Frederick William I. loved to have his soldiers march up. Even as crown prince he founded his own guard, which was popularly known as the “Potsdam Giant Guard” or “Lange Kerls” (Long guys).
They received this name because none of them was allowed to be smaller than six feet (that was almost 1.90 meters). Since this requirement was not easy to meet in view of the average size of 1.68 m at that time, the “Langen Kerls” had to be brought to Prussia from all parts of the world by money or force.
However, those who had come to terms with their fate expected a relatively good life. Because as a “parade soldier” the then usual hand money and pay were far above that of an ordinary soldier and the king even went so far as to give his darlings houses and provide for a suitable wife.
Of course, all this devoured enormous sums and Friedrich Wilhelm was always on the lookout for new sources of income. Taxes on luxury goods such as tea, sparkling wine or fruit ice cream proved particularly profitable. Therefore he declared coffee to be a luxury good and hoped for additional income.
But first he faced the problem that his subjects did not want to get used to the new drink. Not surprisingly, the black drink was so bitter that people could only enjoy it with plenty of cream and sugar.
But Friedrich Wilhelm helped and promoted coffee drinking in every conceivable way, for example by having coffee houses built in as prominent a location as possible in his capital, such as the “Café Royal” opposite the city palace.
His plan bore fruit and already in the middle of the 18th century coffee was a widespread drink and for the fine Berlin society it was part of the good tone to meet for a coffee party.
In a diary from that time, it reads as follows: “Should things be a little more refined and put more on the table, then, for example, an unmarried organ maker invited his guests to a Sunday afternoon and served them well-prepared coffee, Rhine wine and crusty zwieback. A young maid who had asked for coffee served plums and grapes after the coffee. Frau von Dorn, who lives at the Molkenmarkt in the Schwerinschen Palais, also accommodated her guests with coffee, small sugar pretzels and grapes. After the coffee or tea, the gentlemen were offered a nice aquavit and fresh rolls”.
And in 1744 the Kurmärkische Domänenkammer reported that “coffee consumption had become nature for almost everyone and even for the ordinary citizens”.
Thus the income bubbled, always fresh gold flowed into the coffers and Friedrich Wilhelm could afford again one of his beloved “Langen Kerls”.