Cuppa Joe: When fast things happen to slow people
by Patricia Draznin

“If it wasn't for coffee, I’d have no discernible personality at all.—David Letterman

Of all the holidays begging to be celebrated, let us honor the day we discovered coffee, the humble brown bean that stirred up an entire civilization and became the favorite over-the-counter stimulant. Today we comb the grounds of history tracing the roots of the magical beverage that inspired the invention of the exclamation point, and the word BUZZED. My hands tremble at the thought. Java junkies, if you’re out there, wave your little corrugated cup holder.

Rumor has it that coffee was discovered in the year 850 AD at 4:37 PM. A goatherd in the Ethiopian highlands observed that when his goats ate the red berries from a certain evergreen they got really frisky. You know, talking fast, thumping their hooves, roaming around at night—probably in search of cream and sugar. The goatherd sampled the berries and felt invigorated. BUZZED! And then he recognized an exceptional multilevel opportunity. He ran to tell the local Imam, who was SO not interested in down-line drivel at 2:00am. Pronouncing the berries evil, the Imam flung them into the fire—where they roasted into medium dark beans of intoxicating aromatic perfection. On second thought… he rescued the beans, cooled them in a bowl of water, and drank the rich, full-bodied beverage. The first cuppa joe was brewed by a holy man, and coffee has performed miracles ever since.

News of the mysterious beverage raced across the continents all the way to Seattle. Around the world, coffee was praised both for its power to heighten alertness and its compatibility with cake. Arabian history mentions it as a medicine and a beverage to enhance prayer. The bitter drink was called GAHWA, but those were the days before spell-check.

The rise of coffeehouses dating back to the 13th century has always showcased coffee as an event, a reason to meet and share ideas that grow more fascinating with each cup. Why? Because coffee beans contain the high-octane caffeine compound, isolated in 1820 by some fast-talking scientists who went out to Starbucks after to celebrate. Naturally present in 60 plants, caffeine spikes alertness and stamina. And when brewed according to Beethoven’s personal recipe of 60 beans per cup (12 cups per symphony?) induces a state of pure omnipotence, our human birthright.

Today coffee is the most widely consumed beverage in the world and the official Cure for Boredom. Besides tasting great—if you’re into acidic, dry, and bitter—and who isn’t—its tremendous popularity is due to its multifunctional versatility, a phrase that occurred to me during my fifth morning cup. Hey, I’m no junkie, I’m just rising to my journalistic duty here, I can stop any time I want to, I just don’t want to. But enough about me. Today we celebrate the discovery of coffee and designate an official holiday in its honor. How about Mondays?

Copyright 2006 Patricia Draznin


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