The beans of the tree were eaten, after roasting, by the Meskwaki (Fox), Ho-Chunk (Winnebago) and Pawnee Native American cultures.
The Meskwaki also drank the roasted ground seeds in a hot beverage similar to coffee.The common name "coffeetree" derives from this latter use of the roasted seeds, which was imitated by settlers because it seemed a substitute for coffee, especially in times of poverty, similar to chicory. The European colonialists, however, considered it inferior to "real" coffee:
|“||"When Kentucky was first settled by the adventurous pioneers from the Atlantic states who commenced their career in the primeval wilderness, almost without the necessaries of life, except as they produced them from the fertile soil, they fancied that they had discovered a substitute for coffee in the seeds of this tree; and accordingly the name of coffee-tree was bestowed upon it. But when communication was established with the sea-ports, they gladly relinquished their Kentucky beverage for the more grateful flavor of the Indian berry; and no use is at present made of it in that manner"|