11 December: Bach’s caffeine-based love affair

Every day throughout Advent, the season of overindulgence, we’ll be telling a tale of an overindulgent composer

11 December: Bach’s caffeine-based love affair

Composer:   JS Bach


How indulgent: Musically indulgent


How: Bach was addicted to coffee. He would consume up to 30 cups a day, and famously wrote the Coffee Cantata about a woman – aptly called ‘Aria’ -  attempting to overcome her addiction to the beverage. Her father attempts to ban the drink to stop her addiction; in a heartfelt plea that surely ranks among the most poetically striking and richly symbolic of all texts set to music, Aria sings, “Coffee, I have to have coffee, / and, if someone wants to pamper me, / ah, then bring me coffee as a gift!”. She even declares that, without the drink, she “will turn into / a shrivelled-up roast goat.” The plot ends happily in Bach’s Coffee Cantata, with the father agreeing that three cups of coffee daily can be included in her marriage contract. The work was likely premiered in a Leipzig coffee house.


Did you know: Coffee wasn’t the only drink Bach enjoyed. During a trip to Halle in 1713, the composer’s beer bill amounted to eight gallons of alcohol.


Now indulge yourself with….. ‘Die Katze lässt das Mausen nicht’, 10th movement of Bach’s Coffee Cantata

This concluding trio presents the moral of this delightful narrative, declaring that the consumption of coffee is ‘natural’. Don’t feel guilty if you indulge yourself this Christmas, then; you’re only following Bach’s orders.

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