The prolific author’s daily coffee consumption of 50 cups drove night-long writing sessions.
It’s no surprise that Honoré de Balzac was a prolific writer, writing dozens of novels as well as innumerable novellas, plays, and short tales throughout his lifetime — and that’s not counting those released after his death. The author didn’t appear to have ink in his veins, but rather coffee – litres of it. According to legend, he could drink up to 50 cups of coffee every day, driving himself insane with inventiveness.
Balzac began his writing day at 2 a.m., wearing the white cowl of a Dominican monk and armed with ink, quills, and an infinite supply of coffee. He only left his desk to tend to his personalised Limoges cafetière, which kept his thick Turkish coffee warm throughout his long nights of writing. These writing sessions need at least 15 glasses of coffee.
“What a colour! What a scent!” Balzac’s “scientific, subtle, divine” concoction was praised by a devoted friend. Balzac devised a flavorful percolated Turkish coffee to prepare the tonic responsible for his 18-hour writing sessions, employing a procedure he described as “awful and horrible.” Balzac didn’t waste his time with milky café au lait; he moistened the finest grind with the tiniest quantity of water and drank it on an empty stomach.
Balzac saw no one from midnight until noon, but his frantic search for his special blend of coffee drew him away from his Auteuil house. Balzac’s go-to beans were Bourbon, which he got on rue de la Chaussée-d’Antin, Martinique, which he got on rue des Haudriettes, and Moka from Yemen, which he got on rue de l’Université. Balzac’s particular blend of coffee and his red-ringed coffee pot accompanied him wherever he went.