To those of us who have been sufficiently enlightened (some would say addicted), coffee is a great gift to humanity, something that wakes us up, keeps us going and makes us feel good. Some of us are content to drink any kind of mud or flavored water, so long as it contains ground coffee beans. Others, including this author, have become such coffee snobs that a mug of Maxwell House just won’t do. We haunt the gourmet coffee places and surf the Internet looking for the best of the exotic blends, and we have our favorites even among those. My preference is for Vietnamese coffee.
The beautiful brown liquid that we all love so much has a fascinating story behind it.
I don’t know if this is true or not because I wasn’t there. I’ll tell it, though, because it saves me the trouble of making something up.
Sometime back in the 11th Century CE there was a goat herder named Kaldi, who lived in Ethiopia. Herding goats was murder to begin with. Goats were stinky, they wouldn’t behave, and they ate everything in sight. Kaldi’s goats started eating the pretty red berries of those trees with the white flowers. They started running and jumping around and refused to go to sleep. As if having the lousiest job in the world were not enough, Kaldi was now faced with a herd of wired goats amped up on berries.
Because he was stupid, Kaldi tried eating a couple of the berries himself, to see if they would give him a buzz, too, or kill him. Fortunately, they just had the same effect on him that they had on the animals. He became the first and only human to stay up all night being chased by goats, after eating caffeinated goat food.
Kaldi reported all this to the abbot of the local monastery, hoping to explain why he and the goats were suddenly going bonkers. The abbot figured if the berries hadn’t killed Kaldi they were probably safe, so he boiled some of them and made a drink that the monks soon found would keep them awake during marathon prayer sessions.
To make a long story short, word got around. The Arabs discovered the heavenly brew and cornered the market on it. This was before they found out about oil. By the 17th Century, coffee had spread to Europe, where, in typical European fashion, a lot of people thought it was an evil brew from Satan. These were the same people who thought that anything enjoyable had to be from Satan, because God didn’t want people to have fun. The question was finally settled when Pope Clement VIII was asked for his judgment. He tasted some coffee, liked it, gave it his seal of approval and told everyone to stop being stupid.
Because of Kaldi and his caffeinated goats, the Arabs, and Pope Clement VIII, we now have a Starbucks on every corner of New York City.
Americans were tea drinkers until the Boston Tea Party in 1773, when a group of improper Bostonians boarded British merchant ships and dumped all the tea shipments into the harbor, to protest a tax that the British government was imposing on it. After that, it was just plain unpatriotic to drink tea, and it was probably becoming scarce, anyway, except for the fish in Boston Harbor. Americans began to drink coffee as their beverage of choice, and we haven’t stopped.
Eight ounces of brewed coffee contains an average of 95 mg of caffeine. Eight ounces of brewed decaffeinated coffee contains an average of 2 mg of caffeine.
I know from personal experiences many years ago that if you wean yourself off regular coffee and drink only decaf, the following will happen:
1. You will have a hard time staying awake for a few days. This is one of many possible withdrawal symptoms. This is the only one I remember going through, but it was bad enough, especially since I was working full-time and having a hard time keeping my eyes open at my desk. Fortunately, I had a government job at the time and they expected everyone to be slow, so my sleepiness was barely noticed.
2. After the withdrawal period, you will be so sensitized to caffeine that you will get a buzz from those two lousy milligrams in the decaf you are now drinking. Yes, this happened to me, and I took advantage of it until, one day, I got tired of drinking the wimpy brew and went back to the leaded stuff. As you can see, I have not died from it.
Coffee is good for you. It has many beneficial properties. Of course, the catch is that it’s good for you in MODERATE doses. The term “moderate” can mean different things, depending on your point of view. It’s supposed to mean 3-5 cups daily. If you only drink out of a 20-ounce mug, you can drink 5 of those and still claim to be a moderate drinker, although doctors and scientists will tell you that you are nuts.
Don’t expect church coffee to be good. It’s usually made in some big urn by old ladies who have fond memories of Folgers and Maxwell House, and it tastes like flavored water. If you need a quick buzz, it will do the trick, but if you are expecting it to taste good, you will be disappointed. If you are lucky, they will have one of those Keurig machines, and you can get a decent small dose of Java from it.
Yes, civet coffee is the most expensive coffee in the world. Yes, it is made from beans that have gone through the digestive system of a civet. No, I have never tried it. I am not going to put out that kind of money for anything, but I am absolutely not going to put out that kind of money to drink something that came out of a civet’s rear end.
On the other hand, if you invite me to share civet coffee with you and you are willing to pay for it because you are rich or just showing off, I’ll try it once, just to say I did it. Warning: If I like it, I’ll blame you and you’ll never hear the end of it.
Oh … I got a lot of my information from this website: The National Coffee Association