JEFFERSON, Thomas. Autograph letter signed ("Th:Jefferson") to John Williams, Monticello, [VA], 30 April 1812. 1 page, 4to, rough edge where originally torn, otherwise fine.
JEFFERSON'S COFFEE, "SENT AS A CURIOSITY"
Thomas Jefferson, a man of many talents who entertained a plethora of interests, pursued a multitude of them upon his retirement to Monticello. A favorite pursuit was gardening and experiments with agricultural commodities. Jefferson confided such in a friend: "No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden." Jefferson delighted in exchanges of information and material and kept a steady correspondance: "he instituted overseas traffic in plants as well as books, and until his dying day he was exchanging horticultural items with kindred spirits in the Old World and the New" (Malone, Jefferson and his Times: the Sage of Monticello, pp. 43,45).
In this brief letter written from Monticello in 1812, Jefferson discusses a shipment of coffee that he apparently was unaware of: "If I have had any advice as to the small package of coffee you mention, it has been so long ago that I cannot recollect it, nor now turn to the paper. I rather suspect it to be a parcel of some particular place or quality sent as a curiosity, perhaps from the new cultivation of that article on Florida point, with some of whom I have had communications on that culture. If you will do me the favor to forward it by water to Richmond, to Messrs Gibson & Jefferson my correspondents there, they will reimburse any expences incurred on it."
Coffee was quite popular in the United States by 1812. The first coffee plant had been brought to the island of Martinique in the 18th century. Soon coffee was being grown in various tropical climates in the Americas and the beverage brewed from it was heavily consumed. As revolutionary passions heightened in North America, the First Continental Congress declared coffee to be the official drink of the thirteen colonies in protest against British taxes on tea.