17th Century Coffee – Week 1 2022


We’re Back!

It’s Week 1 of the 2022 Great Colonial Cook Off and we couldn’t be more excited.

This season will have everything you’ve come to know and love about the Cook Off – delicious food (ok, MOSTLY delicious food), bizarre ingredients, an amazing and slightly crazy community of Cook Off cooks (we love you guys!) and the potential for some epic culinary disasters – plus a few new twists thrown in (just wait until you hear about the guest chefs we’ve lined up!).

But this week, we’re sticking with tradition and that means kicking things off with a beverage. When Lori first suggested we give 17th century coffee a try, I wasn’t convinced. Sure, coffee was a thing in 17th century England, but would we find an actual recipe? And does making a cup of coffee really qualify as “cooking”? But, as always, Lori was right. We did find a recipe and since it takes 45 minutes to make (Yup, 45 minutes!) I think it we can definitely call it cooking.

NOTE: For first time cook-offers, you’ll find a modern interpretation of this week’s recipe plus directions on how to enter this week’s prize draw at the bottom of this post. Just scroll down.

The recipe is courtesy of the Somerset Archives and goes like this:

To Make Coffee

Take Spring-water and Boyle it a full houre, then take a quart of the liquor, and put therein an ounce an halfe of Coffee-powder and boyle that three quarters of an houre. Let it not boyle too fast after the powder is in; and drinke it as hot as you can.

Easy peasy, right?

Hang on!

Before you dive right in, there are a few things we should explain. First off, unless your water is coming from a dodgy source, you can skip the part about boiling it for an hour. And while this could be the perfect excuse to have a good ol’ rant about all those ridiculous internet articles that claim NOBODY drank water prior to the modern period because they thought it would kill them, I know you’re anxious to get cooking. So I’ll just leave this link for when you have some spare time. It’s super interesting. Really. You should come back later and read it.

But Back to Coffee

Next, we need to discuss the coffee itself. Coffee arrived in England via travellers to and visitors from Turkey, Greece and the Middle East. In 1637, Oxford academic John Evelyn wrote in his diary about a Greek visitor to the university who was “the first I ever saw drink coffee”.

Initially, the primary source of coffee beans was Yemen. The beans were most likely shipped and purchased raw/green and roasted by the end user (green coffee beans have a much longer shelf life than roasted beans). At the Colony, Lori will be doing the same – roasting green beans in an iron pan over an open fire.

If you have access to green coffee beans and want to try this at home, you can roast your beans in a 475F oven. Just lay the beans in an even layer on a baking sheet and bake in the centre of your oven. For the first 5 or 6 minutes, you can leave them to do their thing. After that, you’ll need to keep a good eye on them. Give them an occasional toss to help them roast evenly and remove them when they are light chocolate brown in colour. If you’re a coffee nerd, think blonde roast. Let your beans cool and rub them with a towel to remove the husks.

Next, you’ll need to turn your beans into “coffee powder”. Traditional coffee from Turkey, Greece or the Middle East is made from beans that are ground powder-fine. So fine, in fact, that it’s difficult to see the individual grains. Lori will be grinding her’s with a mortar and pestle and then sifting to achieve a fine powder. I wimped out and used a coffee grinder set at the finest setting.

You’re looking for a super duper fine grind. It should feel soft, almost like flour.

The Recipe

Now it’s time to make the coffee. The original recipe makes about two 8 oz cups of coffee. The following recipe makes half that amount.

The results? A surprisingly rich and flavourful cup of coffee. Not at all what I expected.

Ready to give it a go? Remember, snap a pic of your 17th century coffee and post it as a comment under the Week 1 recipe on our Facebook page for a chance to win this week’s prize. Deadline for entries is 11:59 pm, Thursday, July 14, 2022. Good luck!

Lori will be brewing 17th century coffee in the Colony of Avalon’s kitchen all week. Drop by and have a taste. Or better yet, give her a hand with hand grinding the beans. I’m sure she’ll need it!