21 Famous Coffee Drinkers Throughout the Ages
Filled with prolific composers, inventors, philosophers, politicians, writers, and more, this list includes 21 movers and shakers throughout history who shared at least one common love — coffee.
Was this the secret sauce to their success or merely a coincidence? I like to believe the former, and credit the bean to their works of genius — or at the very least, their motivation to wake up and take on the day. After all, coffee makes mornings (and dealing with other people) just a bit more bearable.
- Pope Clement VIII 1536-1605
Coffee was widely believed to be evil before the pope’s green light on the “devil’s drink”. Pope Clement VIII is rumored to have performed an exorcism on the beans and/or baptized it. He famously announced, “Why this Satan’s drink is so delicious it would be a pity to let the infidels have exclusive use of it. We shall fool Satan by baptizing it and making it a truly Christian beverage.” Pope Clement VIII is attributed with bringing coffee to the masses, so we can thank him for its popularity across Europe in the 1500s.
- Samuel Pepys 1633-1703
Pepys was a member of parliament, an admiral, and a diarist. In one of his diaries, he reports meeting friends in coffee shops to discuss politics. He frequented one of the first coffee houses in Oxford called The Angel.
- Johann Sebastian Bach 1685-1750
Bach was a German composer and musician of the Baroque period. During his time, coffee was viewed as devilish and was generally feared by the public. Bach found such humor in the public outcry about the drink that he wrote the Coffee Cantata to mock it.
- Voltaire 1694-1778
The French writer and philosopher is rumored to have consumed 40-50 cups of coffee per day. He also spent a small fortune having coffee beans imported. Although his doctor said all the coffee drinking would kill him, he lived until age 83.
- Benjamin Franklin 1706-1790
Franklin was a British American polymath and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. He was also a leading writer, printer, political philosopher, politician, Freemason, postmaster, scientist, inventor, humorist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat – whew! It’s no surprise, Franklin used the liquid gold to Get. Things. Done. He said, “Among the numerous luxuries of the table… coffee may be considered as one of the most valuable. It excites cheerfulness without intoxication; and the pleasing flow of spirits which it occasions… is never followed by sadness, languor, or debility.”
- Louis XV 1715 – 1754
“What would life be without coffee?” he mused. The former King of France grew his own coffee in greenhouses at Versailles. Louis XV handpicked the beans, roasted them, and ground them himself. He has been reported to have thoroughly enjoyed serving coffee to guests at his palace.
- Thomas Jefferson 1743 -1826
Although the former United States president, Founding Father, lawyer, architect, philosopher, and lawyer is most known for his romance with wine, he called coffee his, “…favorite drink of the civilized world.”
- Marie Antoinette 1755-1793
The short-lived French queen enjoyed coffee or rich hot chocolate and a pastry with her breakfast every morning.
- Napoleon Bonaparte 1769 – 1821
The French statesman and military leader was incredibly vocal about his love for the drink. On his deathbed, he requested coffee and said, “I would rather suffer with coffee than be senseless.” His autopsy found he died with coffee grounds in his stomach.
- Ludwig Van Beethoven 1770-1827
The famously temperamental composer was very precise about his coffee. He hand-counted 60 beans per cup and only drank coffee that he made himself.
- Honoré de Balzac 1799-1850
Seemingly following in Voltaire’s footsteps, the 19th-century French writer is said to have consumed 50 cups of coffee per day. Balzac attributed coffee to his success in saying, “As soon as coffee is in your stomach, there is a general commotion. Ideas begin to move… similes arise, the paper is covered. Coffee is your ally and writing ceases to be a struggle.”
- Søren Kierkegaard 1813-1855
This Danish philosopher, theologian, poet, social critic, and religious author drank his coffee super sweet. Biographer Joakim Garff wrote Kierkegaard would first fill his cup with sugar until it was piled over the rim, he would then pour coffee over the sugar until it dissolved. He also tasked his secretary with selecting from his collection of about 50 coffee cups and required an explanation as to why they chose that particular one.
- L. Frank Baum 1856-1919
Like many creatives, the writer of Wonderful Wizard of Oz relied heavily on his morning cup of joe to kickstart his writing. Baum enjoyed four to five cups of coffee with cream and sugar daily.
- Theodore Roosevelt 1858-1919
Roosevelt was an American statesman, conversationalist, naturalist, historian, and writer, who served as the 26th President of the United States. As seems to be the case with many of those listed here, he enjoyed lots of sugar in his coffee. His son joked that Roosevelt’s mug was more like a bathtub than a coffee cup.
- Marcel Proust 1871-1922
The French novelist, critic, and essayist ate very little. According to his housekeeper, Proust had two bowls of black coffee, hot milk, and two croissants when he awoke in the late afternoon. After that, he would eat little else for the rest of the day. Sounds like a typical starving writer.
- Gertrude Stein 1874 – 1946
Stein was an American novelist, poet, playwright, and art collector. She profoundly described coffee as, “… 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.”
- Margaret Atwood 1939 – present
The renowned poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist, teacher, environmental activist, and inventor has her own coffee line. She is quoted as saying, “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.”
- David Lynch 1946-present
The American filmmaker, painter, guitarist, writer, and actor said, “Even bad coffee is better than no coffee at all.” Lynch consumes four to seven cups a day. He regularly features coffee on his show Twin Peaks and even has his own line of organic coffee.
- David Letterman 1947 – present
Letterman is an American television host, comedian, writer, and producer. In a 1994 interview with Esquire, he said, “…but if it weren’t for the coffee, I’d have no identifiable personality whatsoever.”
- Stacy London 1969 – present
London is a stylist/fashion consultant, author, and magazine editor. In an interview, she said, “I’m not one of those people who wakes up and thinks, ‘bring on the day!’ I have to have about 7 pints of coffee before I’m even remotely awake.”
- Jerry Seinfeld 1976 – present
The stand-up comedian, actor, writer, and producer is actually new to the bean world. He doesn’t focus much on his coffee drinking habits or rituals, but rather the effect the drink has on people and culture. He is quoted saying, “we want to do a lot of stuff; we’re not in great shape. We didn’t get a good night’s sleep. We’re a little depressed. Coffee solves all these problems in one delightful little cup.”
The distinguished and noteworthy people mentioned in this list certainly got things done. Of course, perhaps that’s why we even know their names at all. So go pour yourself a cup of inspiration and do something marvelous – or at least check your emails.
Did your favorite prolific caffeinator make the cut?
Which coffee-sipping savant do you relate to most?
Arata, E., 2020. 25 Quotes About Coffee From History’s Most Caffeinated Thinkers. [online] First We Feast. Available at: <https://firstwefeast.com/drink/2014/05/25-coffee-quotes-from-historys-most-caffeinated-thinkers>.
Coffee Science. 2020. Famous Figures And Celebrities Who Are Addicted To Coffee. [online] Available at: <https://www.coffeescience.org/famous-figures-and-celebrities-who-are-addicted-to-coffee/>.
Huffpost.com. 2020. Huffpost Is Now A Part Of Verizon Media. [online] Available at: <https://www.huffpost.com/entry/famous-coffee-drinkers_n_5358495#:~:text=Ludwig%20Van%20Beethoven%20took%20his%20coffee%20with%20exactly%2060%20beans%20per%20cup.&text=The%20famed%20composer%20was%20obsessive,cup%2C%20according%20to%20his%20biographer.>.
O’Hare, B., 2020. What I Assume Honoré De Balzac Thought After Drinking Each Of His Fifty Daily Cups Of Coffee. [online] The New Yorker. Available at: <https://www.newyorker.com/humor/daily-shouts/what-i-assume-honore-de-balzac-thought-after-drinking-each-of-his-fifty-daily-cups-of-coffee>.
the Guardian. 2020. Breakfast Of Champions: Marcel Proust’S Café Au Lait. [online] Available at: <https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/nov/15/breakfast-champions-marcel-proust-cafe-au-lait>.
Greenlee, C., 2020. People Used To Be So Scared Of Coffee That Bach Wrote A Cantata About It. [online] Bon Appétit. Available at: <https://www.bonappetit.com/story/coffee-bach-cantata>.
Wikipedia contributors, “Benjamin Franklin,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Benjamin_Franklin&oldid=995518535.
Wikipedia contributors, “Søren Kierkegaard,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=S%C3%B8ren_Kierkegaard&oldid=995314941.
Wikipedia contributors, “Theodore Roosevelt,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Theodore_Roosevelt&oldid=995490048.