It’s the smell that separates night from day: Prufrock measured out his life with coffee spoons

It’s a new substance – entirely new. You take it not to delight the senses but to awaken the intellect. Its advocates drink it at breakfast to regain their senses, and they drink it at night to help them remain awake longer.… the man who drinks coffee fruit cares only for his business. Coffee is the drink of commerce.

— The Coffee Trader

Lennoxville’s new member of Parliament (and cabinet minister) doesn’t like coffee. Marie-Claude Bibeau “grimaced” when sipping a latte at a Queen Street brûlerie while having a cuppa with a reporter from the La Nouvelle newspaper.

Her preferred breakfast drink is apparently strawberry Quik.

She’s not the only one to shun coffee.

Mormons, for example, are forbidden “hot drinks”—meaning tea and coffee. (Some five years ago, the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement that noted, however, that “the church does not prohibit the use of caffeine”, and that cold soda pop, including colas, are perfectly acceptable.)

With the understanding that not everyone is a fan, this column is all about a good cuppa.

The first coffee bean trees grew on the Ethiopian highlands, and legend has it a goat herd became curious when his charges became rather energetic after nibbling on the berries.

By the 1400s, coffee was a successful crop on the Arabian peninsula and Yemen, and later in Persia, Egypt, Syria and Turkey. Coffee houses sprang up.

The bean’s arrival in Europe was not without controversy. Some called coffee the “bitter invention of Satan.” But eventually, it replaced beer and wine as the breakfast beverage of choice.

The tale of Europe’s discovery of coffee is told in a historical novel that builds into a thriller, The Coffee Trader (by David Liss, 2003, filed in the Lennoxville Library in Adult Fiction).

The tale begins in Amsterdam in 1659, when a bankrupt businessman is offered his first taste: “It had a rich, almost enchanting bitterness – something Miguel had never before experienced. It bore a resemblance to chocolate, which once he had tasted years ago. Perhaps he thought of chocolate only because the drinks were both hot and dark and served in thick clay bowls. This one had a less voluptuous flavour, sharper and more sparing.”

Miguel buys in, and hopes to make his fortune (and keep it, this time) by importing coffee with a Dutch entrepreneur. Mix in a rival, Alfredo (a trickster, whose story is told in alternating chapters). Both men are Jews, and both their stories also offer a sobering portrait of the persecution of the Jewish communities of Europe.

Guardian newspaper columnist Marta Bausells recently tried to wean herself off coffee, and it was, she wrote, “excruciating.” Caffeine, of course, is a stimulant – and an addictive one.

The very first International Coffee Day was celebrated recently (as sponsored by something called the International Coffee Organisation). To celebrate, the Guardian’s UK edition offered “great coffee quotes from literature.”

Here they are. Some of these books are on reserve at the Lennoxville Library; that just means they’ve been moved to the basement to make more room for newer arrivals on the main floor shelves. Ask at the front desk and we’ll get it for you!

I’d rather take coffee than compliments just now.
– Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott, written in the 1860s (our copy was reprinted in 1985), and tells of four sisters as they grow into women, and is loosely based on Alcott’s life (filed in C-208), on reserve

Good. Coffee is good for you. It’s the caffeine in it. Caffeine, we are here. Caffeine puts a man on her horse and a woman in his grave.
– The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, 1954, in Adult Fiction

The fresh smell of coffee soon wafted through the apartment, the smell that separates night from day.
– Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami, 2014, available in French and in English Adult Fiction

That’s something that annoys the hell out of me – I mean if somebody says the coffee’s all ready and it isn’t.
– The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger, 1951, Young Adult, on reserve

DECEMBER 16. I’m sick for real. Rosario is making me stay in bed. Before she left for work she went out to borrow a thermos from a neighbour and she left me half a litre of coffee. Also four aspirin. I have a fever. I’ve started and finished two poems.
– The Savage Detectives, 2008, by the award-winning Chilean author Roberto Bolaño; the New York Times called him  “the most significant Latin American literary voice of his generation.” His work can be brutal; he died in 2003. Filed under Adult Fiction, and on reserve

I went out the kitchen to make coffee – yards of coffee. Rich, strong, bitter, boiling hot, ruthless, depraved. The life blood of tired men.
– The Long Goodbye, by Raymond Chandler; Four Complete Philip Marlowe Novels is on reserve; many of his noir crime books can be requested via interlibrary  loan

Well, one can die after all: it is but dying; and in the next world, thank God! there is no drinking of coffee, and consequently no – waiting for it.’ Sometimes he would rise from his chair, open the door, and cry out with a feeble querulousness – ‘Coffee! coffee!’
– A comment about philosopher Immanuel Kant, appearing in Narrative And Miscellaneous Papers by the English journalist and essayist Thomas De Quincey, written in 1853, and available free at

Coffee is a way of stealing time that should by rights belong to your older self.
– Thud!, a Discworld novel by fantasy writer Terry Pratchett, 2005, available via interlibrary loan

For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.

– The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by TS Eliot (1915, available free online at such websites as

She poured the coffee, which was so strong it practically snarled as it came out of the pot, and then sat down herself, taking the small cat on to her knee.
– The L-Shaped Room by Lynne Reid Banks, 1960

— Eleanor Brown, November 13, 2015

About BiblioLennLibrary

The Lennoxville Library, in Quebec's Eastern Townships, offers free memberships to all residents of Sherbrooke. We have a great selection of books in French and English, plus books on tape and CD, too! Check out our large-print section, our graphic novels... La Biblio Lennoxville se situe dans les Cantons-de-l'Est du Quebec. Les residents de Sherbrooke peuvent devenir membre gratuitement. Nous avons une grande selection de livres en francais et en anglais. Venez donc nous voir! Hours/Heures d'ouverture: Mardi-Tuesday, 10am to 5pm -- 10h a 17h Mercredi et Jeudi -Wednesday and Thursday, 10am to 6pm -- 10h a 18h Vendredi-Friday, 10am to 5pm -- 10h a 17h Samedi-Saturday, 11am to 4pm -- 11h a 16h Pour plus d'info, vous pouvez nous trouver au Click on the above to get to our website!
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