Uncoffee

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Jump to: navigation, search
"[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."
—"Nad and Dan adn Quaffy", Diana Wynne Jones

Every single Speculative Fiction setting comes with a hot, mildly stimulant beverage that can take the place of 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 writers 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).

Examples of Uncoffee include:

Comic Books[edit | hide | hide all]

  • 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.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • 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 hilarious 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 series by C. J. Cherryh has 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 inhabitants of the World of Rod drink kamra. The fun part is that it requires low-grade magic to be done right, so foreign recipes (i.e. made far away from the Heart of the World and easy "kitchen magic") are barely drinkable. Max (to everyone's bewilderment) consistently made it worse than these, even after learning the rest of common "kitchen magic" and some of more flashy tricks.
  • 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.
  • 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.[1]
  • 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.
  • Ciaphas Cain, HERO OF THE IMPERIUM!!! 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 (see the tabletop gaming section below).
  • 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?
  • 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' 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 Rabbit a Smeerp moments with wildlife, the Honorverse lacks a gratuitous space coffee.
  • 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.

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • 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 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...

Recorded Comedy[edit | hide]

  • The "High School Madness" segment of Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me The Pliers by The Firesign Theatre -- which is set in the near future a bizarre Alternate Universe -- includes an advertisement for "Ersatz Brothers Coffee", which the announcer informs us is made from "Brazilian soya beans, Syrian chicory nuts, and Spanish flies". No coffee, though, apparently.

Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • 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.
  • 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.

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • 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.
  • In the Hitch Hikers Guide to The Galaxy Text Adventure game, asking the food replicator for tea caused it to give you a healthy and nutritious tea substitute.[2] You really have to work in order to get real tea out of the dang thing.
    • Narrowly averted in the original radio drama/novel, where the computer offers Arthur the Uncoffee,[3] 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.

Web Original[edit | hide]

  • Averted aggressively, in parody fashion, in this story, where our heroes go to a Starbucks. On a space station, in the distant future, after humanity is more-or-less extinct. The narration explains that aliens had been visiting Earth for years, just for coffee. Before it was quarantined by the Galactic Council, several races with precognitive abilities rushed to stockpile coffee and other foods. Then several beings decided to work together to reproduce Starbucks.

And in the tradition of their predecessors, they sued the sd'onk out of anyone who even vaguely infringed on their products or branding.

Real Life[edit | hide]

  • 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.
    • Mirrored by the North's lack of tobbacco, 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) in a New Orleans style café au lait.
    • 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 more of a tea drinkers, though. 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.
  • 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.
  1. For the uninitiated, real Arabs--and Turks, for that matter--tend to add spices, particularly cardamom, to their coffee.
  2. which does have an in-game use, functioning as the Brownian motion generator for the Improbability Drive
  3. "almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea"