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Civil War coffee substitutes

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During the Civil War, Southerners found themselves running short of many things they were used to buying from the Northern states or from Europe. Newspaper articles of the day gave people hints for creating, reusing, and “making do”. Nearly-forgotten skills had to be relearned by women unused to physical labor. Many took great pride in learning these skills as a patriotic effort for the war.

 

These hints are from that time, and I have not tried them, nor do I know anyone who has. I present them here as possibilities, and ask that you use care and common sense if you choose to try them.

 

Also, the written terms given here are from that time, and do not reflect current ways of referring to African-Americans. No offense is meant in any way.

 

(And I fail to see the connection between Coffee and *Bran Beer*!!!

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Nothing..I repeat.. Nothing replaces coffee! so stock up!

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for caffiene substitutes

I'm looking into gurana and yerba mate

 

 

the caf-fiend

 

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OK, OK, but I'm having fun finding these... )

 

****************

 

*~*PEAS*~*

 

NATCHEZ DAILY COURIER [MS], October 30, 1861, p.1, c.5

 

Substitute for Coffee. We are requested to recommend Field Peas, dried, parched, and ground, as an excellent substitute for Coffee, said to be better than wheat or rye.--Fayetteville Observer.

 

MEMPHIS DAILY APPEAL [ATLANTA, GA], June 11, 1864, p. 1, c. 2

The English garden pea, picked from the vine when dry and roasted to a dark cinnamon brown, is said to produce a decoction resembling pure Java coffee in color and flavor.

 

****************

 

*~*ACORNS*~*

 

NATCHEZ DAILY COURIER [MS], November 5, 1861, p.1, c.2

 

The Best Coffee. From the Mobile Daily Tribune.

In times of famine, occasioned by the total loss of a crop, by scarcity, the protracted operation of a siege, or by a blockade such as now prevails, while food is diminished and dear, efforts are usually made to substitute for articles of prime necessity others that approximate most nearly to them in their taste and general sanitary effects. Under circumstances it pertains to all enlightened and practical hygienic systems to select for the purpose of such experiments, those substances which are most wholesome. At the South, several substitutes for coffee have been resorted to. Neither of them is unwholesome; but, at the same time, neither is designed to produce salutary results.

By roasting corn, wheat, oats, or potatoes a considerable consumption of genuine coffee is certainly economised, the latter being used by in such quantity as is necessary to flavor. Now, if in adhering to the small quantity employed for imparting taste to the decoction, the roasted acorn shall be adopted, the problem is solved.

The acorn of our native oak (Quercus Alba) is found in great abundance from Canada to Florida. This species approaches nearest to the fruit bearing oak (Quercus Hispanica) which is palatable, raw or cooked and which constitutes an important element of traffic in Old Castile. If the reader will carefully note the analysis given of it by Lorvig, the chemist, he will be convinced that it contains such substances as are, at once, most nutricious [sic] and medicinal; Greasy oil, rosin, gum, tannin, or bitter extract, starch and the remainder potash and calcium salts.

Acorns supplied the food of man before wheat was discovered. In France, during the scarcity of 1709, the indigent were compelled to have recourse to this resource for them, the only one. Pulverised into flour, they made use of it for bread; and, under the first consulate, upon the establishment of the continental system, some industrial economists conceived the idea of substituting the roasted acorn for coffee, and styled it "indigenous coffee."

In 1840, while I was stationed in the Grecian Archipelago, I visited from time to time the principal islands--Samos, Scio, Imbros, etc. The Greeks who inhabit those countries have recourse to acorn coffee in the slightest affections of the stomach or intestines; and I have seen subjects suffering from chronic dyspepsis, or diarrhoea, cured in less than four or five days.

The reader may assure himself of the correctness of my statement by opening any standard work on materia medica; and he will learn that acorn coffee is a tonic proscribed in scrofula, debility of the digestive organs, and recommended as a substitute for coffee to nervous persons. If, therefore, the blockade should continue, and the importation of coffee is rendered impracticable, it would be very natural that the use of acorn coffee, mixed with the genuine should become universal. The poor would find it equally a source of economy and a valuable remedy; and soldiers in camp would be less exposed to diarrhoea, one of the most terrible evils that can exist in an army.

In order to prepare this coffee, the acorns must be first roasted in an oven. The hard outer shell is removed, and the kernal is preserved, which, after being roasted, is ground with ordinary coffee. A. Poiteven, M. D.

 

********

 

[LITTLE ROCK] ARKANSAS TRUE DEMOCRAT, January 9, 1862, p.3, c.6

 

We have received a letter from a friend stating that he had tried acorns as a substitute for coffee. He complains of an unripe taste which will be got rid of by cutting the acorns and letting them dry. In other respects he thinks the substitute is admirable, and says that if coffee could be had for ten cents a pound and acorns for fifteen cents, he would prefer to buy the acorns. He adds that he has been an habitual coffee drinker for fifteen years, and unless he drank two cups of coffee in the morning, had a headache all day. But one cup of good acorn coffee has the happy effect of freeing him from headache and he thinks the acorn equal to that of Mocha.

Let our readers gather a few acorns, cut them up, dry them, parch like coffee and try them. White oak mast is preferred by some. The different oaks yield acorns that make coffee different in its astringent properties and flavors.

 

********

 

[LITTLE ROCK] ARKANSAS TRUE DEMOCRAT, January 16, 1862, p.2, c.4

 

Several weeks ago we stated that acorns were a good substitute for coffee, and since gave the substance of letters from a friend who had tried it. The Gazette republishes this and commenting upon it, says:

"If the writer be not mistaken, and we hope he is not, the oak mast will be of additional importance. We have heard of persons having sheet iron stomachs, which we always doubted, but it does seem to us that the continued use of acorn coffee would have the effect of tanning the stomach, and making it as tough as leather. Let some one try the experiment and see what is in it."

The tannic or tanning properties of the oak is strongly exhibited in the bark, but it by no means follows that the acorns contain it in any considerable quantity. The bark of the chinquapin tree is fully as astringent and contains as much tannin, but the chinquapin nut does not have the effect of tanning the stomach. Let the Captain taste the bark of an apple tree or of a peach tree, and see how widely they differ in taste and other properties from the apple or peach which grew on them.

Some fifteen years ago we were acquainted with a wealthy man who drank acorn coffee in preference to any other kind. Several of the planters in the "up country" of Carolina used it altogether. It was often a subject of conversation, and a scientific man who married in the family of one of Carolina's most distinguished sons, made an analysis of the acorn and coffee berry. His capabilities for the task will be admitted, when it is known that he was regarded in the schools of Paris as one of the best analytical chemists there, and upon his return to this country was engaged in several scientific enterprises of great importance. We have not the formula now of his analysis, and it would be, perhaps, too technical for the general reader. We remember that the acorn and the coffee berry had certain constituents in common, and upon these depended the effects produced by coffee, such as wakefulness, gentle stimulation, and others. This also gave a similarity in flavor. In fact, the acorn from the white oak, afforded a softer beverage than the coffee and those who used it greatly preferred it. The black oak, red oak and other different varieties of the quercus have acorns that make a stronger or more astringent coffee, but not so strong as the common kinds of coffee often sold.

We find the following in a late number of the Memphis Avalanche, and reproduce it to show that we are not alone in our estimate of acorn coffee.

"A correspondent, writing to the Picayune, gives the following interesting account of a substitute for coffee, which is so different from any we have yet heard of, that we give it for the benefit of those who wish to experiment in supplying what has been an article of necessity with us in the South, and which is now placed beyond our reach for a time. He says:

At a Medico-Botanical society of London, in 1837, the President introduced to the notice of the members a new beverage which very much resembled the real coffee. It was made from acorns, peeled, chopped and roasted. The acorn, which gives out this fragrant drink, is well known to be the fruit of the oak of our forests, of which there are a great variety and abundance in almost all of the States. Whether the white, the black, or the red species of quercus acorn is used for this purpose, is not stated. The experiment, however, is simple and easy, and ought to be tried. There are reasons why it should prove to be a better substitute than any yet offered for the real berry. The chincapin tree, I think, belongs to the same genus, though of much smaller growth, produces a similar, but smaller acorn, and from its peculiar flavor, I am much inclined to think the chincapin, properly prepared, will make a first rate cup of “coffee".

We suppose it is too late to try it this season but let any of our readers make the experiment. We have seen old coffee drinkers, who professed to be connoissieurs [sic] and gourmands, tried with a cup of it without knowing it was made from acorns, who smacked their lips over it and pronounced it excellent.”

 

********

 

[LITTLE ROCK] ARKANSAS TRUE DEMOCRAT, October 22, 1862, p.1, c.3

 

Acorn Coffee:

A friend who has tried acorns as a substitute for coffee, says that he is satisfied it is the best substitute yet found. H took the white oak mast, cut it up and dried the pieces by heating them. He is of the opinion that by drying in the sun and air, it would be better. Others are trying the experiment. The acorns should be hulled, cut up in the size of grains of coffee, well dried, and then parched. Experiments with the different kind of mast, the white oak, the black, etc., will give coffee differing more or less, in astringent qualities and in their power to refresh the system. A number of families have gathered acorns enough to last them a year, and we would not be surprised if acorn coffee should come into general use and favor.

 

****************

 

(continues...)

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(continued from above)

 

*~*SWEET POTATOES*~*

 

SOUTHERN CONFEDERACY [ATLANTA, GA], November 7, 1861, p.3, c.1

 

How to Get the Very Best Coffee at About Ten Cents a Pound.

In these war times it is quite an object to make economical investments in this article, but aside from this, the coffee that you can make from this recipe will be found far superior to the very best you can get anywhere, either North or South, and those who give it a fair trial will be unwilling to go back even to the best Java.

Take sweet potatoes and after peeling them, cut them up into small pieces about the size of the joint of your little finger, dry them either in the sun or by the fire, (sun dried probably the best,) and then parch and grind the same as coffee. Take two thirds of this to one third of coffee to a making.

Try it, not particularly for its economy but for its superiority over any coffee you ever tasted.

 

********

 

ALBANY [GA.] PATRIOT, December 12, 1861, p.2, c.3

 

A Good Substitute for Coffee: - At the present time, when coffee is selling at a dollar a pound the following suggestion from a correspondent of a Southern paper, is worth trying:

Many worthless substitutes for coffee have been named. The acorn need only be tried once to be discarded. Corn meal and grits can be easily detected by the taste. Rye is only tolerable. Oakra [sic] seed is excellent, but costs about a dollar a pound, which puts it entirely out of the question. What, then, can we use? We want something that tastes like coffee, smells like it, and looks like it. We have just the thing in the sweet potato. When properly prepared, I defy any one to detect the difference between it and a cup of pure Rio.

Preparation--Peel your potatoes and slice them rather thin; dry them in the air or on a stove; then cut into pieces small enough to go into the coffee mil, then grind it. Two tablespoons full of ground coffee and three or four of ground potatoes will make eight or nine cups of coffee, clear, pure and well tasted.

The above is worthy of a trial. We have thoroughly tested its qualities, and can perceive no difference in taste from the genuine coffee. One table spoonful of ground coffee to two of the ground potatoe [sic] makes five cups full of a cheap, pleasant and healthy beverage. It is preferable to parch the potatoe [sic] in thin slices by the sun, as the parching or drying will be more regular, and not so apt to burn as when parched on a stove. We regard it as every way equal to Rio, Java, or the Mocha coffee.

 

****************

 

*~*OKRA*~*

 

TENNESSEE BAPTIST, December 21, 1861, p.4, c.2

 

We Have Tried It. — We have been somewhat skeptical about the various substitutes that have been proposed for coffee.

We have doubted whether any thing would have the flavor of the genuine article. But, "the proof of the pudding is in the eating." We have tried the okra coffee, and had we not known it to be okra, we should have supposed it the best of Laguyra or Java. It has all the rich spicy aroma of the genuine article, and we have no doubt, is equally nutricious [sic] and probably less injurious.

We would advise all our friends to reserve a large space in their gardens or farms, for planting okra. It will do, and no mistake, blockade or no blockade. Mississippi Baptist.

 

********

 

THE SOUTHERN BANNER [ATHENS, GA], February 11, 1863, p.3, c.4

 

Okra--A Substitute for Coffee:

Mr. Archer Griffeth, of Ala., gives us the following directions for preparing okra seed as a substitute for coffee. He expresses himself as highly pleased with the beverage:

Parch over a good fire and stir well until it is dark brown; then take off the fire and before the seed get cool put the white of one egg to two tea-cups full of okra, and mix well. Put the same quantity of seed in the coffee pot as you would coffee, boil well and settle as coffee.

Directions for Planting and Cultivating.--Prepare a rich spot as for cotton, by bedding 3 1/2 feet. About the 10th of April open the ridges and sow the seed, and when up, chop out to 12 inches in the drill and cultivate the same as cotton. it will grow 6 to 8 feet high and will yield abundantly--one acre of good land producing ten bushels of seed. The seed will be dry in July.

Since writing the above, we have tried some of the okra coffee prepared by the above directions, and find it better than pure Rio and almost equal to old Java.--Try it.

 

****************

 

CHARLESTON MERCURY [sC], January 16, 1862, p.1, c.1

 

Rye is the coffee now in general use at the boarding houses, and the substitute for tea is believed, by the best judges, to be hay. Hermes

 

********

 

SOUTHERN CONFEDERACY [ATLANTA, GA], January 18, 1862, p.2, c.3

 

A soldier's food should be well cooked; (no tainted meat) his meals at regular hours; no violent exercise after eating; a hearty breakfast, and at least one meal of animal food a day, with plenty of vegetables, as carrots, onions, rice, etc., ripe fruit, and after exposure or fatigue, good hot soup, cleanliness observed, and the feet kept dry if possible. He should have coffee once or twice a day, but if not to be got, the substitutes are, acorns stripped and roasted, ground sassafras nuts [sic?], grated crust of bread, rye or wheat, parched with butter, beech root, horse beans, etc. The substitutes for tea are--the yopon [sic], rosemary, strawberry leaves. But the best home tea is made of good, well made meadow hay (infusion).

While on the subject, I'll say that starch can be made of frosted potatoes, and the tops make good potash when burnt; and the myrtle, glycerine, etc., will furnish the other component of soap.

 

****************

 

 

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Home Roast Coffee - Stovetop Coffee Roaster

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Cat, these are WONDERFUL!!! I'm NOT a coffee drinker but as a former, and still interested, Civil War Reenactor I have long had a passion for old civil war era recipes. Many of these I've alredy seen and tried but the rest are a great addition. The bran, corn, molasses one tastes more like postum than coffee though but I'm going to try the parsnip one. I could see that being a good substitute as when burnt, parsnips smell kind of like coffee.

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You're quite welcome, Mother.

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I agree Cat, this is a cool glimpse into the civil war coffee needs. I like how they used coffee to drive the weevils out of the hardtack (bleach!) but it made the hard tack edible.

 

There's a lot we can learn from the 1800's and such life...TSHTF or lesser but still difficult catastrophe happens, those lessons can help ease the transition.

 

Below is another roasting at home film for coffee, but I like how he describes how far to roast to and what color to look for even though he's using a hotair popcorn popper. 2.gif

 

 

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I'm with you Cat. History, and especially the every day life skills, is facinating to me, always has been. We can learn so much about survival just by studying and learning the skills and tasks necessary to life in the 1800's. Even if we never need those skills, learning and using them saves so much money in an economy that seems to demand more cash each day. And if we ever need those skills in earnest, they could be invaluable even if it's only making a quilt or cooking with a dutch oven. Or finding substitutes for things.

 

Westy might be right, there's probably no substitute for coffee but if you run out and there's no more available a similar tasting hot drink might be just the emotional comfort we need to make it through another day and if you don't know what to make it from....well you might just give up and not even try. Knowledge could equate to hope in this instance and in a lot of other instances too. Fancy modern survival gadgets are great but if they aren't available, what do you have?

 

Okay, sorry, now I'll get off my

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