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The Grenade: Coffee versus Chocolate

Thomas Rowlandson, A Mad Dog in a Coffee House, 1809, Yale Center for British Art

No, he drinks Chocolate, which is a rich drink indeed.

Prethee Peg tell me what manner of Liquor that is?

The Coffee Man's Granado, a pamphlet published by Bollicosgo Armuthaz in 1663, is a playful piece on coffee with an ulterior motive to praise chocolate. Armuthaz launched his “granado” (a word with roots in the French word “grenade”) on another piece written against coffee in the same year, The Maidens' Complaint against Coffee. He uses this weapon to discharge his opinion about coffee and his feelings on chocolate compared to his peers. He relates the conversation between Black-Burnt, owner of a coffee house, and Democritus, who had, in the text, recently published a scathing critique of coffee called The Maidens’ Complaint against Coffee.

This “grenade” was supposedly written to encourage the consumption of coffee, but a closer inspection reveals a sardonic attitude about the virtues of coffee. The first coffee house in England opened in 1650, and quickly became wildly popular. However, a strong push against coffee emerged in the 1660’s with the publication of critiques against coffee and coffee houses. For example, The Coffee Scuffle; A Cup of Coffee, or Coffee in its Colours; as well as The Maidens’ Complaint against Coffee all harshly attack coffee and its effect on society. These broadsides derided coffee by saying that it has “its heats from Hell,” and that the drinkers might as well “learn to eat spiders” (Coffee in its Colours).

Coffee houses were run by women, and many wives in The Maidens' Complaint worried that the coffee women, coffee houses, and coffee itself had a negative effect on their husbands. By 1675, coffee houses were so popular in the men’s eyes that even King Charles II, fearing that these houses would be breeding grounds for mutiny and rebellion, tried outlawing them. However, the violent backlash to this perceived law quickly stopped him.

EEBO, property of Harvard University Library

Armuthaz thus enters this controversial conversation at a time where he would receive negative criticism no matter what side he supported. Therefore, it seems he doesn’t support a side, but satirically mocks both camps and introduces a whole new beverage: chocolate. The second half of the The Granado introduces Peg and Cis, two milkmaids who despise coffee, but extol chocolate. Armuthaz argues through parallel “diseases” how each beverage “cures” the disease to create a contrast between coffee and chocolate. He lets Peg and Cis end the dialogue to give chocolate the upper hand.


Edward (Ned) Ward, The Coffee House Mob, frontispiece to Part IV of Vulgus Britannicus, or the British Hudibras (London, 1710).

In the first part of The Granado Black-burnt tells the story of Helsen, a Leather-weaver in Dalmacia who

was troubled with a Consumption four years, and fell to Coffee a long time, by which he was so cured, that his pocket was as bare as a Bird's-arse.

The pamphlet plays on the word “consumption,” plaguing Helsen the Leather-weaver first with the physical disease consumption (which was then known as the drying of the bodily humors, but is now known as tuberculosis)—but it does not stop there. Poor Helsen was cured of his bodily consumption by drinking copious amounts of coffee. However, this excessive drinking was expensive, and left Helsen dried up in a different way, with a “pocket as bare as a Bird's-arse.”

The reigning medical theory of Armuthaz’s time was humoralism, which is based on the belief that the body is made of 4 fluids that must always be in balance to allow the body to be in perfect health and temperament. As Black-burnt and Democritus continue to chat, they discuss multiple cases of men drinking coffee and having their skin, organs, bones, and even eyes dry up in an instant. And, as the aforementioned example of Helsen demonstrates, coffee not only dried up one’s body, but one’s pocket as well.

On the other hand, Armuthaz touts chocolate as instigating lust and wetness. One of the maidens describes chocolate as a stimulant: “Marry such Liquor as would make your teeth water to tast it, for I'am sure it made me come too't so lustily, that I shall never forget it.” Based on the principles of humoralism and these two experiences, chocolate was shown to be healthy—lusty and fortifying—while coffee was damaging—desiccating to the point of ruin.

Finally, Armuthaz presents the most alarming form of dryness caused by coffee by relating a story about the aptly-named Benjamin Bad-cock: barrenness. He drank coffee for four years and consequently his wife remained barren for that time. Then, nine months after leaving coffee, he and his wife had a “goodly chopping boy.” Who would want to drink something that would hurt them physically, spiritually, and economically?


He stole away my Maiden-head, which to my sorrow proved a Timpany in my belly, & in three quarters of a year I fell in Mother Midnights hands, and was cured of the Tinpany, which had two Legs.

Armuthaz contrasts coffee’s effect of impotence with chocolate’s fertile effects on the body by relating the story of a milkmaid named Peg getting pregnant. Peg and her man, Roger, drank of chocolate and grew lusty. One thing led to another, and Peg grew a “Timpany in her belly.” Timpany, a morbid swelling or tumour of any kind, here sarcastically refers to the state of being with child. She was later “cured” of this timpany with two legs, which lived with the father. Peg “had little cause to repent [her] bargain,” considering that the father would give her as much chocolate as she chose and she didn’t have to care for the child. By referring to Peg’s child with such detachment (calling it a tumor that she was “cured” of), Armuthaz implies that there can be pleasure with no consequences; that one can relish chocolate with no negative repercussions. Coffee, on the other hand, comes with both an economical and a physical a price.

By comparing the virtues and vices of chocolate and coffee in this treatise, Armuthaz creates a stark contrast between the two beverages. After sardonically denouncing coffee as a drying, unbalancing, unhealthy cordial, he promotes chocolate as a balancing, healthy, life- and happiness-promoting liquor.

[Chocolate] will make him as strong in the back as a Lion; he's as nimble as a Squirril, as brisk as a body-Lowse, and as lively as an Eel, only by the vertue of that Liquor; it's a brave pleasant Liquor, for I have drank of it my self.

While coffee, according to the anecdotes, causes dryness and death, chocolate brings lust and life. If the broadside paints chocolate as the real “cordial drink,” socially speaking, then the purpose of this ironic piece seems to be to demote the beverage for which the coffee-house was named and promote chocolate as a “brave pleasant liquor.”

Works Cited

Armuthaz, Bollicosgo. The Coffee Man’s Granado discharged upon the Maidens complaint against coffee. In a dialogue between Mr. Black-burnt and Democritus; wherein is discovered severall strange, wonderful, and miraculous cures performed by coffee, (the like never heard of since the creation.) with the names of the persons, and places of their abode, who were cured when left off by the physitians. Also some merry passages between Peg and Cis, two merry milk-maids of Islington, touching the rare vertues of chocolate. London: Printed for J. Johnson, 1663.

Markman, Ellis. “The Devils’ Ordinary,” Pharmacopia 8 (2002). Online in Cabinet Magazine.

The Coffee Scuffle, occasioned by a contest between a learned knight, and a pitifull pedagogue. MS note at the British Library: Attributed to Schoolmaster Evans (Woolnoth on Evans?) & Sir James Langhams. London, 1662.

For further reading

Green, Matthew, "The Lost World of the London Coffee House," The Public Domain Review

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