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360-Year-Old Advertisement Extolls Coffee’s Virtues

An advertisement issued by some brilliant London entrepreneurs may well be the first coffee ad ever.

Photo: Stepheye

People have sung coffee’s praise as far back as the 13th century when the first beans arose out of Ethiopia and spread their caffeinated wonder to Egypt and Yemen. By the mid-17th century the bitter, invigorating beverage had finally made its way to a London cafe called St. Michael’s Alley. An advertisement issued by the brilliant entrepreneurs may well be the first coffee ad ever. Open Culture notes:

It proves remarkable for a couple of reasons. First, the ad introduced Brits to what’s now a staple of the Western diet, and eventually they’d bring it to North America.

The British museum now houses this sacred script of early advertisement and coffee lore, which summons up hints of both mocha and Mad Men:.

And, what’s more, you can see another instance of the adage that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Advertising is advertising, and then, as now, beverages were sold on their taste and health properties. And, of course, you were encouraged to consume the product not once, but twice a day.

Vintage Ads serves up a full transcript of the antiquated text, but here are a few of the more interesting bits:

THE Grain or Berry called Coffee, groweth upon little Trees, only in the Deserts of Arabia.

It is a simple innocent thing, composed into a drink, by being dryed in an Oven, and ground to Powder, and boiled up with Spring water, and about half a pint of it to be drunk, fasting an hour before and not Eating an hour after, and to be taken as hot as possibly can be endured; the which will never fetch the skin off the mouth, or raise any Blisters, by reason of that Heat.

It will prevent Drowsiness, and make one fit for Busines, if one have occasion to Watch, and therefore you are not to drink of it after Supper, unless you intend to be watchful, for it will hinder sleep for 3 or 4 hours.

If that doesn’t send you scrambling to the coffee pot or making a quick Starbucks run we don’t know what will. The ad may be 360 years old, but a good cup of coffee is timeless.

More from Smithsonian.com:

Coffee Pots, An Instant Classic 

Getting Your Buzz With Turkish Coffee 

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