Who were the Lascars?

Olivia Bennet

Hi there gals and gents!

I have been spending my mornings lately contemplating the simple day to day habits we have nowadays and what some of those might have looked like in our favourite Regency Era. 

But as is usual for most of us in the mornings I need a little bit of caffeine to get me going for my busy day. Which led me to wonder… 

What did our favourite morning pick me up look like then?

Without our fancy coffee machines that brew us our favorite cup at the touch of a button, or our magic electric kettles boiling the water for our tea in mere seconds, the simple morning ritual (that most of us do while still half asleep in our pyjamas) would definitely be much more of a hassle. 

The history of coffee drinking is as colorful as any food history can be. According to the “The Roast and Post Coffee Company”, coffee was hardly known in Europe before the seventeenth century. European travellers, who visited Middle Eastern countries at this time, probably visited the coffee houses, where business would be transacted, or saw street coffee peddlers carrying coffee for sale in copper pots.

Coffee in the Regency era, as now, was a popular breakfast drink and an alternative to chocolate. While tea was often drunk from a dish, or saucer, coffee and chocolate were usually – but not exclusively – drunk from cups with or without handles (often referred to as a coffee can). 

Coffee was a popular drink in homes, it was served in the evenings, along with tea, when the gentlemen returned from their port after dinner. Tea sets of the time could contain up to 43 pieces, including 12 teacups and saucers and 12 coffee cups. Also included were a teapot, coffee pot, sugar bowl, mote spoon and slop bowl.

An advert for a sale of chinaware in 1750 suggests that handled coffee cups were sold without saucers and that those with saucers were predominantly intended for breakfast.

Saucers of the time were generally deeper than those we use today, and coffee was tipped from the cup into the saucer, possibly, in order to cool the drink more quickly.

So, how did they make the perfect cup of Regency era coffee?

Mrs Rundell gives us a recipe for the ideal breakfast coffee.

Coffee Milk

Boil a desert-spoonful of ground coffee, in nearly a pint of milk, a quarter of an hour; then put into it a shaving or two of isinglass, and clear it; let it boil a few minutes, and set it on the side of the fire to grow fine.

This is a very fine breakfast; it should be sweetened with real Lisbon sugar of a good quality.

Mrs Maria Eliza Rundell, in A New System of Domestic Cookery, 1808, gives us another recipe:

Breakfast Coffee

Put two ounces of fresh ground coffee, of the best quality, into a coffee-pot, and pour eight coffee-cups of boiling water on it; let it boil six minutes, pour out a cupful two or three times, and return it again; then put two or three isinglass-chips into it, and pour one large spoonful of boiling water on it; boil it five minutes more, and set the pot by the fire to keep it hot for ten minutes, and you will have coffee of a beautiful clearness.

Fine cream should always be served with coffee, and either pounded sugar-candy, or fine Lisbon sugar.

If for foreigners, or those who like it extremely strong, make only eight dishes from three ounces.  If not fresh roasted, ay it before a fire until perfectly hot and dry; or you may put the smallest bit of fresh butter into a preserving pan of a small size, and, when hot, throw the coffee in it, and toss it about until it be freshened, letting it be cold before ground.

If these recipes left you as mystified as they did me, allow me to explain…

Isinglass is a clarifying collagen, produced from the swim bladders of fish, prior to 1795 from sturgeon but after that also from cod; nowadays we’d use gelatin.  

While Lisbon sugar, otherwise known as clayed sugar, was manufactured in the colonies of France, Spain and, as the name suggests, Portugal.  Wet pipe-clay was laid on top of the sugar and water poured over which removed the molasses.  Sugar candy is formed of large crystals of sugar, today known as rock candy or sugar.

Whew… That is some serious work for a good cup of coffee! I will definitely be extra grateful for my gadget filled kitchen from now on. But I will be wondering how different their morning cuppa was from ours. 

Would you like to try one? 

Let me know in the comments below my lovelies! And may your mornings be quiet and your coffee cups full…

Written byHanna Hamilton

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