How Much Coffee Did Balzac Really Drink?


It has long been a favorite factoid of writers that Honoré de Balzac drank fifty cups of coffee a day.

But is it true? The Airship’s Freddie Moore has put an admirable amount of research into investigating the claim, dividing coffee cups from demitasses and unhealthy doses of caffeine from fatal ones:

I found one webpage that estimated 40 cups a days and another said 20 to 40 cups….[I]n the strange, dark world of Yahoo! Answers,…one person actually asked if Balzac drank 300 cups of coffee a day. I was no closer to the truth, but I knew one thing: I could use a cup of coffee.

Lauren O'Neal is an MFA student at San Francisco State University. Her writing has appeared in publications like Slate, The New Inquiry, and The Hairpin. You can follow her on Twitter at @laureneoneal. More from this author →