Voltaire, the man known for being an intellectual powerhouse and author of many sassy words such as,
“God, protect me from my friends. I can handle my enemies.”
“If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.”
“Behind every successful man stands a surprised mother-in-law.
And perhaps some wiser ones,
“The longer we dwell on our misfortunes, the greater is their power to harm us.”
“Man is free at the instant he wants to be.”
Voltaire was known to be an avid coffee drinker, and he is often quoted as having said, "I have only ever known one way to live: to make the most of the present moment by savoring it, and to never let it go without extracting every ounce of pleasure from it. Coffee is my companion in this pursuit." Perhaps, we can consider him a founding father of the type of coffee culture we know today. A culture in which coffee is a catalyst for intellectual conversation, friendship, and productivity. In his own words, Voltaire experienced and enjoyed coffee as a companion of all things in life.
Voltaire reportedly drank up to 50 cups of coffee per day; although this number is likely exaggerated, what matters is that for many it was believable and this questionable fact about him has survived centuries. Just like all good myths and legends, it may be a fantasy, but it is based in some truth.
He was known to enjoy coffee with chocolate and was said to have introduced the practice of adding sugar to coffee in France. Could you imagine France without a strong coffee culture? Without the Parisian cafes and the smell of café au lait in every corner? Voltaire lived in a time when the French were still very much experimenting and getting to know coffee, so he did not inherit much of this culture, he helped create it. Thank you, Voltaire!
Voltaire was also known to have held coffee-fueled gatherings with other intellectuals and artists, where they would discuss politics, literature, and other topics of interest. These gatherings were known as "cafés littéraires" and were an important part of the French Enlightenment. Voltaire frequented several cafes in Paris during his lifetime, including Café Procope and Café de la Regence.
Café Procope, located in the Latin Quarter of Paris, was a popular gathering place for artists, writers, and intellectuals during the Enlightenment period. Even Rosseau frequented this café. Voltaire was a regular customer at the café and was said to have enjoyed drinking coffee and discussing politics and literature with other patrons. He was such a regular, that he had a desk there for his writing and the desk is preserved, so to this day, visitors can see and experience what Voltaire’s intellectual life looked like from the outside.
*Bucket list item: Drink a coffee at Café Procope while looking at Voltaire's desk and imagine him there.
There is also a plaque commemorating the fact that Benjamin Franklin drafted the fist French-American Alliance at the café! That takes working from a coffee shop to a whole other level.
Café de la Regence, located in the Palais Royal, was another popular gathering place for intellectuals during the 18th century. Voltaire was also a regular at this café and was known to have played chess there with other patrons.
It's worth noting that cafes played an important role in French intellectual and cultural life during the Enlightenment, and many notable thinkers and artists of the time, including Voltaire, spent a significant amount of time socializing and discussing ideas in these spaces. Throughout the centuries, more intellectuals have frequented these cafes. Hemingway, Picasso, F.S.Fitzgerald all used to meet up in these Parisian cafes to discuss their art and ideas. The things those walls must have witnessed…
Both Cafe Procope and Cafe de la Regence are still open today and are still known for their high quality coffee brews.
Café Procope is considered to be one of the oldest cafes in Paris and is still located in its original location in the 6th arrondissement of Paris. The cafe has been in operation since 1686 and has a long history of serving coffee and other drinks to famous writers, artists, and intellectuals. Today, it is still a popular destination for locals and tourists alike, and it continues to serve a wide range of food and drinks.
Café de la Regence is also still in operation and is located in the 1st arrondissement of Paris. While it no longer serves as a hub for chess players, it remains a popular destination for locals and tourists looking to enjoy coffee or a meal in a historic setting.
Both cafes have undergone some changes over the centuries, but they retain much of their original character and continue to be important cultural landmarks in Paris.
Overall, Voltaire's coffee habits were a reflection of his larger philosophy of living life to the fullest and seeking pleasure in the present moment. If one is to measure life by coffee cups; then we should measure it by coffee shared with friends, moments of intense and gratifying work, and the warmth of the morning.