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James Bond: The Spy Who Loved Coffee

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You know exactly how James Bond likes his martinis but did you know he is a coffee lover too?

In fact, given 007's roots and his association with all things Britannic, you would be forgiven for thinking his hot beverage of choice would be tea.

But in his books Ian Fleming is clear about Bond's feelings towards that quintessentially British drink. In Goldfinger, working the night shift in the office between assignments, Bond tells a girl from the canteen:

"I don't drink tea. I hate it. It's mud. Moreover it's one of the main reasons for the downfall of the British Empire."

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At the start of Thunderball M sends Bond to Shrublands health clinic following his annual medical. On top of a treatment that includes massages, sitz baths and traction, Bond is put on a strict diet. While staying at Shrublands he is limited to water, an orange for breakfast, vegetable soup and cups of tea.

Probably being confined to the clinic for two weeks didn't help Bond's view of tea. Fleming writes:

"Bond loathed and despised tea, that flat, soft, time-wasting opium of the masses, but on his empty stomach, and in his febrile state, the sugary brew acted almost as an intoxicant."

Except when enduring a forced stay at Shrublands the only time James Bond drinks tea is while on assignment in Japan. Otherwise it is coffee, usually black, and unlike his health clinic tea, unsweetened.

In From Russia With Love we learn that in London he always has a boiled egg and whole-wheat toast with Jersey butter and strawberry jam, marmalade or honey. To accompany that 007 drinks two large cups of "very strong coffee" brewed in a Chemex. Fleming also tells us that Bond buys his coffee from De Bry in New Oxford Street. Unfortunately for anyone wanting to emulate 007, that shop is long gone.

When overseas on assignment he orders double portions of coffee to go with his scrambled eggs in France, espressos in the United States, Irish coffee to follow a steak and champagne dinner at Shannon airport, and iced coffee for lunch while on the road to Saratoga with Felix Leiter.

While in Istanbul, again in From Russia With Love, the local secret service station chief asks him how he'd like his coffee:

"Do you like your coffee plain or sweet? In Turkey we cannot talk seriously without coffee or raki and it is too early for raki."

Well, it was right after breakfast.

True to form Bond asks for his coffee to be served plain. In a similar scene in the film, Sean Connery asks for his coffee to be served medium sweet. It is one of just a handful of times Bond drinks coffee onscreen.

While De Bry no longer exists it is still possible to emulate James Bond's coffee habits though. In Fleming's second book, Live And Let Die, finds Bond in Jamaica, an island his creator was well acquainted with.

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After World War 2 Fleming bought property on the north shore of the island and built a house, which he named Goldeneye. He spent two months there every winter to escape cold and grey of London and it was there he wrote all the James Bond books.

Fleming would therefore have been well acquainted with Blue Mountain coffee, which accompanies Bond's breakfast of scrambled eggs and bacon and assorted tropical fruits. In fact he goes as far to assure us Blue Mountain is "the most delicious in the world".

So, why does James Bond like coffee so much in preference of tea?

It is well known that many aspects of James Bond came directly from his creator. However, I have never been able to establish whether Bond shared his hatred of tea with Fleming.

And Britain is the one place in the world you are assured of decent tea. That is something you can't say even today of coffee, let alone the 1950s. Perhaps part of the trick is knowing where to eat out, as well as being particular about how to make coffee at home.

Could it be that he is so often overseas and has had plenty of opportunity to develop a taste for good coffee?

Or perhaps it is more to do with Bond's parentage. His Scottish roots are well known, but his mother was Swiss. Did James Bond inherit his mother's dislike of tea?

That's something we'll never know.