5 Writers Who Loved Coffee

— Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor on

The school year has begun, and if you’re not quite settled back into getting up at 4:30 AM to run every day (which I totally do…not), you’re probably depending on the life blood that is coffee. You’re not alone. Some of our favorite writers relied on this magical black elixir to get them going and sustain them throughout the day. Let’s take a look at how they took their coffee and what they have to say about our toasty drink of choice.

L. Frank Baum, Coffee Enthusiast

Best known texts: His Young Adult novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and its sequels.

L. Frank Baum preferred to take his coffee with cream and sugar and reportedly drank four or five cups each and every morning. Baum stuck to a strict daily routine: wake at 8 a.m. (what a luxury!), eat breakfast, and then drink coffee prior to taking a walk in the garden for inspiration—although, all that caffeine likely helped stimulate his creativity as well.

Benjamin Franklin, Coffee Entrepreneur

Best known texts: the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin and Poor Richard’s Almanac.

“Among the numerous luxuries of the table…coffee may be considered as one of the most valuable. It excites cheerfulness without intoxication; and the pleasing flow of spirits which it occasions…is never followed by sadness, languor or debility.”

Since many of us know Benjamin Franklin as a jack-of-all trades, it should come as no surprise to learn that while he was living in London, he worked as a coffee-shop freelancer. One might say he made hanging out in coffee shops fashionable, because that’s where he held political meetings, played chess, and even just enjoyed good conversation.

Gertrude Stein, Coffee Philosopher

Best known texts: her novel The Making of Americans and her book of poetry Tender Buttons.

“Coffee gives you time to think. It’s a lot more than just a drink; it’s something happening.”

Gertrude Stein is considered one of the most original, talented, and ingenious writers in history, her stream-of-consciousness style conveying some of the most thought-provoking ways of looking at life, even ordinary objects. An American expatriate who emigrated to France early on in life, Stein established herself in Paris where she participated in the arts community. She had her own gatherings at her home to discuss art and work on projects. Among these admirers and attendees were Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sinclair Lewis, and more. Stein’s partner, Alice, became the hostess for such events, and given Stein’s praise of coffee, one can only imagine that these great thinkers always had plenty on hand.

Voltaire, Coffee Master

Best known text: his satirical masterpiece Candide.

“If you have a mind for coffee, here it is; if not, why let it alone.”

On this list, Voltaire comes in second as the most notorious drinker of coffee. (We’ll get to Honoré de Balzac in a minute.) Apparently, Voltaire drank between 20 and 40 cups of coffee a day. How did he take it? He mixed in chocolate—I guess he was making his own kind of mocha! (Personally, if I drank that much sweet coffee I’d either read everything in our library or my body would quit on me.)

However, Voltaire not only drank that much but also he considered coffee the primary inspiration for his work, stating that it gave him the energy to work throughout the day. He reportedly paid enormous amounts of money to get his favorite coffee—even generously paying his servants who could find it for him.

Despite being told by his doctor that drinking so much coffee would kill him, Voltaire continued to enjoy his coffee vice and lived to be 83 years old.

Honoré de Balzac, Coffee God

Best known texts: his masterpiece, The Human Comedy, which features short stories such as “La Grande Bretèche” and “The Atheist’s Mass.”

“Coffee is your ally and writing ceases to be a struggle.”

And now we’ve come to the most notorious coffee drinker (of all time, one might argue). Honoré de Balzac had many things to say about our favorite beverage, from the quote above to his claim that “Were it not for coffee one could not write, which is to say one could not live.”

Balzac reportedly drank 50 cups of coffee a day. Yes, 50. His daily routine consisted of waking up at 1:00 a.m., worked until 8:00, napped until 9:30, and then began drinking coffee. What’s more, he apparently even started eating coffee grounds when his tolerance increased!

If you’re wondering whether or not he suffered from so much caffeine, well, yes, yes he did. He was plagued with stomach cramps, headaches, and all the usual signs of caffeine overdose. In addition to this habit, Balzac enjoyed a “work hard; play hard” attitude towards life, drinking, eating, and partying to excess when not extremely focused on his work.

While there are certainly other famous authors to add to this list, I hope that you’ve enjoyed this little taste. And now, if you’re thinking “should I drink more coffee?”, remember that it can definitely increase productivity, but we definitely don’t recommend Balzac’s method.