Nov 15 2009 11:39am

What is it with coffee?

Even liking funny words, I have a problem with coffee in science fiction and fantasy. It’s clearly coffee, but nobody ever calls it coffee. There certainly are words that can throw a reader out of the world of the story, but is coffee really one of them? Coffee isn’t a word with specific Earth-only origins, like china and cordwainer and assassin and sandwich. If people wear cloaks and sit in chairs, the writer is using English to represent what they would be called in their own language. You can’t make up a funny word for everything, or you really are writing the book in a new language and forcing the reader to learn it.

The lack of coffee is particularly jarring in books purporting to be set in our future—people aren’t likely to give up coffee. I could just about believe it if everyone referred to (all ninety kinds of it) as latte, or capu, or by some other-language realworld word for coffee (cafe, caffe, kaffee) but only if the worldbuilding justified that.

As for fantasy—Europe didn’t start drinking coffee until the seventeenth century (there’s an argument that it was the coffee caffeine high that started capitalism and the stock market) but people were drinking it in Ethopia for a long time before that. It needs to grow somewhere warm, and be traded from there, but people trade a long way for things they want. Besides, it isn’t any more weird to trade coffee than khuvi or jav. But if you’re going to have coffee, perhaps your fantasy world ought to be more manic and caffeinated than the real middle ages.

Even C.J. Cherryh in the Chanur books does this. They drink gfi. Gfi! To make it worse, they also drink tea, because tea is somehow a value-neutral word. There’s a scene where the hani and the stsho exchange crates of tea as part of a bargain, but then they go back to the ship and drink gfi. I wonder what that is!

In Anne McCaffrey’s Pern, they drink klah. Klah is clearly just like coffee, in the same way that their berry pies are berry pies. And in the Wheel of Time books they drink kaf. There are a pile of other examples at TV Tropes, including a whole set of different ones from the Star Wars universe.

Steven Brust cunningly gets a pass on this one. He has them drinking klava, which sounds just like fantasy coffee until nine books into the series at Issola, when he reveals that they have coffee as well, and klava is made out of it. It tastes like coffee smells. He goes on to give the recipe. I remember it involves filtering through eggshells.

Jo Walton is a science fiction and fantasy writer. She’s published eight novels, most recently Half a Crown and Lifelode, and two poetry collections. She reads a lot, and blogs about it here regularly. She comes from Wales but lives in Montreal where the food and books are more varied.

Beverly F.
1. Rhapsody_Angela
For some reason, it frustrates me even when they use another language's term for coffee, or an obvious term. Anne Bishop, for example, calls the beans koffea beans and the drink koffee. Why bother with the one letter difference? What is accomplished by this when the reader so clearly understands that she means coffee?
Tex Anne
2. TexAnne
Somebody wrote a cute-but-slight short story about that. The main character was a writer running short of inspiration, and the story she wrote was all about coffee under various names, with aliens, star pilots, and desperate space battles. I think it had some silly Twilight-Zone twist at the end.

And: when in doubt, google "Hungarian."
Mike Conley
3. NomadUK
On the other hand, Kirk gets tribbles in his chicken sandwich and coffee, and has Yeoman Rand zap a coffeepot with a hand phaser, so, once again, Star Trek rulez.
John S Costello
4. joxn
I don't think I'd like Hungarian egg coffee because boiling the grounds is an abominable practice that ends up getting you bitter coffee, although it's clear that klava was inspired by the practice,

But in the tantalizing hint at a klava recipe Brust does provide, he clearly refers to filtering through eggshells (and possibly other spices such as cinnamon bark).
Samuel Walker
5. lambada
Thanks for linking to TVTropes. I can now kiss the rest of my day goodbye.

Dammit, I was a recovering addict until just now!

Back on topic, Trudi Canavan takes this a bit further - even horses are called something different in her books, but her names aren't clear enough on their own so it is neither jarring nor unclear as to what the animal is meant to be.
Jo Walton
6. bluejo
TexAnne: It's Diana Wynne Jones, and it's brilliant. The word "coffee" is in the title.
Tex Anne
7. TexAnne
Is it? I wonder why I remember it with disfavor. ::scuttles off to check DWJ shelf::

edit: Yes, here we are. "nad and Dan adn Quaffy," in Minor Arcana. Directly before "The True State of Affairs," which made me melancholic for days. And I read the collection when I was already feeling slightly down. I will probably like the coffee story much more when I reread it today.
Azara microphylla
8. Azara
I think that the story TexAnne mentioned above is nad and Dan adn Quaffy by Diana Wynne Jones. The writer in the story uses the pen name F.C. Stone, and I've always assumed that it's a tribute to C.J. Cherryh. 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."
Evan Langlinais
9. Skwid
Klava is poured through a filter of eggshells, woodchips, and vanilla beans.

Full recipe here.
David Dyer-Bennet
10. dd-b
I wonder how many of the authors are people like me, who hate the stuff? Perhaps they're acknowledging that a stimulant beverage would be nice, but want one that isn't vile and nasty? And the way people treat it is, of course, identical to the way coffee drinkers treat coffee, so everybody just assumes....
11. Laurene
AMEN! A fabulous rant!
Antti-Juhani Kaijanaho
12. ajk
There is a difference between coffee and chairs, and a related but smaller difference between coffee and tea.

Coffee is a drink made in various similar ways from the berries of coffea plants. Thus, it is a specific family of drinks, all specific to Earth.

Tea is, similarly, a drink made in various similar ways from the leaves of camellia sinensis. Thus, it is a specific family of drinks, all specific to Earth. However, "tea" also refers to a variety of drinks made in similar ways from other plants, so it's also a generic name for a type of a drink.

Chair is the abstract idea of a tool used in the act commonly called "sitting". There is nothing specific to Earth in it.

Therefore, let your spaceships have chairs. Let your protagonist drink tea made from exotic plants from Sirius. But if you have coffee in your story, it better be – directly or indirectly – an Earth export, or your worldbuilding had better explain itself.

(I'm about half serious:)
Jo Walton
13. bluejo
AJK: That's reasonable reasoning for having Cherryh's aliens drinking tea and gfi, though I'd be happier if they were drinking tea and baajhkse if it comes to that. I also think there ought to be a rationale for why humans aren't drinking it. In Cyteen rich people drink coffee imported from Earth at 350 credits a kilo, and ordinary people are drinking tea or "soft drinks" or beer. That makes sense in that universe -- but a lot of SF futures have plenty of fertile planets that grow things, and coffee has been very adaptable to varied tropical sites on Earth. Of course there's also Sturgeon brilliant "If all men were brothers would you let one marry your sister", where the story starts with the perfect planet that grows perfect coffee.

Your argument doesn't hold for fantasy worlds where people are wearing silk and wool and leather... and drinking kaf. Or rather, it becomes my "people and horses" problem about why fantasy worlds have all this earthlike stuff -- people and horses.
14. PhoebeWriting
My Pern-obsessed adolescence taught me this: klah isn't coffee, but coffee-like substance. I know this because I had the Dragonlover's Guide to Pern, and made my mother run out and get some of the ingredients, which, if I recall correctly, was freshly grated nutmeg, instant coffee, instant hot chocolate, and some other stuff. Surprisingly tasty. Anyway.
15. Mimette
I've been wondering why Meyer exaggerated and invented a traditional Hungarian Egg Coffee recipe, when we, Hungarians are fairly bad at making a real one anyway.
It is a frightening enough experience to taste one espresso at most of the local cafes, no need of any eggs.
“Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts.”
Antti-Juhani Kaijanaho
16. ajk
Bluejo: I wholly agree with your fantasy point.

For the kinds of stories where my argument holds (societies that are, or have been, in contact with our Earth), I personally like the scheme of using "coffee" as a generic noun for coffee-like drinks, and perhaps have one of the characters be a real-coffee snob. Rather like one of my coworkers to whom any drink made of some other plant than camellia sinensis is not-tea.

One more thing: My favourite coffee-related passage in fiction is in John Ringo & Julie Cochrane's Cally's War. In that passage, an alien describes the recipe for perfect coffee (in his own way), wondering how water could have seasons.
17. QueenofAnuurn
I have no idea where I got this from, but I thought that gfi was more like a distilled fish bullion, rather than a distilled essence of a bean.

If memory serves correctly, on the feline hani drink gfi.
Sara H
18. LadyBelaine
if memory serves, in the Dragonlance world, they drink something other than coffee or tea - but I forget what it's called.

Also, I thought that the Pernese drink klah, which isn't made from beans like coffee (or leaves, like tea), but more like strips of dried bark...

Queen of Anuurn, I dunno about the hani, but I know that the Cardassians from Star Trek like to start their day with a mug of steaming fish broth.

(one wonders what the Klingons drink - the blood of a targ, spiked with citrus juice?)
Paul Howard
19. DrakBibliophile
Well, I could see aliens *not* drinking coffee but drinking something that affects them the same way coffee does humans. Coffee might not taste right to them.

As for human settled worlds, coffee might be grown and drank, but rich coffee snobs might insist on *real* Earth grown coffee. Of course, an author might have some con-men selling them *fake* Earth coffee and they might not know the difference.
20. Anne Zanoni
DD-B, I don't hate it, I just cannot taste coffee. I can smell it, and that's no good. So I can understand the frustration...

I liked chai when I could drink that, although chai smells far better than it tastes for me.

Maybe there's also some authors like myself who have broken taste buds!

Sara H
21. LadyBelaine
DrakBibliophile@19 -

"As for human settled worlds, coffee might be grown and drank, but rich coffee snobs might insist on *real* Earth grown coffee. Of course, an author might have some con-men selling them *fake* Earth coffee and they might not know the difference. "

in the CoDominium Universe, where humanity has spread across numerous planets largely along ethnic lines (A Scottish planet, an Israeli planet, numerous Chinese worlds), the upper aristocracy insist on coffee from Earth, but not just any coffee from Earth, but Blue Mountain Coffee, made all the more precious due to the fact that most of Earth is a smoking nuclear wasteland, but no one bothered to bomb Jamaica.
Tex Anne
22. TexAnne
@21: Wait, what? Jamaica wasn't bombed, fine--but the radiation levels and climate change didn't hurt the coffee any?
23. CarlosSkullsplitter
@22: the mutations were weeded out. (Niven and Pournelle don't believe in nuclear war causing climate change.)
Jo Walton
24. bluejo
TexAnne, Carlos: Actually, I can totally believe in a dome over Jamaica and people venturing into a nuclear hellhole to grow coffee for rich lunatics on other planets. It's the sort of thing people do. Mind you, so is growing coffee on another planet and labelling it "Premium Blue Mountain from Earth".
Jo Walton
25. bluejo
QueenofAnuurn: I don't think it's mentioned what gfi is, but Khym laces it with sweet stuff and Pyanfar wrinkles her nose and drinks it like that to get the calories after she's been through jump. If it isn't coffee, it should be called something that doesn't sound like coffee.
Sara H
26. LadyBelaine

it's one of those things I find clever enough, but choose not to dwell on too closely - just like a planet being colonized exclusively by settlers from smaller nations like Scotland....
27. Hatgirl
Yup, you have it right. "Dragonsdawn" reveals that the coffee plants didn't thrive in Pernese soil, so the colonists concocted klah from a native tree.
28. CarlosSkullsplitter
@24: If memory serves, Mad Ludwig of Bavaria's castles also survived the massive nuclear war on Earth in the CoDominium universe.

(Frankly, I'm not sure what would survive in Bavaria in a conventional 1980s style nuclear war, let alone one with the weaponry Pournelle showed in his stories about the early CoDominium universe. I think this is more of a case of Pournelle's odd ideological and survivalist biases showing through.)

But props to N&P for adding a dimension to the character of Horace Bury through his love of coffee, and in fact using it as a plot point.
Eugenie Delaney
29. EmpressMaude

- wow, I feel stupid.

It wasn't until this moment that I realized that a vocalization of 'gfi' would sound like 'gif-fee,' and that would sound like 'coffee.'

I just kept saying in my head 'fi' and assumed that the 'g' is silent. Whadyino? They're aliens.

However, maybe Khym likes his fish bullion sweetened?

I don't recall any references to gfi being fish-based, btw. I do recall that they eat the equivalent of powdered soups with nuggets of dried protein that they fill with hot water and let seep then eat... yum, yum.

Cherryh does have another interesting, fabricated word that indicates an alien concept that only applies to the atevi. They find things 'kaibu' which kinda, sorta means copacetic, but also proper and orderly, with a positive, almost lucky touch. Groupings of objects in numbers that they find pleasing is 'kaibu,' or a number of guests can be 'kaibu.'

One more thing about Ms. Cherryh and her invented words - I always thought that 'kes' (or is it 'ques') is a very clever idea - a powdery, salty dried yeast that 'spacers' (and those who grew up 'spacer') sprinkle on their food - like a weird Parmesan meets Vegemite substitute.
Jo Walton
30. bluejo
Empress Maude: It's "keis". Spacer cheese, a powdered yeast.

I agree, the atevi concept of "kabiu" is a terrific idea, perfect example of making up an alien concept and encapsulating it well in one word. It's one she uses very well throughout the books. I like the way it has an ecological agenda in terms of seasonal meat and giving the fish on the space station a fair chance to escape.
Sara H
31. LadyBelaine
- Ah, but would a kif attain sfik from following kaibu, or would an ateva find it kaibu to acrue sfik?

....that is the question.
LT Tortora
32. Lucubratrix
I wonder if the reason for the lack of coffee (in fantasy worlds, at least) isn't at least in part due to coffee's association with the corporate world. Thinking a little more deeply about it, I know that coffee isn't so different from tea in some ways in some parts of the world, but still, the first impression is of bleary-eyed office workers pouring mug upon mug of coffee from a standard office coffee pot. It would jar a bit to see coffee show up in a fantasy novel. (That's no excuse for a lack of coffee in SF works, though, given the extent to which space fleets seem to be based on naval fleets, and sailors run on coffee.)

About the eggshells--mixing some crushed eggshells with the coffee grounds before brewing makes strong coffee much less bitter. That was my grandmother's method for really good coffee.

Edit: I really enjoyed this post, by the way. Maybe it's because I'm a confirmed coffee addict....
Cassandra Phillips-Sears
33. cphillips-sears
One more thing about Ms. Cherryh and her invented words - I always thought that 'kes' (or is it 'ques') is a very clever idea - a powdery, salty dried yeast that 'spacers' (and those who grew up 'spacer') sprinkle on their food - like a weird Parmesan meets Vegemite substitute.

This stuff exists--sadly, with a much less awesome Earth-name. It's called "nutritional yeast." It's tasty, and has a somewhat salty/nutty/Parmesan flavor. Great on popcorn.

It's high in vitamin B12 and protein, which is why vegans like me eat it here on Earth. Presumably that--and the fact that it's lightweight, easily compressable and storable, and doesn't go bad--would be the reasons why 'spacers' might want to eat it, too.

I wouldn't want to eat it in zero-g, though, unless it had water added to it and been made into some kind of sauce--it's really flaky, and would surely get sucked into the ventilation system and wreak nutritional-supplement havoc.
Andrew Mason
34. AnotherAndrew
My initial thought when I saw this was 'Well, I can't say about science fiction, but clearly you wouldn't have coffee in fantasy - at least, the standard quasi-mediaeval-European kind of fantasy - just as you wouldn't have tobacco or potatoes, because coffee comes from the new worl- oh no, wait a moment, that's chocolate, isn't it?' And I have known others make similar mistakes before now. So I wonder if some - not clearly articulated - thought along those lines is at work.
René Walling
35. cybernetic_nomad
About the CoDominium universe and coffee: on one world (Haven in the Warworld), the inhabitants have a really hard time growing coffee because of local insect life. IIRC, the guy who finally figures it out and manages to grow coffee makes his community quite rich.

To switch to another writer: I love when Weber has Honor Harrington wonder how something that smells as good as coffee can taste so bad (as she sips her hot chocolate)
36. RonGriggs

I've read that an infusion made from leaves or herbs, while commonly called herbal tea, is really technically a "tisane."

A "tea" is always an infusion made from camellia sinensis. So the parallel between coffee and tea is sound.
Sam Kelly
37. Eithin
Coffee in stories is like paper, in that it's a strong marker for a particular sort of technological and cultural level. "Aha, these people have access to tropical trade (assuming the book isn't set in the tropics to start) and probably practice advanced colonialism."
38. CaffeinatedGuy
As something of an expert (at least in my own mind) and a very strong proponent (or in other words, freak) for caffeine and its' many derivative drinks...

I always liked how the troopers in the Gaunt's Ghosts books guzzled down enamel mugs of hot caffeine. Like they were drinking coffee, but much purer and stronger.

And I say that as a man with a tattoo of the caffeine molecule.
39. trattman
Although I take your point, I have to stick up for Wheel of Time.
One of the major themes of WOT is the corruption/change of language and stories over time. Part of the fun is recognising somthing that might be a part of the 'modern' world in a corrupted form. Another part is recognising the parts that might have come from history or myths of our world (again corrupted).
'Kaf' being is one part of the world and not known in another fits into that much better than 'coffee' would. It is up to the reader to make the connection. Its the same for random artifacts/relics scattered through the world of WOT.
40. mityorkie
@18 Yeah Pern's klah is a bark product. In Dragonsdawn the villains talk about how klah is a poor substitute for coffee.
41. Glen Quarry
In my story, Thyme in a Flask, I was going to call coffee "hotchky", but I decided against it. After all, what was the point of making up a new name for coffee? It didn't accomplish anything but confusion.

I was also set to substitute "dina" for the word dollar, which would have imitated the word dinar, the currency used in the Near East. Before the final edit, however, I went back to dollar.
Eli Bishop
42. EliBishop
Total wild-ass guess that seems plausible to me at the moment:

The 1940s and '50s, a formative period for modern SF, also introduced instant coffee as a mass-marketed product. That, along with the substitution of margarine for butter during WW II and various other artificial food-esque items marketed in the '50s and '60s, planted in the collective SF mind a deep conviction that whatever the future might bring, it would not include real coffee.
john mullen
43. johntheirishmongol
I read all these substitutes for coffee words as coffee anyway, I don't really care what the beverage is, unless it is alchoholic in which case, my mind turns it into beer first.

Silly authors
Clark Myers
44. ClarkEMyers
Narabedla Ltd. (1988) has coffee that tastes as good as it smells. IIRC
45. JoeNotCharles
Wait, coffee doesn't taste like it smells? How is that even possible?
Chris Meadows
46. Robotech_Master
My favorite SFnal coffee moment is in Pohl & Kornbluth's The Man Who Sold Venus. The ad agency is responsible for inventing ad campaigns for various products, and one of the products is "Coffiest," an artificial coffee substitute that is formulated to contain an alkaloid that is just addictive enough to make stopping drinking the stuff more annoying than continuing.

"Those fiends," I thought when I ran across that passage in the book.

It was only later that I realized that coffee itself contains an alkaloid that is just addictive enough to make stopping drinking the stuff more annoying than continuing.
Antti-Juhani Kaijanaho
47. ajk
RonGriggs@36: That's a tea snob talking :) Technically correct, I'm sure, but doesn't invalidate the assertion that the word "tea" is commonly used of such drinks.
Ethan Glasser-Camp
48. glasserc
I just wanna dispute the assertion that "The lack of coffee is particularly jarring in books purporting to be set in our future—people aren’t likely to give up coffee." I think you could have said the same thing about smoking forty or fifty years ago -- but now seeing just about any tobacco product in science fiction seems to date it heavily (even though people still smoke!).

Also, one of my favorite scenes from Stanislaw Lem's "Return from the Stars" is the one where where the narrator and a girl in what seems like a shopping mall sit down to eat "bonses", which are described as a pastry which is light but also crunchy, or something.. I never remember what it's actually like because my mind just seizes up and I think "Cinnabon!!" But in that book, the made-up words are used explicitly to disarm and unsettle, so I guess that's different.

René Walling
49. cybernetic_nomad
Clark Myers@44: And lots of coffee drinkers I know have said "try such and such a coffee" or "you don't like coffee 'cause you haven't had any good one, try this" and so on. The fact remains, I walk through the coffee lane in the grocery store simply to enjoy the smell, but you'll never get me to drink another cup of the stuff (I've had three and that's more than enough). Narabedla can keep it. Weber's line really summed up my feeling about coffee, it was nice to see a character who, like me prefers hot chocolate. Now if North Americans would be a civilized as the Brits and offer refills of tea cups (as well as coffee), I'd be happy

JoeNotCharles@45: The combination of taste and smell (usually referred to as taste by most people) doesn't have the same effect as the smell alone. Some cheese are like that too. I also know some people who like the taste of garlic but dislike the smell.
50. SWS
Dragonlance has "tarbean tea." Perhaps the avoidance of the word coffee makes the author feel like they've done more world building, as far as fantasy goes. If your world's beans grew in the Blix region it should be Blixtea, instead of beans grown in the Kaffa region of Ethopia getting called kaffe - coffee. For scifi, really no excuse for not using the word coffee, but if the stuff really isn't coffee but just works that way, fine. My hot chocolate works like coffee, but it ain't. If gfi isn't made from coffee beans, it isn't coffee.
51. serverone
cybernetic_nomad: Now if North Americans would be a civilized as the Brits and offer refills of tea cups (as well as coffee), I'd be happy

Well, as someone who has been in the foodservice and hospitality business in the US for over 20 years I'm a little confused about your statement above. In every restaurant and hotel I have ever worked in tea refills (iced and hot) are free. They take a little more work than just bringing around a pot of coffee but they are available. All you need to do is ask.
52. Maria BearMountainBooks
Oh, I don't know. There are enough different ways to make coffee (and in fact were different ways to make cocoa) that I can see it being called something else. My gramp used to make it by only half grinding the beans and boiling it in water over the camp fire. I never drank the stuff, but dad mentioned that you spit out more than you drank--and he didn't call it "coffee," he called it "your grandfather's bean juice" when he was being polite...

There's multiple ways to make coffee as the comments have said--additives and certainly, as gramp did, without filtering. I can say I've never written a story using a different term, but perhaps, just perhaps one is deserved if the coffee is brewed differently.


Or perhaps I'm just not particular. Since I don't drink coffee, I'm not sensitive to whether the character is drinking cocoa spiked with X, y or z, or coffee or some other mildly stimulative drink.

It's an interesting discussion though. I do think I'll go have a cup of tea and think on it more.
Mary O'Dea
53. thorn
ever read 'gateway' by frederik pohl? coffee is 'coffee'. and people get puke-drunk *a lot*, on the standard fluids, as well as other-than-standard 'homebrew'.

and the main character *smokes* -- in deep space, in a craft whose interior is 'the size of a small apartment kitchen'. bless his heart and lungs, and those of the rest of the crew.
54. drxray
The one I find most irritating is in Max Frei's book "The Stranger". They drink a substance called kamra, which is obviously supposed to be similar to coffee. And they drink alot of it. In fact, it's mentioned on almost every page of the book. Everyone is constatnly sitting down to have a mug of kamra. If you took every sentence that mentions kamra out and put in in another book you'd have a novellette about drinking kamra. It got so annoying that about 2/3 of the way through the book I gave up. I couldn't finish it.
René Walling
55. cybernetic_nomad
@serverone: in my experience, too many times the tea "refill" is just the waiter bringing you more hot water and you get to reuse the same pouch, it's OK for a second cup but what if you want a third? And the fact that I have to ask, but the coffee refills is offered shows how coffee is part of the culture in North America and tea is not (which was my point). It would be interesting to look at books where pseudo-coffee is prevalent and see how many of the writers are from a culture where coffee drinking is the norm.

@thorn: nevertheless, Gateway is still one of the all time best SF novels.
56. DRK
In coffee-less books about the future, I always just assume that there was some virus that killed off all the coffee trees, like Dutch elm disease. Or maybe it was habitat loss or climate change or something. Or overharvesting, like the contraceptive plant called silphium, which the Roman empire dealt in extensively, and which became so extinct that no one is really even sure what species it might be related to.

On the other hand, pouring boiling water over herbs of any sort does make a fluid that can be thought of as tea, which may be why it seems a more universal thing than coffee. (But the water must be boiling. I agree with Cybernetic Nomad about tea. It is very hard to get a properly made cup of camellia sinensis tea in the US at all, much less a second cup).
57. 12stargazers
Cybernetic_nomad and DRK:

Good tea in American restaurants depends on the restaurant. I've been to some that bring out a "tea box" filled with a selection of teas and tisanes (herbal teas). Additional hot water and additional tea bags are offered whenever the coffee pot is wielded by the wait staff. I've also been to some places where you have to ask twice for a second pot of water and three times for a second bag. But that's not the worst.

I don't do caffiene.

While coffee may be more ubiquitious as tea in the states, decaf coffee is miserable. It's left to reduce on a hot burner for hours at a time. (The places that don't do that are also the ones that have a tea selection.) Decaffinated tea is even more rare and most places consider tisanes too exotic to stock.
58. Marcus Rowland
The definitive article/talk about this was "The Black Wine of Thentis" by Nick Lowe - unfortunately it doesn't seem to be on line anywhere. Thentis was somewhere in John Norman's Gor stories, and black wine was, of course, coffee.

The SF book of lists (forget who edited it - red cover if that helps) has part of this as a list of "improbable places to find coffee" based mainly on the talk and taking in most of the places mentioned in earlier posts, e.g. the Co-Dominium universe.
59. Rick York
Think coffee is bad? How about the gazillion names writers have made up for TV? I'm sure that we'll be watching holographic video in the future. But, given human nature, isn't it likely that the majority of people will still call it TV?

Even when I watch Hulu, I tend to say I'm watching TV on the computer. Now, I'm an old guy (65) so maybe that's just me. But, I've heard the expression from many others younger than I.

We geeks have always been enamored with our cleverness at - among other things - word play.

Finally, it's interesting that so many commenters focused on coffee rather than weird SF names for everyday things.

Oh well.....

Rick York
60. Dave Harmon
I've always wondered if someone has actually tried to make klava as per Brust's recipe. I don't have the nerve (or the exotic woods, or the patience...).
Todd Larason
61. jtl
Robotech Master @46: I'm remembering that too, also from Pohl & Korbluth, but from _The Space Merchants_. I'm not finding anything useful on a google of "The Man Who Sold Venus" -- various copies of your comment, plus one other oddity. Misremembered title, alternate title, alternate version, or just similar?
62. Mytana
I know that klah in the Pern books has been mentioned, and explained as not being coffee, but I find it interesting to note that in Dragonsdawn, someone mentions that coffee plants have not grown well on colonised planets. Are such justifications given in any other books?
Jo Walton
63. bluejo
Mytana: In Theodore Sturgeon's novella "If all men were brothers, would you let one marry your sister?" coffee will grow on lots of planets, but Earth coffee is better because it's a plant that's very sensitive to conditions. Generally, I can't think of many examples -- this is a level of fine-grain that few universes manage.
64. PersephoneC
LadyBelaine @ 18: For the sake of completeness, it has been mentioned a few times what the Klingons drink to start the day. (Gods help anyone that gets between them and their first cuppa, I'd imagine!) It's called raktajino or, among humans, 'Klingon coffee'. Sisko also liked to start his day with it. Brave man. :)
65. JayRAudetteJr
I'll have to parphrase Douglas Adams in that every species int he known universe has, as some point in their history, created a "Gin and Tonic." Spelled differently, made differently, often with wildly varying tastes, but all with the same sounding name. A (fictional) freak of natural linguistics to be sure, but a parellel for "coffee," kafe, kave, qfi, etc. does not seem unreasonable to me.
66. Yuki
I'm shocked it was only mentioned in passing: John Norman's black wine, from the Counter Earth series. The protagonist is from Earth and openly mentions the "black wine" as being coffee imported from Earth. However, after this first introduction, he only calls it "black wine," which is most upsetting. In fact, the protagonist being an Earthman seems to have no bearing on how he describes and interprets the entire world around him.

Norman's annoying renaming of everything is probably tied in to the cultural limitations he works off in the whole series, such as calling the fortresses in the Tahari "kasbahs," while in civilized Gor they are just called "the central tower." He does the same in Torvaldsland, renaming everything to suit the culture that inspired the region (Norse), even if the reader is completely familiar with the exact thing he describes, having seen it many times before with a completely different name.
67. Xheralt
@31 LadyBelaine

Acquisition of sfik (and followers) is kabiu only as long as one is not a sigaiji ;) And if you have not visited hxxp:// you should. We've had very much this conversation about gfi, tea, tisanes, klah, and what have you.

Also, thanks to the new salad who pointed me (and other Shejidanni) to this fascinating conversation!
68. desert rat
Does anyone r emember a syfy novel from the early eighties where cleaning coffee equipment was a significant part of a space opera?

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