Most of the stories about Teddy Roosevelt are simply unbelievable. Perhaps if it wasn’t for the fact that he was a President and naturally so much of his life was lived in public and consequently well recorded, he could have simply become a legend of a man we wished existed.
As a kid, Roosevelt repeatedly came face to face with death. He suffered from asthma attacks which put pressure on his heart and according to the family doctor it affected his overall development, making him a small, skinny child. At the time the treatments for asthma were very limited and just getting through the New York winter was a feat, but Roosevelt’s parents were determined to help their child heal. They started feeding him coffee to strengthen his heart and built an outdoor gym on the roof so he could spend as much time as possible exercising in fresh air, and later added boxing classes to his regime. Somehow it all worked out. By the time Roosevelt became President, he incorporated physical tests as a basic requirement for the military (which he was able to pass and had determined was the minimum expectation for any man disposed to fight for his country.) He also led the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry, better known as the Rough Riders. He was the type of leader who would not demand anything he wouldn’t also expect of himself.
Privately, he dealt with the death of his mother and wife, who both died the same day and in the same place. He retreated to nature and spent time riding horses, hiking, and hunting; unintentionally building his cowboy reputation. Soon after his return he dealt with his brother’s scandals: fathering a baby out of wedlock and soon after drinking himself to death. Consequently, Teddy became a father figure to his brother’s daughter -Eleanor Roosevelt.
He was once shot in the middle of a speech. He concluded that as he was not coughing blood, the bullet must have not reached his lung, and therefore he kept going, only pausing to briefly say, "Ladies and gentlemen, I don't know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot, but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose." He asked the police to take the man who shot him and “make sure no violence is done to him.” Roosevelt received medical treatment only once he was done with his fifty page speech titled "Progressive Cause Greater Than Any Individual." It is worth mentioning that the bullet went through those fifty pages, then Roosevelt’s clothes, and at last his chest muscles. It was his intellectual and physical power that slowed down the bullet and saved him.
In many ways, he was a simple man, but his schedule was far from simple. According to his home records, he drank around a gallon of coffee every single day. He enjoyed it with milk and sugar. Perhaps that explains how aside from his physical endeavours, Roosevelt read a book per day and wrote multiple books while holding his political career.
The fact that he drank so much coffee is quite unique. Coffee gained popularity in America in the early 20th century as Italians and Greeks started integrating their own culture to American culture. The New York City Roosevelt grew up in was not filled with coffee shops in every corner, but his father’s wealth allowed the family to visit Europe for long stretches of time. The trips were educational and coffee was very much part of Roosevelt’s immersion in European culture.
Like all mortals, Roosevelt did not have an easy life. Yet, he never failed to live to the fullest and answer to the present needs in full disposition. He also never stopped drinking coffee.
Coffee was such a core aspect of the Roosevelt’s household that Theodore’s children started one of Manhattan's first coffee houses -The Double R Coffee House. It is worth mentioning that Roosevelt’s parenting style was a matter of notice at the time. His children were allowed to drink coffee and often got in trouble at the White House for their naughtiness. Once, Roosevelt found out they were plotting “an attack” against the White House and decided to stop it by sending them a warning from the War Department. The plan may sound daring, but that was exactly what Roosevelt encouraged in his children. He used to take them with him on dangerous hunting trips and it was during a trip to South America where his oldest started visioning The Double R Coffee House.
Initially the coffee shop was called Roosevelt’s Brazilian Coffee House, after his personal favorite roast, but was later renamed due to trademark issues. Nonetheless, the South American influence remained as they mentioned in the menu “(The South American Plan)” and listed Roosevelt’s personal favorite, the Brazilian Roast. They also named their locations after South American regions: Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and the Amazons.
The coffee shop’s plans were as eccentric and eclectic as Roosevelt himself. The original vision included books scattered around (that was the free wifi of the time), portraits of Shakespeare and Voltaire, and women dressed in South American traditional dresses pouring the coffee. This place was meant to be a place of refuge and an alternative to the pubs that had closed. It was the height of Prohibition after all.
Eventually the family sold the business to a married couple who had started their romance at the coffee house years prior. How romantic. Unfortunately the coffee shop did not endure the economic turmoils of the 20th century and eventually closed.
What would have been of Teddy Roosevelt had he not faced so much turmoil?
It is a known fact that children who struggle more often than not end up achieving great success in life. Roosevelt is an example of those statistics. Coffee was first introduced to him as a medicinal drink for his asthma, and yet, he turned it into a passion and later a business he shared with his family. He also spent time outside and had a disciplined work out regime as a child, because the doctor recommended it, and both habits shaped him physically, but even more so, mentally. He truly, always came out stronger, and never failed to enjoy honening into his own healing. After tragedies, he often travelled and returned as a new man; whether that was a cowboy, an European coffee conosciour, or a South American rancher. Roosevelt’s tragedies and misfortunes created a resilient and generous man, who after heartbreak, created something of value for himself and the nation he led.
Teddy’s vibrant spirit was fueled by his unstoppable resiliency and one gallon of coffee per day.