Everyone’s drug of choice

Four hundred years ago, Coffea arabica, a tropical shrub bearing glossy green leaves and bright-red berries, was virtually unknown outside of the Arab world and the corner of Ethiopia where it had been discovered in the ninth century—by a goatherd who, legend has it, noticed that his animals would get frisky and stay up all night after nibbling its berries. In the years since…we have given it more than 27 million acres of new habitat all around the world, assigned 25 million farming families to its care and feeding, and bid up its price until it became one of the most valuable globally traded crops…

Coffee owes its global ascendancy to a fortuitous evolutionary accident: The chemical compound that the plant makes to defend itself against insects happens to alter human consciousness in ways we find desirable, making us more energetic and industrious—and notably better workers. That chemical of course is caffeine, which is now the world’s most popular psychoactive drug, used daily by 80 percent of humanity. (It is the only such drug we routinely give to our children, in the form of soda.) Along with the tea plant, which produces the same compound in its leaves, coffee has helped create exactly the kind of world that coffee needs to thrive: a world driven by consumer capitalism, ringed by global trade, and dominated by a species that can now barely get out of bed without its help.

I love it.

3 thoughts on “Everyone’s drug of choice

  1. Josephus Daniels says:

    “Coffee changes our sense of taste” https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-04/au-cco042120.php Coffee lovers with a penchant for dark chocolate now have a scientific explanation for why the two are a perfect match. A study from Aarhus University shows that coffee makes you more sensitive to sweetness.
    “Chemosensory Sensitivity after Coffee Consumption Is Not Static: Short-Term Effects on Gustatory and Olfactory Sensitivity” https://www.mdpi.com/2304-8158/9/4/493

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