Here’s a post from Marie Brennan at Book View Cafe: New Worlds: Stimulants
The post caught my eye largely because I just finished reading the Memoirs of Lady Trent series. Brennan says:
For whatever reason, I feel like I encounter chocolate only rarely in stories — books like Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer’s Sorcery and Cecelia(later subtitled or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot) being the exception. I’d also love to know if the depiction of tobacco in science fiction and fantasy has dropped off over time, as smoking becomes less acceptable in real life. As for chewables — coca leaves, betel nuts, and khat — I’m not sure I’ve ever seen them in a secondary world story, except for me putting an unnamed coca-type plant into Within the Sanctuary of Wings. Even chewing tobacco only seems to show up in things that are explicitly trying to feel like Westerns.
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a chewable stimulant in any SFF novel either, except that one. Anybody?
Honestly, though, the reason chocolate is encountered rarely is probably that everyone knows cocoa is a New World plant. Right? People may not know that peanuts originated in South America, then were transplanted to Africa, then were transplanted from Africa to North America. But everyone pretty much does know that chocolate is New World. So if you put chocolate into a fantasy novel, that does odd things to the feel of the world.
Stuff that seems normal in a bog-standard fantasy setting: wheat, wild boar, wolves, beer (or ale), tea. Stuff that seems out of place: pronghorn antelope, elephants, potatoes, chocolate.
Incidentally, I’ll raise my hand as someone who needs caffeine to function — but I don’t like coffee or tea (or soda, for that matter). I take 100 mg of caffeine in tablet form the minute I get up every morning. It helps prevent headaches — and it does also make me feel more awake, so at least I understand why people swear by coffee.