If there is one tradition in Jolly Old England that is reverently observed by the nobility, it’s tea time. At the stroke of four, Prince John is hosting the Sheriff of Nottingham and Guy Gisbourne in a strategy session on how to raise taxes.
“The people have so little,” the Sheriff notes, “that there’s almost nothing left to tax.” He sips delicately from his tea cup with some hesitancy.
“Good God, man,” if my father returns from the Crusades and finds us in debt, he’ll have all of our heads,” Prince John exclaims.
Gisbourne, being a ruthless henchman, chimes in, “Let’s tax their coffee. We already tax their tea and the new coffee brew is made from those Arabian beans the monks are buying from the merchants on the mainland.”
“Why not!?” the Prince agrees. “Sheriff, make haste with a proclamation taxing the new coffee beans. Each household shall have to produce their supply for weighing and pay half a crown per pound. Tell me, gentlemen, have either of you consumed this new beverage?”
Gisbourne answers, “Sir, I have. It’s a foul brew. Dark and bitter. I fear the monks are casting spells on the peasants to make them find the drink palatable.”
“Bring me some,” the Prince orders, “I wish to try it. Now go. The ladies are on their way and I’m feeling a bit randy.” Thus resolving the finances, tea time was over.
One year passes and coffee becomes more plentiful and popular after further refinement of the clarifying process. The dark, rich potable has even made its way into the hearts and tastebuds of the Royal Court. Prince John cannot start his day without a morning cup, boosting both his morale and prowess.
Inside her comfortable cottage on the outskirts of Sherwood Forest, Maid Marian is boiling up an iron pot of morning java over the fireplace in expectation of a visit from her one and only man, Robin Hood. He has yet to try the Arabica brew and she has baked some scones that will perfectly compliment it. Suddenly, the clopping sounds of horse hooves stop at her door, and a large soldier enters unannounced.
“Who are you?” she demands.
“I am the King’s tax collector,” he gruffly replies. “Your taxes are due.”
“I have no money, sir. And I just paid the King a fortnight ago.”
The soldier looks around. “If you have no money, then you will pay in kind. What’s in that sack?”
“Just coffee beans, sir,” she acknowledges.
“I’ll have them then,” he barks as he steps over and grabs the bag. “Next time, we will take your house. Have you no husband?”
“You best be temperate. My man is Robin Hood and he’s on his way here right now,” she warns.
The soldier lets out a hearty laugh. “Robin Hood? That scoundrel? When we catch him his head will go to the King.”
Suddenly, the quick clopping of horse hooves stops at the door and off his horse jumps Robin Hood himself, sword drawn. “Is that so?” the man dressed in green shouts at the soldier. “I’ll have that sack you’re stealing if you treasure your life.”
The soldier drops the sack and draws his sword. To that Robin Hood parries and the sword fight is on! Back and forth the clinking of swords alarms poor Maid Marian as she watches the two men go at it with gusto. The combat goes out the front door as the soldier appears to corner Robin Hood by the horses. He quickly ducks under a horse and emerges to the soldier’s side, where he swiftly disarms the surprised combatant by knocking his sword from his hand. The heavy metal weapon hits the ground and Robin Hood quickly picks it up and thrusts his sword at the soldier’s chest, stopping at the spot where his heart is.
“A message to Prince John. His father is the true King to whom I am loyal. His son is merely a power hungry thief that steals from the people. If he continues to take the food and drink away from the people of Nottingham, tell the Prince he will pay with his life. Now begone.”
The humiliated soldier mounts his horse and rides off. Inside, Maid Marian is putting the spilled coffee beans back into the burlap sack that the Soldier dropped on the floor. Robin Hood enters and bends down to assist her.
“What be these beans?” he asks her. “They have a special aroma.”
“They are the coffee beans we make a delicious brew with. I’ve made some just for you. Come.” She leads him to the fireplace where she uses a ladle to scoop up some coffee into a pewter cup. “I made scones that go well with this drink, my love.”
He samples the coffee with approval and enjoys a breakfast fit for Kings, as the expression is soon after coined. When he is finished he says, “I feel energized! I must bring this wonderful new drink to my Merry Men to enjoy and help them in battle.”
And so he did. Returning to his hideout in a secret spot deep into Sherwood Forest, Robin Hood introduced coffee to his men, including Little John, Will Scarlett, Alan-a-Dale, and most importantly, Friar Tuck. It was with Friar Tuck that he plotted to intercept the shipments of coffee beans to the monastery that were destined for the Royal Court, driving the greedy Prince John mad.
Each time Robin Hood and his men ambushed the Royal coach carrying a fresh load of beans, he would distribute them to the good citizens of Nottingham free of charge for their daily enjoyment. But before he let the ambushed driver go on his way with an empty coach, he would declare, “If coffee be the nectar of the Gods, let the Prince swallow the grit of tea and think of me.”