Times were tough back in ye old times of the Civil War. Food was being rationed, hundreds of thousands of soldiers were dying, and coffee was a hot commodity that the Union army was guzzling faster than the Confederates and civilians could keep up with.
“Nobody can ‘soldier’ without coffee,” the New York Times wrote in an article about coffee’s importance in the Civil War. “Union troops made their coffee everywhere, and with everything: with water from canteens and puddles, brackish bays and Mississippi mud, liquid their horses would not drink.”
But soon the beans ran out, and people needed to get creative.
Take this excerpt, for instance, from the Weekly Arkansas Gazette in Little Rock from June 15, 1861, the year the Civil War began:
A very good coffee can be made, costing only 12½ cents, by mixing one spoonful of coffee with one spoonful of toasted corn meal, boil well and clear in the usual way. I have used it for two weeks, and several friends visiting my house say they could not discover any thing peculiar in the taste of my coffee, but pronounced it very good. Try it and see if we cannot get along comfortably, even while our ports are blockaded by the would be kind I can assure you it is very pleasant, though not strong enough to make us drunk.
Here are 25 of the most bizarre things that people made what came to called “Confederate Coffee,” which, in most cases, didn’t contain any caffeine and in fact, was more of a tea.
These ingredients were either dried, browned, roasted, or ground before steeping or dissolving into hot water to make “coffee.”
4. Malted barley
9. Chicory root
11. Corn Meal
13. Dandelion root
15. Boiled-down molasses
16. Okra seed
19. Persimmon seed
20. Potato peel
21. Sassafras pits
22. Sugar cane seeds
23. Sweet potato
24. Wheat berries
25. Wheat bran
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