Although it hasn’t been the subject of a single FL story and only one Sunless Sea story (A Drop of Darkness), Darkdrop Coffee has an impressive amount of lore attached to it.
First, Darkdrop Coffee can be found and purchased in up to six ports, the highest spread of any trade commodity. It is grown and sold in Port Carnelian and Adam’s Way, the Elder Continent being the main producer and exporter. Khaganian merchants resell these Elder beans, only slightly marked up, in the Copper Quarter’s Licensed Exchange. Far to the east, the Pentecost Apes cultivate and brew their own version, which the Empire’s Mandarin’s trade for London wine. In the Iron Republic’s House of Milks, hot coffee (which transforms back into beans?) drips from the scaled teats of crucified dragons (love this). And for those who need some beans but don’t want to visit any of those prior ports, it is always available for purchase at London’s Wolfstack Exchange.
Second, not only is Darkdrop Coffee widely sold, but it can be very profitably resold in up to three places: London, Irem, and Vienna. Provided you have a large enough hold and do a minimal amount of planning, it is impossible to lose money trading in coffee. Its importance can be seen in the fact that six out of ten trade routes identified in The Guide for the Unterzee Merchant at some point involve the coffee trade. When you consider that this guide neglects the direct Adam’s Way-Irem trade route, it rises to seven out of eleven.
Third, Darkdrop Coffee is extremely potent and subtly supernatural. It’s described as having "all the fire of Hell, and all the aroma of Heaven." In Fallen London the effect of drinking it pure is likened to black magic and it gives you extra actions at the cost of wounds. When you capture a bag of beans in Sunless Sea, one of your officers jokes that you can fuel the ships boiler with it (maybe you could?). The Iremi consider Darkdrop Coffee Parabola Linen’s antiphon and charge a sack of beans for a visit to the House of the Amber Sky. The Venturer purchases seven bags to keep himself warm in the depths of space. A sample of the coffee even briefly cheers up the Café Ferstel’s determinedly depressed Melancholic Proprietor!
Fourth, it is widely embedded as a sustaining feature of the game’s larger world. The monks who run Adam’s Way’s Animescence Hospital are implied to fund their efforts by producing Darkdrop Coffee in a manner not dissimilar from Kopi Luwak (only with giant sloths instead of cute tree cats). Caligula’s Coffee House is one of the major centers of London’s social life, frequented by a broad clientele ranging from Parliamentarians to Revolutionaries (no doubt the Neath’s constant darkness requires the constant imbibing of strong pick-me-ups). The Iremi Riddlefishers have an insatiable and inscrutable demand for Darkdrop beans – perhaps as a means of self-protective medication or possibly because the beans have absorbed the Mountain’s energy and are thus valuable to the Fingerkings. On the surface Darkdrop Coffee is sold to fashionable establishments like the Café Ferstel in Vienna, which are heavily frequented by Revolutionaries. Said Viennese agitators are particularly active at night, smashing street lights and spreading graffiti, and strong coffee no doubt helps them in these activities (it’s notable that their description, “the coffee-house agitators of Vienna” explicitly identifies them with coffee). Lastly the Merchant Venturer needs seven bags of Darkdrop Coffee in order to explore the frigid High Wilderness. So the trade in Darkdrop Coffee funds efforts to combat a dread disease, warms London’s bourgeoisie and revolutionaries, helps the Iremi Riddlefishers, fuels the struggles of the surface revolutionaries, and aids the exploration of outer space. Quite an impressive range.
edited by Anne Auclair on 10/1/2016