The World of Caffeine: The Science and Culture of the World's Most Popular Drug

The World of Caffeine: The Science and Culture of the World's Most Popular Drug

The World of Caffeine: The Science and Culture of the World's Most Popular Drug

The World of Caffeine: The Science and Culture of the World's Most Popular Drug

Synopsis

This natural, cultural, and artistic history of our favourite mood enhancer tells us more, by looking at how caffeine was discovered, its early uses, and its unexpected role in medicine, religion, painting, poetry, learning and love.

Excerpt

The earliest employment of [coffee and tea] is veiled in as deep a mystery as that which surrounds the chocolate plant One can only say that…they have all been used from time immemorial, and that all three are welcome gifts from a rude state of civilization to the highest which exists today. By the savages and the Aztecs of America, by the roving tribes of Arabia, and by the dwellers in the farther East, the virtues of these three plants were recognized long before any one of them was introduced into Europe.

-William Baker, The Chocolate Plant and Its Products, 1891

With every cup of coffee you drink, you partake of one of the great mysteries of cultural history. Despite the fact that the coffee bush grows wild in highlands through-out Africa, from Madagascar to Sierra Leone, from the Congo to the mountains of Ethiopia, and may also be indigenous to Arabia, there is no credible evidence coffee was known or used by anyone in the ancient Greek, Roman, Middle Eastern, or African worlds. Although European and Arab historians repeat legendary African accounts or cite lost written references from as early as the sixth century, surviving documents can incontrovertibly establish coffee drinking or knowledge of the coffee tree no earlier than the middle of the fifteenth century in the Sufi monasteries of the Yemen in southern Arabia.

The myth of Kaldi the Ethiopian goatherd and his dancing goats, the coffee origin story most frequently encountered in Western literature, embellishes the credible tradition that the Sufi encounter with coffee occurred in Ethiopia, which lies just across the narrow passage of the Red Sea from Arabia's western coast. Antoine Faustus Nairon, a Maronite who became a Roman professor of Oriental languages and author of one of the first printed treatises devoted to coffee, De Saluberrimá Cahue seu Café nuncupata Discurscus (1671), relates that Kaldi, noticing the energizing effects when his flock nibbled on the bright red berries of a certain glossy green bush with fragrant blossoms, chewed on the fruit himself. His exhilaration prompted him to

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