Thursday, 14 July 2011

dying of tea drinking

'King Gustav III (1746-92), determined to prove coffee was a poison, ordered a convicted murderer to drink coffee every day until he died. In an attempt to do things scientifically, he ordered another murderer to drink tea daily, as a control, and appointed two doctors to oversee the experiment and report on which prisoner died first. Unfortunately, both doctors died and Gustav III was murdered before either prisoner succumbed. The two prisoners enjoyed, or at least endured, a long life until the tea drinker finally succumbed first at the age of eighty-three.'
(source: The World of Caffeine p.93)

Have been thinking about prohibitions of many kinds lately, and it might surprise you to know that European leaders didn't always see the merits of caffeine consumption. For some reason coffee got the brunt of this over the years. It was a dangerous beverage.

I wonder what it must've been like to be one of these prisoners forced to play guinea pig and drink these exotic punishment. If I were either one of them, but especially the tea drinking one, I'm not sure how easily I'd be able to deceive my torturers. Right?

Even if it was sub-quality tea, and I'm assuming it wasn't first flush Darjeeling, the ordeal of being forced to drink tea daily would be a welcome respite from the drudgery of prison life. If they got the idea that I was enjoying it, I'm sure the doctors might feel obligated to find an unhappier subject.

So, there I am staring over at my coffee drinking colleague. We both make as if this is really the worst misfortune that could ever befall such poor creatures such as we. But we're smiling inside. We guinea pigs.


  1. They just installed a new coffee maker at work. How do I know these people aren't looking at me, wondering when I will die?

  2. They were wondering that even before the new coffee maker.

  3. This is a fascinating bit of historical trivia! It's amusing how people get stuck on trying to prove an idea like this...

    It also amuses me how Europeans were so down on coffee for some time, and yet they embraced alcohol so whole-heartedly. But I think a lot of people thought the hype about coffee was silly...there's even a J.S. Bach Cantata making fun of it, one of Bach's few secular choral works.