, and truths.

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