"[Her son] hung over her shoulder and brought her continual mugs of strong black coffee. This beverage began to appear in the books, too. The mutineer humans drank gav, while their law-abiding enemies quaffed chvi. Spacer aliens staggered from their nav-couches to gulp down kivay; and the mystics of Meld used xfy to induce an altered state of consciousness — although this was not generally spotted as being the same substance. And it was all immensely popular."
Every single Speculative Fiction
setting comes with a hot, mildly stimulant beverage that can take the place of coffee, and more often than not has a name that sounds very much like "coffee". Apparently coffee itself is too mundane to talk about; alternately, authors of Medieval European Fantasy
may want to avoid it because it wasn't common in Europe until the 17th century. Sometimes authors justify it by saying that coffee exists in-universe, but the beverage in question isn't really
coffee, or is a specific form of coffee that everyone inexplicably prefers to all other forms.
Can be considered a Sub-Trope
of Most Writers Are Writers
: anyone who's ever struggled
with Writer's Block
will feel they owe a debt of gratitude to the drink, and a brief cameo is the least they could do. Nick Lowe, of "The Well-Tempered Plot-Device" fame, has suggested that this is a vicious cycle: you have writer's block, you drink coffee, you start thinking about coffee, and you mistake this for your writer's block clearing up.
Compare Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp"
, the supertrope for things other than coffee. Also see this
essay by Jo Walton (which, incidentally, links back to this wiki) and Klatchian Coffee
as the drinks that fall into this trope can also overlap with being an Uncoffee.
See also All Beer Is Ale
- In the Judge Dredd universe they drink Synthi-Caff, a synthetic substitute for coffee with no caffeine. Caffeine and sugar are illegal drugs in Mega-City One. However, even Synthi-Caff turns out eventually to be somewhat addictive, and is replaced by Synthi-Synthi-Caff.
- The Star Wars Expanded Universe has "caf tea", or "coffeine" or "caffa" or just "caf", depending on the writer, since most of them don't like or haven't bothered looking up the words already coined. It's a big universe and these all might be distinct beverages or brands, but even so. And oratay, which is apparently rare. Averted with the highly exotic drink hot chocolate. One Jedi Apprentice book mentions "kopi tea", which is sorta funny when you know "kopi" is Malay for "coffee".
- The Valdemar series usually sticks to "strong tea", but occasionally mentions a stimulant drink called "bitteralm". That one's particularly strange, because it sounds like a reference to "bitter almond", which is a real-world nut that contains cyanide and must be carefully treated before it's edible.
- In the Dragonriders of Pern books, everybody drinks klah, which isn't coffee or tea. (The colonists found that neither of those plants would grow successfully, so they concocted a substitute from the bark of a native tree.) It's stated in Dragonsdawn that the first two things human colonists always do on a new world are 1. find something that can be turned into booze and 2. find something that can be turned into a caffeinated drink. The second one is necessary because coffee plants won't grow successfully on any planet but Earth for some reason. And all the tea plants were consumed by Thread on Pern, in the First Fall.
- In Randall Garrett's Lord Darcy books, coffee is called "caffe" in the Anglo-French Empire.
- In the Mageworlds series, the Mageworlds have a drink called "uffa", and the Adeptworlds have a drink called "cha'a" (which is probably tea, because chá is how the word for tea is pronounced in some Chinese dialects, and many other languages' words for tea are derived from this).
- The Seanchan of The Wheel of Time have a hot drink called kaf, which is quite likely coffee.
- The people in Dragonlance drink "tarbean tea". There is also a drink called "Kefre" which is probably even more coffee-like than tarbean tea.
- In the Chronicles of the Warlands trilogy, it's kavage.
- In Elizabeth Moon's The Deed of Paksenarrion series, the stimulant drink of choice is "sib". It's not clear whether it is more akin to coffee or tea.
- There is also "asar", which is given to sentries on outdoor duty to give them energy and some heat.
- The Chanur Novels by C. J. Cherryh have the cat-like aliens drinking gfi.
- Anne Bishop's Ephemera novels, in what is probably the least-intrusive possible version of this trope, have koffee. It is pretty explicitly just coffee, brewed from roasted beans, but in that universe it's a "black market" item that comes from a far away Landscape.
- In Labyrinths of Echo by Max Frei, everyone in the parallel universe of Echo drinks kamra. It takes a weak, but really specific magic to make it just right and one of the Running Gags in the series is the protagonist's seemingly utter inability to make kamra that can be consumed by people with functional taste buds (he even considers using it to intimidate criminals at interrogations but decides that it's against the law). It takes an intervention of a powerful wizard to teach him to make kamra properly and later on, he cheats by stealing real coffee from our world.
- The Gor books have "the black wine of Thentis". When the Earth-born protagonists taste it for the first time, their reaction boils down to "Wow, this is coffee!"
- In the Doc Sidhe novels by Aaron Allston, the fair world equivalent of coffee is a bitter chocolate based drink named xioc (or, with milk, "xioc au lait"...). It takes some getting used to for the characters originally from Earth.
- Chocolate was originally consumed as a bitter beverage. It was arguably the New World (specifically Mesoamerican) equivalent of coffee (originally an Old World plant), along with mate in Peru.
- In the Dragaera series, coffee does exist, but most of the characters drink the specific variant of it known as klava (which is filtered through eggshells), and served with honey and cream.
- Fleegix, a watery, hot chocolate-like beverage that is made from the berries of the four zitzkis bushes that grow only on the summit of the mountain-city of Lenny in the existential plane of Waka-Waka and drunk out of ceremonial Lucite-handled thermal cups, shows up a lot in the sillier Daniel Pinkwater novels. Which is to say most of them.
- In the Sten series, people drink "caff".
- Tah in Doris Egan's Ivory trilogy. Specifically pointed out to be mildly addictive. In the second book, the outlaws decide to earn themselves a pardon by stealing all the tah they can get ahold of, thus annoying the population and government officials when they can't get their fixes.
- Coffee in Lisanne Norman's Sholan Alliance series acts as an intoxicant to the Sholans, who drink a much milder version called c'shar.
- Trudi Canavan has "raka" for coffee (drunk by slum dwellers) and "sumi" for tea (staple for the upper classes).
- Malak in Robin McKinley's Damar books, The Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword, is Damarian uncoffee.
- The humans in James P. Hogan's The Immortality Option drink coffee. The Borijans—the six-limbed birdlike aliens responsible for the mechanical biosphere on Titan—on the other hand drink (or rather drank, as their planet was destroyed half a million years ago) graff, made from a kind of dried seaweed. Justified in that they're six-limbed birdlike aliens from a planet that was destroyed half a million years ago.
- In Dune they drink coffee flavored with melange, which makes perfect sense for Space Arabs.note Granted, this isn't entirely by choice, since melange is everywhere on Arrakis anyway, to the point that everyone on Arrakis is addicted to it.
- The protagonist of Wizard's Bane craves Jolt Cola rather than coffee, but eventually discovers that a foul-tasting drink called "blackmoss tea" works just as well. In the sequel hired Earth programmers request coffee or tea, but accept blackmoss tea too.
- In the Ciaphas Cain books, the title character claims to have once fought his way single-handed through a continent full of Orks just to get a bowl of Tanna Tea! But he will also drink "Re-caff" as well, which is recycled caffeine.
- In Brave New World, one nurse is told to go relax and have a cup of caffeine solution. (Bearing in mind that Huxley was English, this probably means tea rather than coffee.) Doesn't that sound pleasant?
- This could also be an Expospeak Gag, mind.
- It's probably the Evilutionary Biologist Dystopia's version of Black Speech—rather than a beverage, with its dozens of social and cultural connotations, tea is reduced to a source of a chemical stimulant, merely a drug taken orally.
- In Naamah's Kiss by Jacqueline Carey, it is tremendously fashionable for D'Angeline nobles to drink khav, which is described as a bitter drink from Jebe-Barkal (the Fantasy Counterpart Culture of Ethiopia.)
- In Brent Weeks' The Night Angel Trilogy, everyone in Cenaria drinks Ootai, and in the Satrapies of his Lightbringer series, they drink kopi.
- In Fairest by Gail Carson Levine, the citizens of Ayortha enjoy a hot molasses beverage called ostumo.
- In Song in the Silence, people drink chelan. It is said to taste a bit (to us) like yerba mate, with cinnamon.
- In The Telling, people drink a beverage called akakafi, which is described as "bittersweet, black...containing a remarkable mixture of alkaloids, stimulants, and depressants". The most common brand (owned by the government) is even called Starbrew.
- Rare aversion in Honor Harrington, where it is jokingly said in-universe that Her Majesty's Starships actually run on coffee, not reactor mass (the popularity of coffee with Royal Manticoran Navy personnel is mentioned fairly often in light of the heroine's personal preference for cocoa). Furthermore, for all its Call a Smeerp a "Rabbit" moments with wildlife, the Honorverse lacks a gratuitous space coffee.
- Averted in Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's novel The Mote in God's Eye. Not only is it explicitly "coffee" that's said to actually run the Empire of Man's Space Navy rather than something else, specific types are referred to, mostly by coffee connoisseur Horace Bury, who organizes a coffee tasting from his private stores on the Navy ship he's an "honored guest" (read: sub rosa prisoner) aboard. The total output of Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee is reserved for the exclusive use of the Imperial family (they apparently sometimes give it as a gift; the Blaines wind up with some in the sequel The Gripping Hand, causing Bury to have to very quickly conceal his surprise and deliberately guess wrong when he's given a cup of it, since he's not supposed to have had it before ... his one previous taste had been very expensive and very illegal).
- Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser enjoy the occasional cup of hot gahveh.
- A meta example in Diana Wynne Jones's short story Nad and Dan adn Quaffy. The story is about a science-fiction author with a coffee addiction who tends to write all her main characters as having an addiction to some kind of Suspiciously Similar Substitute. The quaffy in the title is one of them, but there is also gav, chvi, kivay, xfy, etc. This gets to the point were she starts calling coffee itself chofiy or c'phee by mistake.
- The Helmsman Saga features cvcesse', defined as "A hot, sticky liquid with natural stimulants and a pleasant, toasted taste consumed at all hours note throughout the Known Universe. Usually served in mugs or cups."
- In Horatio Hornblower, the Navy typically uses burnt bread (with lots of sugar to mask the taste) once the actual coffee runs out.
- Lack of real coffee becomes a real difficulty in Monstrous Regiment thanks to a vampire using it as his substitute for blood. The squad makes some out of acorns for (which soldiers did often in Real Life, minus the the necessity for keeping vampires on the wagon).
- In The Journal Entries, a "Sendar equivalent of coffee" is popular under the short name "kfi".
- Raj Whitehall reflects that the Gubierno Civil's High Command can't function without "kave" from distant Azania.
- Shaddi in Reflections of Eterna fulfills the same role as coffee. It was even imported to Talig from the Fantasy Counterpart Culture of Arabia.
- Subverted in the Emberverse novels. After technology (and, consequently, society) breaks down, real coffee becomes a rare and incredibly expensive luxury in most of North America. Several substitutes become fashionable among the younger generation, most notably chicory, which comes to be called "coffee" in some places. But many characters old enough to remember life before the Change eschew it, saying that it tastes just barely enough like the real thing to make them miss it all the more.
- The crew of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine pretty much relies on 'raktajino', sometimes explicitly referred to as Klingon coffee, to get through their day, even though none of them are Klingon. Indeed at least one of them only learned of Klingons recently, and the only Klingon in the main cast doesn't actually drink the stuff.
- A guest star who was a longtime prisoner of the Cardassians notes that they don't drink coffee (or raktajino), but hot fish juice. Yuck.
- In the Star Trek: Vanguard book Precipice, Diego Reyes tries raktajino, and quickly concludes that it's nothing like coffee.
- In case anyone's interested, the full story of raktajino is apparently this (taken from one of the works expanding on the Klingon dictionary):
"Klingons have developed a way to make coffee particularly strong, both in flavour and in its effect as a stimulant, and it’s a very popular beverage. As a rule, coffee’s consumed plain - that is, black - but some Klingons prefer to mix other ingredients in with the coffee. If some kind of liquor is added to the coffee, the drink is called ra’taj. It’s said that the drink was originally nicknamed ra’wI’ taj (“commander’s knife,” suggestive of its potency), and that the name was shortened over time. In any event, ra’taj became one of the few Klingon foods to gain popularity outside the Empire, though in an altered form. Instead of containing liquor, as does the genuine Klingon ra’taj, the “export” version (which came to be pronounced <raktaj> in Federation Standard) consists of strong Klingon coffee plus a nutlike flavouring. Eventually, a new fashion developed - adding cream to the <raktaj> - and with this innovation came yet another name, <raktajino>, modelled after the name of another popular coffee drink, cappuccino. Raktajino is now served hot or iced, with or without extra cream, and with or without the rind of some fruit to add even more flavour. Though it’s sometimes called “Klingon coffee,” it’s quite different from both plain coffee and the alcoholic ra’taj.
- In the episode where the crew goes back in time to "The Trouble With Tribbles", Odo (in disguise) distractedly asks the waitress for raktajino and then clarifies that it is Klingon coffee. She replies that they don't serve Klingon food and drink.
- The crew of Star Trek: Voyager try on several occasions to find native substitutes for coffee, none of which come even remotely close. Given the captain's raging case of Must Have Caffeine (and the poor quality of replicated coffee), this became a problem on more than one occasion...
- According to Star Trek: The Next Generation the Vulcans have a kind of "un-tea." Sarek's wife Perrin mentions, over a cup of mint tea with Picard, that the Vulcans have "something they call mint," which apparently isn't as good as real Earth mint, or at least not quite the same.
- The Shadowrun universe has "soycaf". Because everything on the whole planet that is available to the working classes will be made of soy in the future, even things that would grow better in their respective climates.
- Warhammer 40,000 uses a wide variety of variants on coffee, including straight caffeine and recaff, among others.
- A piece of Warhammer 40k fluff had the Imperial Guard drinking "Recycled caffeine" at an outpost before they were massacred by the Tyranids (again). Probably as much a lampshading of their status as professional cannon fodder and terrible equipment as an example of this trope. It isn't stated what it is, but given this is from the administration that gave you 'Soylens Viridians' it's probably better not to ask.
- Caffeine is classified as a 'Stimm', Adrenaline shots are also Stimms.
- In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy game, asking the food replicator for tea caused it to give you a healthy and nutritious tea substitutenote . You really have to work in order to get real tea out of the dang thing.
- Narrowly averted in the original radio drama, where the computer offers Arthur the Uncoffeenote , and he asks it to consider the possibility that he might actually want the unhealthy, non-nutritious version. The computer does so, but this takes up so much computing power that the group almost can't avoid the incoming nuclear missiles. And after the attack, it spits out a cup of real tea.
- Parodied in Kingdom of Loathing's "Guano coffee cup" item, where the description says "Wait, what's 'coffee'?"
- There's also a one-of-a-kind coffee mug that references this. What takes the cake, though, is a consumable item that explicitly is coffee, which had to be revised twice once the creators realized they had stricken coffee from existence.
- Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga has Starbean's Cafe, where one can sample various blends of... bean juice.
- The MMORPG Tabula Rasa had Coffite, a brew produced by the Cormans and billed by the AFS Post Exchange as "something like coffee that's better than no coffee at all." Justified in that the fall of Earth to the Bane forced surviving humans to find substitutes for most of their food and drink; most AFS soldiers (both roleplayers and NPCs) found it to be a poor substitute.
- There are a wide variety of variations to or replacements for coffee as any visitor to Starbucks knows. See The Other Wiki's list of coffee substitutes for some examples.
- During The American Civil War, Lincoln cut off the South's access to coffee supplies. Desperate, the Confederacy tried to make substitutes of anything that they could get their hands on. This included faux-coffee made from chicory, roasted dandelion root, and toasted grain, best of all. Worst of all being acorns. (Coffee adulterated with chicory is still popular in Louisiana.)
- Mirrored by the North's lack of tobacco, and resulting in scouting parties from both armies being as likely to trade with one another as fight.
- Eastern European countries still drink grain coffee. There was all sorts of mock-foreign products, including faux chocolate. One of party leaders advocated abandoning lemons in favor of the Sauerkraut - which has roughly the same vitamin quotient. He changed his mind, when his wife prepared him some tea... with sauerkraut.
- Chicory caught on, after a fashion; it's still an ingredient, though now mixed with real coffee.
- During the Russian Civil War, the exact same coffee substitutes were in use. There was even a brand of acorn coffee, "Zheludin" (lit. Acornine) that was marketed even after the hurdle was cleared, as a "healthy" coffee.
- Historically Russians are much bigger on tea, though (tea is right up there with vodka as far as how much Russians drink it). Reds ending up with all the stock from the pre-Revolutionary tea trade is often credited as one reasons for their victory, as they were able to introduce a strict dry law, giving out the tea in consolation, which lead to better morale and better health (as tea required boiling the water) in their troops.
- In The Blitz, Britons had a similar problem with obtaining coffee (although other drinks were more of a problem when they became unavailable). This may be the reason for the popularity of instant coffee in present day Britain. We've even invented varieties that don't taste unspeakably vile!
- During World War II, most of the Continental Europe had to do without coffee or tobacco as these countries were cut off from their sources. Many substitutes for coffee were developed, with varying success while coffee (and tobacco) smuggling was an extremely profitable business. Allied PO Ws, especially Americans, who had access to real coffee and tobacco from Red Cross packages they received, often used them to bribe German guards.
- Having to rely on coffee substitutes (called Ersatzkaffee or Muckefuck) was also necessary in West Germany during the post-war era, as well as in East Germany during The Seventies.
- Frederick The Great liked coffee boiled in champagne. Given that he was a great conqueror, you might have expected him to drink red wine, or as a German to drink beer, but you would be forgetting his intense love for all things modern and French—and in 18th-century Europe, coffee was modern and champagne was (of course) French.
- As it happens, he did in fact like wine, red and white (particularly if it was French), but beer? Despite his ban on coffee (to commoners) to protect the brewing industry, the man never liked the stuff himself...it was too German.
- During The American Revolution, many colonists boycotted tea in protest of the British tax on it. Since tea was (at the time) a bit easier to come by than coffee, that's what they were used to...so they experimented with as many substitutes as possible, brewing "tea" from the barks and leaves of native trees and plants.
- For much of the 20th Century, Postum (one of those roasted grain beverages) was hugely popular among Mormons.