Black as hell; sweet as love; strong as death

By Andrea Mulder-Slater

Some time ago, I came to the realization that my life is a Folgers® commercial. In order to wake up every morning, I not only have to smell the coffee, I have to imbibe several litres of it, and I'm not the only one.

Coffee, the sweet elixir of life, is the world's largest commodity (next to oil, and the Snuggie) and is produced in more than fifty countries at a rate of over 8 billion pounds annually. Wow... that's a lot of java.

It's no surprise really, when you consider that our society revolves around the dark liquid. Coffee breaks, coffee tables, coffee cake, coffee houses...

Ahhh, the aroma. Ahhh, the taste. Ahhh, the caffeine. Yes the caffeine, that's what we're really talking about here isn't it? An ordinary cup of joe contains about 150 mg of caffeine. That is roughly the amount that physicians regard as a therapeutic dose. Therapeutic? Yes. That's for all of you who think the roasted bean juice is bad for us.

Caffeine's proper name is trimethylxanthine, a natural substance that is a result of photosynthesis within the coffee plant. Taken in beverage form, the super-swell substance begins to reach all tissues of the body within five short minutes giving us all much-needed swift kicks in the pants.

The caffeine found in just one cup of coffee is enough to elevate neural activity, postpone fatigue and enhance performance of simple intellectual tasks (like breathing for example). Similar to amphetamines, the drug stimulates the brain, causing increased cerebral activity, clearer thought and quicker reaction time.

In other words, it knocks the stupid out of you.

So you see, in moderation, coffee is actually a healthful natural beverage. I suppose it should be said however, that there are some people who experience insomnia, stomach irritation, hand tremors and fits of depression if they toss back the hard stuff. But did I mention it improves sperm mobility?

According to legend, in the year 850 A.D., an East African goat herder named Kaldi, began noticing that his goats became rather excited after chewing on the cherries of a certain plant... the coffee tree.

Once Kaldi realized his discovery, one thing led to another and trendy coffee houses started sprouting up all over the African continent... or something like that.

No, really what happened is that word of the coffee tree (native to Ethiopia) spread throughout the Middle East until the 17th Century when the Dutch Merchants expanded cultivation to the East Indies. It wasn't until the early 1700's that coffee agriculture began in the Americas (which is of course when Maxwell House® got involved). Today, the coffee tree, which requires a warm climate with plenty of moisture, is grown within a belt extending around the world between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn.

By brewing the roasted and ground beans of the coffee tree, we end up with the beverage that we know and love. In North America, it is most often served as a clear rich brown liquid to which a sweetener or cream or packet of talcum powder by-product is added. In France, they delight in cafe au lait, in Argentina they enjoy cafe con leche and in the Middle East, heavily roasted coffee beans are ground down to a fine powder, water is added and a thick black fluid (grounds and all) is swallowed - up to thirty times a day. Now I know where I need to go for a pick-me-up.

No... Really.

Note: I posted this article strictly for nostalgic reasons. Truth is, I haven't had a good stiff cup of caffeinated coffee since before I became pregnant. And to think, I used to make fun of decaf drinkers...

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