In a Michigan barn in 1895, long before anyone drank their coffee from a “Death Before Decaf” mug, cereal magnate C.W. Post cooked up a caffeine-free alternative to the standard cup of joe. He christened his blend of roasted wheat, bran, and molasses “Postum” and positioned it as a healthy answer to java, built on fears about coffee’s safety that his company had largely made up.
A series of ads shilling Postum starred a nefarious comic book character called “Mr. Coffee Nerves,” who gleefully caused irritability, sleeplessness, and even juvenile delinquency in coffee drinkers. According to the ads, coffee drove couples to divorce and made children run away from their inattentive, caffeine-addled mothers. The wholesome solution to restore domestic harmony, the ads promised, was Postum.
Demand for Postum grew during World War II, when coffee was rationed. But it found a dedicated long-term customer base among Mormons, Seventh-day Adventists, and others who eschewed coffee for religious reasons. Postum’s manufacturer discontinued the drink in 2007, prompting fans to stock up on eBay and lobby for its return. In 2012, drinkers rejoiced when Eliza’s Quest Foods of North Carolina purchased the rights to Postum and resurrected the original recipe.
And just how does it taste? Those expecting a coffee mimic will be surprised. Though Postum offers a roasted flavor, most drinkers say that the cereal base dominates the palate, tasting like everything from “liquid burnt toast with a hint of molasses” to “hot, liquid Wheat Chex.”