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*   DRINKS by Wm. Gorby

*   As I continue to collect information on foods of the 18th century I continue to be struck with what appears to be quite a tremendous diversity in the foods available during this time period, and commonly available. Although it would be of no value to the trekker, in the same cookbook that gave me the previous list of confections, there was a complete recipe for making of raspberry ice cream! As a side light, Charles I, who reigned early in the 17th century commonly served ice cream to his guests. 

Now we will discuss the use of coffee, tea, herbs, and spices available to the early American colonists; what was common, what was difficult to obtain, and whether or not it might be a valid trekking item. 

While doing my research I tried very quickly to move into this area for selfish reasons. I’m not much of a fan when it comes to tea or hot chocolate, but I do enjoy a good cup of coffee. I knew that tea and chocolate were commonly available in the colonies in the 18th century (remember the "Boston Tea Party"), but what about coffee? And what about spices and herbs? Hopefully I can answer some of these questions to your satisfaction. 

Tea comes from the leaves of a small evergreen bush that was originally native to southeast Asia. The earliest record of the commercial use of tea was in the 7th century where it was cultivated for sale in China. Around 800AD the tea was formed in cakes or, bricks, if you prefer, and boiled. Around 1300AD the tea leaves were powdered and whipped into hot water to create the beverage. By 1600 the steeping of individual sprigs of tea in hot water was common along with the use of tea bricks and powdered tea. 

The first samples of tea app- eared in Europe around 1560, brought back by early traders. By the mid 1600’s the Dutch and English had established a regular sea trade with the Orient expressly for the importation of tea. During the early 18th century tea began to replace ale at the English breakfast table. In 1702, England imported close to 20,000 pounds of tea and by 1801, England was importing some 20 million pounds. It was sometime during the middle portion of the 18th century that the English and some of our colonists were consuming tea in the afternoon. Because the Chinese, as well as the Japanese, were so secretive about the preparation of tea from raw leaves it was well into the 19th century before either the Dutch or English attempted to grow and process tea themselves in their Asian colonies. Prior to the researching of this article I thought you just picked off a leaf and dried it; I was wrong. 

Actually there are 4 completely different steps in making tea suitable for use as a drink; withering, rolling, fermenting, and firing. Withering means that the leaves are dried to a point where they wilt and become structurally weak. Withering takes no more than 24 hours to complete. Rolling during the 18th century, was done by hand and simply meant that the leaves were crushed, a few at a time, to mix the chemical components of cells in the leaf together. Rolling along with fermenting is what will eventually give each of the various teas their color, flavor and astringency. 

Once the rolling is complete and cellar contents are mixed, they are allowed to "ferment" for 2-3 hours. This fermentation does not involve any yeast or microbes but simply refers to the complete mixing of all cellar contents and their enzymatic degradation. It is the same process that causes browning or oxidation in fruit when fruits are cut and exposed to air. This whole process is extremely complex and unless you happen to be a biochemist it is also boring. Once the amount of fermentation that is desired is completed, the leaves are "fired" or dried using heat of about 200 degrees F until the leaves are left with a moisture content of about 5%. 

It is the fermentation process, or lack of it, that produces some of the distinct character of the various teas. Green tea is not allowed to ferment at all. Its enzymes are destroyed by steam before the leaves are rolled. Black tea is fully fermented for 3 hours. Oolong tea has a fermentation time about half that of black tea. 

The coffee tree is indigenous to tropical Africa where it was first used to make wine and used as a food source. Around 1000AD coffee began to be used in a manner more familiar to use today, as a beverage. Its first recorded use in this manner was by the Arabs. By the 15th century the use of coffee was common place in Italy and Spain, and by the 17th century the English had discovered it. The first recorded use of coffee in England as a beverage took place in 1630. By 1652, coffee was firmly a part of English society. 

In order to overcome the Arabian monopoly on coffee, the English, Dutch, and French smuggled the whole un-roasted beans to their colonies in India, Java, and the West Indies. By the late 18th century coffee growing was firmly established in South America, but it wasn’t until the mid 19th century that this area became significant with respect to world trade. 

Today there are two species of coffee tree, coffee arabica which was the original source of the Arabian coffee and the type used in colonial America and coffea canephora, also known as robusta canephora. Robusta is a hardier plant that produces significantly more fruit. It does however have a more neutral, less interesting flavor. Also, the robusta coffee was unknown in the 18th century. Certainly for anyone portraying an 18th century personae the use of coffee is very acceptable. However to be perfectly correct you need to make sure you have coffee that is 100% arabica. For me this information was well worth the research effort, nothing is better than a good cup of coffee around the morning fire. 

Each berry of the coffee tree contains 2 seeds or beans. In order to be used the beans have to be roasted, which is just an- other term for heating. Roasting of the bean can be done at home or over an open fire during a trek by simply placing them in a dry pan and heating them (use medium heat on your stove) while constantly stirring them. The longer the beans are roasted the darker they become, and the more strongly flavored the coffee becomes. 

Before the beans can be used, they must obviously be broken down by a grinding process. The finer the bean is ground the more readily the particle will give up its flavor. The original way to brew coffee is the way that I have always used. The ground beans are boiled in water over an open fire and the liquid is decanted off. It works very well since the grounds quickly settle to the bottom. Although it may well be my imagination, coffee prepared in this manner has always tasted better. I have always felt it is due to a greater exposure of the surface areas of the coffee to the water. I have also noticed that the best coffee is prepared by heating the water to a boil and then removing it from the fire, prior to the addition of the coffee. Once the water is re- moved and no longer at a rolling boil, the coffee is added. With the pot setting away from the fire, let it stand for 15 minutes prior to the separation of the liquid and the grounds. If you allow the water to continue boiling on the fire after the coffee has been added, a number of problems are created. First, as the water is boiling and the steam is escaping, so too is the coffee flavor. Also the continued boiling allows the complex molecules of the coffee to be bro- ken down to harmful acids, significantly changing the flavor. 

And finally a word about caffeine, which is present in both tea and coffee in significant amounts. In normal amounts, form the consumption of tea or coffee for breakfast, caffine will improve attention, concentration, coordination, and according to more recent resources, endurance. Not only does that cup of morning coffee taste good but it was probably important to the early frontiersman in giving him an edge when in unfriendly territory. If you are however worried about the amount of caffine you are consuming, for whatever reason, it is interesting to note that the historically correct and more flavorful arabica beans have only half as much caffine as the newer hybrid, robusta.


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Brown the barley grain in the oven, then grind into cracked grain. Brew into a tasty drink. Sweeten with sugar, honey, or karo if you wish.

Buck Conner


I was searching for information about "Ceylon Tea" as I found a wooden box at an estate sale with these words on it and a date of 1837, heres what I found for the"Tea Drinkers".

Starting from the 16th century, establishment of plantations of export crops like cinnamon, later also coffee and coconut, were encouraged by the colonial governments in Sri Lanka and started to suppress the traditional system of peasant agriculture. The tropical island of Sri Lanka southeast of the Indian subcontinent offers ideal climatic conditions for tea (Ceylon) and rice cultivation which led to a history of highly developed hydraulic civilizations in the dry zone lowlands. The wet zone and highlands in the southwest constitute the core area of plantation agriculture because of environmental conditions suitable to support a variety of perennial commercial crops. After 1870 tea was established to replace coffee which succumbed to a virulent fungus. Until recently, plantation products contributed two thirds and more to the national economy, half of which was on account of tea. Tea also contributes substantially to government revenue in the form of various taxes and duties, as well as to the welfare of the people by providing direct and indirect employment for as many as one million citizens.

Ceylon tea has been acclaimed as the best tea in the world for over several centuries. The Sri Lankan climate varies tremendously from the central highlands to the southern plains. These varying climatic conditions impart distinct flavors and aromas on our teas. Sri Lanka produces the world renowned "Seasonal Teas" which are grown on the mystic hills of Sri Lanka, with fragrances unmatched by teas from any other parts of the world.Only the tender and succulent "two leaves and a bud" are carefully hand-picked for the tea crop. Highly skilled scientific and technical processes are applied in the cultivation and manufacture of teas, resulting in a product which is among the most sought after by tea connoisseurs around the world.

"What is Sri Lankan food?" asked a colonial visitor somewhat fearfully when to eat at Taprobane with me. He was imagining it would be mostly like Indian fare, made with lots of ghee, or clarified butter.

Little did he realize that it was a cuisine influenced by such diverse styles of cooking as Dutch and Portuguese.


Most of us probably have trouble recalling exactly what we know about Sri Lanka. So here, taken from the first issue of "The Lankan," the journal of the Sri Lanka Association of New York, are a few facts:

Sri Lanka is an island in the Indian Ocean about 20 miles of the southeast coast of India, about the size of West Virginia or half the size of New York.

Taprobane was the name given to Sri Lanka by Greek and Roman travelers and traders. Arab traders called it Serendip, Portuguese invaders called it Ceilao, Dutch colonists dubbed it Ceylan, and under British colonialism it became Ceylon. The Sinhalese called it Lanka, and the Tamils named it Illangai.

Sinhala and Tamil are the country's official languages, and English is widely used, too.anka is the name of the island earlier known as Ceylon and situated at the Southern extremity of the Indian Subcontinent, separated from it at its narrowest point by 22 miles of sea called the Palk Strait.

It covers an area of 25,322 square miles almost the size of Ireland or Tasmania and has a population of 18 million. Both the Sinhala and the Tamil nations existed in the island for over 2,500 years and shared the rule of the island separately.

The sources of the national conflict in Sri Lanka are historical, economic, cultural & religious. In the words of David Selbourne of Ruskin College, Oxford, it is "a true national question, if ever there was one".

Both the Tamil People & Sinhalese people are indigenous people of Sri Lanka. Early history records that they had their own monarchs and kingdoms. They were conquered by the colonial powers separately and in different periods in history.

They existed as separate communities until the British brought them together in 1883 under a single administration (for the very first time in their long history).

The Colonial Era Year Major Events

1505 ..Arrival of Portuguese - They first occupied the low country Sinhalese areas in the south west of the Island.

1621.. Jaffna Tamil Kingdom fell to the Portuguese (more than a century later)

1656 ..Dutch occupied areas which were under Portuguese control

1802 ..Treaty of Amiens - Dutch possessions ceded to the British

1815 ..The Sinhalese Kandy rally

1833 ..The British unified the island based on the recommendations of Cole Brook - Cameron Commission (purely for administrative convenience). Post-Colonial Era Year Major Events

1948 ..British grant independence under the Soulbury constitution. The parliament with its entrenched Sinhalese majority legislates to disenfranchise Tamils of Indian origin who have live there for generations and have always exercised their franchise. The Tamil people lost almost half of their representation in the parliament.The state aided colonization of Sinhalese people in Tamil areas promoted to annex Tamil homelands and further reduce Tamil representation in the parliament.

Increasing intensity and yields within the tea sector, coupled with larger extents diversified into equally intensive types of alternative agricultural cultivation, would also be likely to absorb a higher amount of labor per unit area. That way, the present tea areas could contribute more effectively to ease joblessness and under-employment, one of Sri Lanka's major problems. In addition, income, agricultural production, and even export values could be increased and optimized as well.

Hope this was't to boring and Ceylon Tea has been around for centuries all over the world, next time we meet lets have a spot of tea.


A sheep herder named Kaldi started it all in 850 AD. He wanted to know what could be responsible for the "queer antics of his flock." Fearing his sheep possessed, Kaldi paid close observation from high on the mountain and watched as his herd nibbled red berries from the branch of a strange tree.

Upon closer inspection he discovered the sheep eating berries from a new leaf. When he sampled the berry himself, he felt a surge of exhilaration and rushed to tell the local imam. That night the two shared a concoction made of the berries, pranced around, and generally got pretty tanked on caffeine. When they finally dozed off, Mohammed appeared to the imam and said the berries enhanced wakefulness and wakefulness promoted prayer. Prayer, counseled Mohammed, was better than sleep.

Sooner than you can say percolate, the imam and his monastery became famous throughout Arabia for the spirited praying of its coffee-drinking brethren. Soon others in the old world were clamoring for the newly discovered bean.

Although legend credits Kaldi with the find, some suspect that coffee was around long before him. But no one bothered to give it a proper noun. Among other tales of coffee lore, the Bible relates that Abigail brought to David "five measures of parched corn," which some believe to be coffee. Hippocrates is said to have collected all the herbs of his time and coffee, under another name perhaps, was included in this collection. The "black broth" of the Lacedaemonians was a strong, well-boiled brew.

Whatever its origins, the black broth is now ingested by over a third of the world's population and, centuries later, continues to promote queer antics.


I have become the proud owner of an original [ "H-H & S" 1832 ] 2 1/2 gal. white oak whiskey barrel in good condition, only missing one split limb barrel band, a present from the wife. She surprises me every now and then with a little treasurer like this or a neat period scale or period tea case (related items of a trader), and being in that type of business that we would have used such items.

Upon receiving the barrel I got on the Internet and starting "searching" a number of websites on whiskey for history and possibly something on small producers of the beverage like "H-H & S". I will share my findings with you and a few remarks about whiskey from the brothers of the AMM in the information listed below.

The World of Straight Whiskey

(as found on the Internet).

There are three main types of straight American whiskey - bourbon, rye, and Tennessee - and all three must be made in accordance with certain criteria laid down by law, "Jefferson's Guide-Lines". (Corn whiskey, which can also be designated as a straight whiskey, differs from the regulations below in as much as it must be aged in either used, charred oak barrels, or new, uncharred oak barrels.) Some of the regulations are, of course, rather technical, but here are the main points that differentiate straight whiskeys from their blended cousins.

Straight bourbon, rye, and Tennessee whiskey must be:

1. Distilled out at less then 160 proof (80 percent alcohol by volume [abv]). The fact is, most American straight whiskeys run off the still at between 62.5 and 70 percent abv, and by keeping the proof low, the distillers ensure that more flavor stays in the whiskey. In comparison, vodka usually comes off the still at almost 95 percent abv.

2. Aged for a minimum of two years in new charred oak casks. However, if the whiskey is matured for less than four years, its age must appear on the label. Therefore, most of the straight whiskey that appears on liquor store shelves is bound to be at least four years old. Many people think that whiskey must be aged in American white oak barrels, and indeed, all American whiskeys that we know of do spend their adolescence in that particular variety of oak since the configuration of the grains make it ideal for holding liquid. But this is merely the choice of the distillers, no specific type of oak is laid down by Jeffersons law.

3. No coloring or flavoring may be added to straight whiskey. When whiskey runs off the still it is clear - just like vodka - and it tastes similar to an eau-de-vie. But as the whiskey ages, certain impurities, known as congeners, react with the wood and develop into the "flavor particles" in the spirit. The color of straight whiskey is mostly a result of the spirit expanding into the charred wood during the warmer months and gaining color from the "red layer" in the barrel. So what's the red layer?


When the barrels are formed, the staves are heated to help them bend, and the heat caramelizes some of the wood sugars and tannins within each stave. This toasting stage of coopering forms the red layer, which not only helps give color to the whiskey, but also imparts some extra flavors. After the barrels are formed, their interiors are then charred over open flame creating a layer of charcoal over the red layer. When the whiskey is in the aging houses, it filters through that charcoal as it expands and contracts with seasonal temperature changes, or in certain cases, by artificially raising and lowering the temperature in the warehouse. Both the red layer and the charred interior add flavors to the whiskey.

Those, then, are the main points that concern us when dealing with straight American whiskey. Blended whiskey, on the other hand, is flavorful straight whiskey that has been blended with flavorless neutral grain whiskey. Further, blended whiskeys can have other flavorings and/or colorings added. Don't discount blended whiskeys out of hand, many of the top-name brands are sterling examples of the blender's craft, and should be enjoyed in their own right.

Tennessee Whiskey

If George Dickel or Jack Daniel were alive today, they would be proud that today's versions of their whiskeys aren't called bourbon - Tennessee whiskeys are very special. Back in the 1820's there lived in Lincoln County, Tennessee, a distiller by the name of Alfred Eaton, he is said to be the man who first discovered that when he filtered his whiskey through giant vats of sugar-maple charcoal, it became a much smoother product. Bear in mind that back in those days, whiskey wasn't usually aged, so any process that took the rough edges off new whiskey was very desirable.

Eaton's procedure is now known as the Lincoln County Process (1823), or charcoal mellowing. We have tasted Tennessee whiskey straight off the still, and again after the mellowing process and can vouch for the fact that it is this leaching over sugar-maple charcoal that gives the Tennessee whiskey the wonderful "sooty sweetness" that is not present in bourbons.

But don't be confused. Though your bottle of bourbon may bear the words "charcoal filtered," the process is different from the Lincoln County Process. Most bourbons - in fact Booker's bourbon is the only exception - are filtered after aging and before bottling with activated charcoal. Some are filtered at room temperature, others are chilled and then filtered, but the process is quick and meant solely to remove certain impurities that affect the visual appeal of the whiskey. No flavor is imparted by activated charcoal. Why do it? Because when unfiltered whiskey gets too cold, it can develop a "chill haze" or cloudiness. There's nothing wrong with cloudy whiskey, in fact, it is generally more flavorful than the filtered variety, but the public at large doesn't know that. They think the whiskey is spoiled in some way and don't want to buy it; therefore, distillers generally filter their bourbon before bottling it. Tennessee whiskey goes through the same quick filtration process after aging.

Early Single Barrel Whiskey

These whiskeys are, like their small-batch cousins, selected from prime areas of the warehouse. However, in the case of single-barrel bourbons, the distiller doesn't have the luxury of marrying one barrel with another to achieve a particular result. Each single barrel bourbon may differ slightly from the last if it came from a different barrel (check the label, the barrel number should be noted), but each master distiller selects whiskeys that have matured into a specific "flavor profile," and are, therefore, very similar to one another.

Some remarks about whiskey from brothers of the AMM.

You must got some of the old "good" stuff -- Everclear has been toned down a bit to 'bout 160 proof -- it was killin' too many stupid college kids who didn't respect it. The only way you can get truly "high octane" alcohol is from commercial paint suppliers. It's called "dehydrated ethanol" & it's roughly 199 proof (99.5% pure). Since the "dehydrated ethanol" isn't denatured, it's drinkable(???). Actually the old 195 proof Everclear was almost equal to the stuff ("ardent spirits") hauled to rendezvous & used in the concoctions you describe that were supposedly used at that time. From some of the "old recipes" used that I've seen & heard of, it's a wonder they didn't kill somebody! For example -- the tobacco leaches out nicotine sulfate, which in a more concentrated form used to be sold as the pesticide "Black Leaf 40". NM


I once traveled a day and half on a stakeside truck through the Andes with 20 members of the Charosani band, drinking clear alcohol from a 5 gallon tin. The first swallow evaporated off my lips like ether. I thought I was poisoned. It might be that I was.

I spent 6 months traveling in Peru and Bolivia on that trip. In Peru, up and down the Urobamba valley are village after village after village, nearly every one with a tienda. Each tienda had a centrally located +or- 4foot in diameter cask from which you could fill whatever container you brought with you for a few cents .Every village's barrel of booze was different in taste and effect from every other. Some, unbelievable! None bad tasting. Turns out, the one common ingredient they all shared was those same 5 gallon tins we sloshed from on the truck. Only each village's tienda had a different recipe, concocted by, in every case, an old woman. A crone. They wouldn't reveal their ingredients or proportions for nothing.

Mixing herbs and other things with everclear is, in some places, a guarded secret, and high art. LD


James Hanson, in "The Buckskinner's Cookbook", pg. 15, says "...fur traders, Indians and mountain men, popular legend notwithstanding, did not indulge in rotgut alcohol flavored with red pepper and rattlesnake heads. There are plenty of orders for Monongahela corn whiskey, some for rye whiskey, and in later days, grain alcohol to be cut with water and no contemporary references to ungodly concoctions dreamed up for lurid dime novels." Hanson then provides several recipes un use in the mountains and on the plains in the 19th century.

Well, I finally got around to that experiment trying to recreate the "whiskey" that was mixed up and served to them thirst fellers at rendezvous. I kind of threw together 3 different recipes I've found to come up with a reasonable mixture. Quantities were a little elusive (how much is a "portion" or "handful"?), but I did my best.

Following is the general recipe:

--375 ml (aprox 12 oz) Everclear pure grain alcohol

--36 oz water

--3 oz molassis

--1 tablespoon fresh ground ginger

--2 medium hot red peppers, chopped

--Pinch of Elephant FFG black powder

--1 tablespoon pipe tobacco

Put it all together in a glass jug and let it sit in a warm spot for 4 days. I pulled it out tonight and strained it through a piece of unbleached muslin. I didn't have the nerve yet to take more than a sip. The verdict: Pretty awful. I am a bourbon drinker (usually straight) so I don't find hard liquor distasteful. BUT, all things considered I could see it as being palatable (with time) if it was all you had available and on a limited basis. If I did it over again I would cut back on the molassis. The ginger definitely helped. Maybe use a little less water, but that Everclear is POWERFUL stuff (I tried an earlier experiment with a 2:1 ratio for 100 proof, but it still smelled flammable!).

If I get the nerve I'll try another drink. The bottle will probably accompany me to the next rendezvous, in search of brave souls and those who insist on the highest degree of period authenticity! L? * ...............spelling was left as received.


Now come on over to the fire and get another cup of shrub! What's in this stuff anyway?

*    SCRUB

Berry juice, brown sugar and (I think) vinegar. From that humble start it goes down hill depending on what spirituous liquor you add. Capt. Morgan's Spiced Rum will make it a drink fit for Kings. Anything else is just using up what can't be drunk otherwise. I remain.......

YMOS  - Capt. Lahti

*    SCRUB

Glad you asked. One quart of rum, the juice from 3 oranges and 3 lemons, and the zest of the oranges and lemons. No pulp, and NONE of the white fiber under the zests! Let the elixer percolate over the zests for 2-3 days, add a pint of water, and sugar to taste. Recipe came from a Virgina almanac back around 1750 via Jerry Young aka



Kaskaskia/Ft. Clark. M.M.Quaife in his 1913 book, Chicago and the Old Northwest,1673-1835. Quaife has many good references to forts and players. Kaskaskia, its taking by the Hannibal of Kentucky (which was a county of Virginia) Clark, and its history are fully covered. Later (1814) Forsyth is pleading the case for a Factory at Ft. Clark, so the Pottawatomies can receive goods "as cheap in this was as they formerly did in the factory at Chicago". They were bemoaning the high prices at the sutler's store.

This is an excellent text in some ways, and the fact that the map shows many forts and settlements and pointedly does not show Fort Clark in relationship to Kaskaskia may or may not shed light.

* * *


Until next time, we leave as friends and followers of those that went before us.

Buck Conner 

"One who trades”

"Uno quién negocia"

“Unqui commerce”