|A tour group of UF students frolic on the chartreuse waters of Poe Spring
With that issue resolved, I am left with just one nagging question…. The color of the year!? Really?!
I told you that story so I can tell you this one...
When John and William Bartram explored Florida in 1765, they would have been heart-sick to learn that 250 years later, some of the miraculous blue springs they saw would be gone and the rest would be dying a slow, off-colored death. Being master word-smiths, I wonder how they would have described our foolishness in allowing this to happen. I also wonder what words they would have used to describe the sickly color of the water now flowing from Poe Springs. One word they would not have used was “chartreuse.” That word, at least as the name of a color, did not yet exist in 1765. In fact, the events that would give rise to the color name were happening at the exact same time as the Bartram’s were in Florida.
In 1764, monks in the Grande Chartreuse Monastery (named for the Chartreus Mountains in which it was located) in the Artois Province of France were busy brewing a special concoction. The recipe had been gifted to the monastery 150 years earlier by François Hannibal d'Estrées, marshal of artillery to French king Henry IV, who had obtained it in China as an "elixir of long life." But concocting the magic elixir was no easy task, mainly because it required 130 ingredient. It wasn’t until 1737 that one of the monks was able to obtain all the ingredients and twisted up a batch. They called the elixir, “Charteuse,” after the monastery.
In 1764, the monks tweaked the recipe and added some new ingredients. This new, “improved” version had a greenish color, so they called it Green Chartreuse. Being both magical and tasty, the drink was a hit. By the following century, it was being enjoyed throughout Europe. The name Chartreuse came to denote not only the drink, but also its yellow green color. So it was, that an elixir of eternal life gave us a word that describes some of Florida's dying springs.
Thanks for stopping by. Please tip your waitress. Drive safe and I look forward to seeing you anoth...…..Wait! (screeeech) Did somebody say “elixir of long life?!” If you think I’m going to let that little nugget slip past without a closer look, you don’t know me. Take your seats! We’re heading back to 1764, back to the Artois region of France and back into the candle-lit halls of the Grande Chartreuse Monastery. We’re in luck, the merry monks are still huddled over their mixing bowls.
Moving in close, we peek over their shoulders. Maybe we can identify the 130 ingredients they are mixing into a bowl of water. But it’s no use. Aside from a few common spices, the formula for Chartreuse has been a closely held secret from that day to this.
Being mortal humans, we're always eager to learn the recipe of a life-giving elixir. Being Floridian humans, a people well-versed in the quest for magic elixirs, we know most such concoctions are full of "secret" ingredients. Two of the most common "known" ingredients are alcohol and spring water. It turns out, the elixir of Chartreuse is no different. The alcohol we know about, but what about the water? It seems they didn’t use rain or stream water like most people of the time, they had a well. And it wasn’t an ordinary well. This one flowed from deep in the earth…under its own power!
When the monastery of Chartreuse was first established in 1126, the monks drilled deep into the ground and hit water that was confined and pressurized under a confining layer of rock. The pressure was such that it pushed the water to the surface without any assistance; no pumping or well-bucket required. With time, more of these naturally free-flowing wells were dug, not only in the Artois Province but in other parts of the world, where similar geologic conditions had formed underground aquifers of pressurized water.
Today, these kinds of free-flowing wells are called by a name derived from "Artois," the region where they were discovered by the Chartreuse Monks. Regardless of whether it flows from natural chasms or from a dug well; if they it's cobalt blue, sulfur yellow or chartreuse green, any spring that flows freely from the ground under its own pressure is called “artesian.”