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Caffeine Buzzing ‘Round The Globe

Ancient Practices of Caffeine

“If Folgers in my cup is the best part of waking up, I don’t think I want to wake up anymore”

If you feel similarly to my friend, you may be sick of coffee or caffeine in general, but unfortunately, caffeine is here to stay in your advertisements. Caffeine is the number one consumed psychostimulant [1] and is one of the most commonly consumed dietary ingredients [2] across the globe. 89% of the US population regularly consumes caffeine [3] and our top caffeinated beverage of choice is coffee [4]. But for the caffeine-cowboys out there, your fix might be the gamer fave G-fuel, caffeinated jelly beans, gums, mints, lip-balms, toothpaste, or even bracelets that shoot caffeine into you. For most, coffee, tea, and soda are the way to go.

Top of the crop:
Though coffee and tea are certainly less exciting than the previous options, they’re staples all across the globe. According to this 2018 study, here are some of the world’s most sold caffeinated beverages:

Africa: Tea and carbonated soda.
Asia + the Pacific: Tea and carbonated soda.
Europe: Coffee and carbonated soda
Latin America + the Caribbean: Carbonated soda and coffee
North America: Fresh-brewed coffee and carbonated soda


Caffeine Elders:
You’ll find a tea or coffee maker in just about any office or staff-room, but caffeine is ancient and international in origin. You can trace its usage in the forms of various teas including yerba mate and black drink, kola nuts, and chocolate. Here are some of their origin stories.

Tea: China
There’s no exact date or recording of when tea was first discovered, but according to Chinese legends, the Chinese emperor Shen Nung was the discoverer. According to legend, tea was invented in 2737 BC, almost 4,000 years ago, when a leaf fell into a servant’s boiling water, accidentally creating tea [5]. One interesting Japanese myth is that a Buddhist saint cut off his eyelids, threw them to the ground, and drank tea brewed from a bush that grew from the thrown eyelids in order to cure his fatigue [5]. Caffeine Buzzing ‘Round The Globe 1

Yerba mate:
Like tea, the exact origins of yerba mate remain unknown. But we do know that mate was consumed by the indigenous Guaraní of southern Brazil, Paraguay before European colonizers arrived on their shores in the 15th century. According to Christine Folch, assistant professor of Cultural Anthropology at Duke Trinity College, in 1592 Hernando Arias de Saavedra, governor of Paraguay, inspected some looted bags of the indigenous Guarani and discovered powdered yerba mate [6]. In later years, the Spaniards adopted the use of Yerba and disseminated its usage in the empire over the course of a few decades [6].

Black Drink:
Black Drink is a Native American ceremonial tea brewed from a species of holly called Yaupon. Black Drink Like many ancient caffeine, scholars are divided on the time period and origin of the black drink. But as suggested by this 2012 study, we can trace Black Drink consumption at least to the beginning of A.D. 1050 in central Cahokia (prehispanic site north of Mexico) and Cahokia’s outlying sites [7]. There are also several historical colonial accounts of Black Drink amongst the Ais, Cherokee, Muskogean, and Timucua people.

Ethiopia and Yemen are the two debated sites of origin for coffee. One legend is that an Ethiopian goat herder named Kaldi found his goats running and frantic after eating some red berries–or coffee cherries [5] From there, Kaldi is debated to have either gone to an Ethiopian monastery or to a Yemen monastery via trade [5].

Kola Nuts:
The kola nut, the taste inspiration for Coca Cola, is indigenous to the West African forest. The beginning usage of kola nuts is sparse, but studies suggest the kola trade is at least seven centuries old [8]. The kola nut is traditionally chewed in both private and social settings and archaically, the kola nut was even used as a currency [9].

Cacao originates from the ancient Mayans and Aztecs. The Mayan origin is that the gods on the “Mountain of Sustenance” provided newly created humans with cacao[5]. The Aztec origin is that cacao was brought to the surface from deep within the mountains by gods [5]. For both the Aztecs and Mayans, cacao was drunk as a beverage and used as currency.


Need a sip?
If your hand is twitching for a cup of coffee, remember that the FDA and USDA recommended intake is no more than 400mg a day (or 4-5 cups of coffee). Please drink and eat your caffeine responsibly, and remember how far it’s come over the centuries.

If caffeine isn’t enough to stimulate you, consider joining one of our exciting programs! Happy buzzing!

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