Some of you may know that today is International Coffee Day. I’ve, personally, been trying to ignore the free/discounted offers around New York City since I’m trying to cut back, and decided to distract myself by putting together this quick video post about coffee and caffeine.
Now, I would be reimiss if I did not first mention the fantastic book Buzz: The Science and Lore of Alcohol and Caffeine by Stephen Braun. This is a tried-and-true OUP favorite. In the book, we discover that more than 100 plant species produce caffeine molecules in their seeds. It’s not surprising then that caffeine is far and away the most widely used mind altering substance on the planet, found in tea, coffee, cocoa, chocolate, soft drinks, and more than 2,000 non-prescription drugs. (Tea is the most popular drink on earth, with coffee a close second.) Braun also explores the role of caffeine in creativity: Johann Sebastian Bach, for one, loved coffee so much he wrote a Coffee Cantata (as Braun notes, no music captures the caffeinated experience better than one of Bachs frenetic fugues), Balzac would work for 12 hours non-stop, drinking coffee all the while, and Kant, Rousseau, and Voltaire all loved coffee. And throughout the book, Braun takes us on many engaging factual sidetrips–we learn, for instance, that Theodore Roosevelt coined the phrase “Good to the last drop” used by Maxwell House ever since; that distances between Tibetan villages are sometimes reckoned by the number of cups of tea needed to sustain a person (three cups being roughly 8 kilometers); and that John Pemberton’s original recipe for Coca-Cola included not only kola extract, but also cocaine.
Now, I promised you videos, so here are some videos.
Fascinating compilation from C. G. P. Grey — Coffee: The Greatest Addiction Ever
and for those of you who enjoy more academic history…
Steven Johnson answers, Did Coffee Fuel the Age of Enlightenment?