Felicity · History · Stories

Coffee in Felicity’s World

If you’re reading this, there’s a chance that you — like me! — are a coffee addict. I love the ritual of preparation, the comfort of a warm cup in my hands, and the aroma of freshly ground beans. I wanted to share my love of coffee with my AG dolls by getting them their very own (historically accurate!) coffee sets. Would my AG dolls have enjoyed coffee, like I do? When did coffee become popular in America? Nowadays many of us have Nespresso machines and a Starbucks on every corner. But what would the historical coffee addicts have had? I put on my sleuthing hat and started looking for answers. Today I bring you part 1 of a series on coffee in the AG historical time periods.

While I don’t own a Felicity doll, I decided to start with her for a couple of reasons. First, today is her BeForever 2017 release!

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Welcome back, Felicity!*

Oh, and the Revolution turns out to be an important moment in the history of coffee in North America. The more you know!

So on to our topic: COFFEE. Mmmmm… Coffee… You know what? I think I’ll make a cup right now.

**sound of coffee brewing**  ☕ 😍 💕

Much better! Now where were we? Oh, that’s right…

Coffee in Felicity’s World

Today when someone asks if you’d like “coffee or tea,” you might not think twice before answering. But for Felicity and her family, the choice of whether to drink coffee or tea was one with deep political implications. In the Boston Tea Party, colonists threw English tea into the harbor to protest British taxation. In 1773, just a year before Felicity’s stories begin, drinking tea suddenly became unpatriotic. Remember Felicity’s tea lesson set? Felicity’s tea-loving ways were actually a political statement. Drinking tea could be considered anti Revolutionary.

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Whose side are you on, Felicity?

When Felicity was a girl, coffee would have been too expensive to drink every day, so most people drank it only for medicinal purposes. If she drank coffee in her lifetime, it might have been pretty bad: old and musty from traveling in damp wooden ships, with few standards for quality. Yummy.

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Green coffee beans would travel across the ocean in ships like these.*

In spite of that, colonists drank their nasty coffee throughout the American Revolution, and coffee houses continued to spring up in places like New York, Boston, and Philadelphia. These coffee houses served as meeting places, where people discussed politics or philosophy and plotted revolutions.

The first recorded barista in the colonies was a woman by the name of Dorothy Jones. Town records show that Dorothy opened a shop for selling “coffee and cuchaletto” in Boston in 1670. “Cuchaletto” was what the colonists called hot chocolate, another popular drink of the time.

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A colonial “chocolate pot” for serving cuchaletto (hot chocolate)*

A Coffee Set for Felicity

So if Felicity did drink coffee in her lifetime, what would she have used to brew and serve it?

First, Felicity would have to buy some expensive, moldy, green coffee beans. She’d then need to wash, dry, and roast them.

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Felicity might put coffee beans in the cylinder at the top and rotate it over a fire. Or she might place them in a skillet, and set it in the fire’s ashes.*

Felicity would have roasted beans in a pan with a long handle set in the ashes of a fire, constantly stirring to achieve an even roast. Alternatively, she might have put the beans in a cylindrical can attached to a long handle, which she would rotate over the fire. Whichever method she used, she would have to pay constant attention to avoid burning the beans. Next, Felicity would take the roasted beans and grind them using either a mortar and pestle or a grinder which you operate by hand.

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Mortar and Pestle, for grinding roasted beans into “coffee powder”*

She would then need two containers: one to boil water, and another to brew the coffee. Felicity might have boiled water and poured it over her “coffee powder” in a coffee pot like one of these:

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Colonial coffee pots. The pot was used for serving.*

When her coffee was finally ready to drink, she might have poured it into a delicate mug, like the one in her tea lesson set. Just like today, it was common to sweeten coffee with sugar.

“Coffee, Chocolate and Tea were at first us’d only as Medicines while they continued unpleasant, but since they were made delicious with sugar, they are become poison.” Dr.Duncan, 1706

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Alvan Fisher, “Coffee Clap”*

I hope the pictures in this post will help you to put together the perfect coffee set for Felicity! I’d recommend browsing Etsy, Ebay, or your local thriftshop’s kitchen section for decorative kitchen equipment in miniature sizes. At the time of writing, there’s stuff on Etsy that could pass as a colonial coffee pot or mortar and pestle. **UPDATE: I forgot that Felicity has a mortar and pestle in her retired Rescue Set!** For a coffee cup, I’d look for something similar to Felicity’s tea lesson or tea set, if you don’t have or want to buy the retired set. The AG miniature scale is 1:3.

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A colonial style coffee pot by a fire*

How to Make Coffee Like Felicity 

NOTE: If you’re a kid, please please please get your parents’ permission and help with this project. Also please note that if you decide to roast beans yourself, it’s going to STINK and cause a LOT of smoke! 

Felicity would have bought green coffee beans and roasted them herself. If you want to try it, there’s lots of helpful instructions on home roasting over at Sweet Maria’s.

As for brewing, colonists inherited their coffee preparation techniques from the Ottoman Empire, which was responsible for bringing coffee to Europe. Today, Turkish coffee is still prepared using similar methods. If you want to make coffee using a similar method to Felicity, you can find a tutorial for making Turkish coffee over at WikiHow.

I hope you have fun experimenting with colonial-inspired coffee preparation. And hey, at least your coffee beans won’t be moldy!

You can find the next post in this series here: Coffee in Josefina’s World

xoxo Toni

PS As you may have guessed, I’m no expert. I just enjoy learning random historical facts. This post tries to assemble some facts and images relevant to Felicity’s world. If you think something in this post is inaccurate, let me know in the comments!

*Photo Credits: BeForever Felicity from the American Girl WebsiteFelicity’s Tea Lesson, taken from the American Girl Catalogue; Ship photo from Gillian H. Jones’ History of NC Colonial and Continental Port of Bath; Chocolate Pot from Colonial Williamsburg; Coffee pans, pots, and mortar & pestle from William H. Ukers “Introduction of Coffee into North America“; Alvan Fisher painting from Women, Coffee Houses, & the American Revolution; Colonial coffee pot & fire from Postcards from the Road.
Sources:
The MET, Coffee, Tea, and Chocolate in Early Colonial America
Women, Coffee Houses, & the American Revolution
Chocolate and Other Colonial Beverages by Frank Clark
Coffee Cakes: Coffee’s History in America
Coffee Chronicles: Coffe’s History in America by Allison Hemler
Introduction of Coffee into North America, All about Coffee by William H. Ukers
Professor Peabury’s History of Coffee: The 1700s
The Evolution of Coffee Apparatus 
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