Use Of Caffeine Through History: From Tea To Brewed Coffee
Most people can’t even start their day without a nice warm cup of coffee or tea in the morning. So what is the main ingredient that gives us that light buzz and a slight rush of energy? I am going to disclose that information right away, because you probably know it already: it’s caffeine. But there are probably some things you still don’t know, so buckle up because we are going back thousands of years to see how it all started.
Ancient Chinese legend says the Emperor Shen Nung first discovered tea in 2437 BCE, when the wind blew leaves into the cup of boiling water that he was holding. He was intrigued by the refreshing fragrance and the pleasant aroma when the leaves started dissolving in the water. Shortly after drinking it, he felt invigorated and energized, as though a new magical potion had just appeared in his life. An excavated mausoleum from Xi’an, China for Emperor Jing from the Han Dynasty lends physical evidence to the fact that it was being consumed at least as early as 141 BCE.
Another part of the world has its own legends that come from native tribes of the Ethiopian Peninsula. The goat herder Kaldi, who may have lived in the 9th century CE, discovered that his goats had trouble sleeping after grazing on what looked like random berries. He decided to make a drink from the berries and stayed alert through long hours of prayer. The drink had similar effects on him too, so he shared the secret with the Coptic priests that were living close by.
In the history of coffee, the Arabs were the early adopters, as they grew coffee trees in nearby mountains and called it qahwa (Arabic for ‘wine’). Others believe that the name “coffee” originates from the Kaffa region of Ethiopia, the Arab word quwwa (‘power’) or Kafta (referring to a drink made from the Khat plant). The drink’s earliest adopters were the Sufi monks who, thanks to coffee, could now stay awake more easily for their midnight prayers. However, from these religious beginnings, coffee soon fell into everyday use, as wealthy people popularized coffee rooms and ceremonies and the not-so-wealthy resorted to coffee houses called kaveh kanes. By the end of the 15th century, Muslim pilgrims and traders had introduced coffee throughout the Islamic world (Persia, Egypt, Turkey, North Africa, etc.), making it a lucrative trade item. As its popularity grew, coffee became notorious, with the trouble-making brew and coffeehouses gaining a reputation for “improper pastimes” and seditious conversations.
Given that coffee has such a long tradition and that it is used all over the world, I wondered if there was a type of coffee that is really special, extravagant or weird in any way and I found all of that in kopi luwak. It’s the world’s most expensive coffee, and it’s made from poop. Or rather, it’s made from coffee beans that are partially digested and then pooped out by the civet, a catlike creature. Found in Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, the civet has a long tail, just like a monkey, face markings like a raccoon, and stripes or spots on its body. A cup of kopi luwak, as it’s known, can sell for as much as $80 in the United States. Would you try it?
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