It is International Coffee Day today (1st October) and we decided to celebrate with a short history on hot drinks. Today we will look at a few examples of hot drinks from King Richard III’s time to learn what an English king may have enjoyed. So, pour yourself a nice hot cuppa and get comfy!
Now it may be true that coffee was not widespread in Europe during the late medieval period, but coffee did exist during Richard’s lifetime. Contrary to popular belief, coffee does not come from the Americas but was actually discovered in the Middle East, in Yemen in the early 15th century.
By the time of the Tudors, coffee had spread as a popular drink across the Middle East and had begun making waves in Europe. It is unlikely that Richard would have partaken of the invigorating drink himself, but some historians believe that the introduction of coffee, a stimulating non-alcoholic drink, may have helped to bring about the enlightenment!
Herbal decoctions and infusions
Something that Richard most definitely encountered was a good old decoction and/or infusion. We have to remember that the term ‘tea’ is a much more modern word, only appearing in Europe with the introduction of Chinese tea centuries after Richard’s death, but similar drinks existed.
Herbs, spices and even flowers and the bark of trees were brewed with hot water to create hot drinks believed to aid with digestion. During his stay in the low countries, Richard may have enjoyed anise infusions, a drink popular at the time for its perceived health benefits.
Everyone’s favourite winter warmer: mulled drinks. Though we typically associate this with wine, other drinks including ale and cider were also mulled.
The mulling process involved heating the alcoholic drink with a specific selection of mulling spices such as star anise, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. These spices may also have been used to make winter ales as well!
Posset was a popular drink in Britain from the medieval period right through to the 19th century. The drink consisted of milk curdled with wine or ale and often spiced. Think of mulled wine mixed with gone off milk and you get the idea… lovely!
This is a very helpful article. I would like some more specifics about infusions. Are there any recipes extant?
Thanks so much!
Todd A. Howard
Hi Todd, glad you enjoyed the article. We sell Yorkshire Tea and Taylors of Harrogate Speciality Teas in our award-winning White Boar Café so we would recommend asking them about historical infusion recipes https://www.yorkshiretea.co.uk/contact-us