The Role of Chemistry in History

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Discovery: The Magical Bean

April 22nd, 2008 · 2 Comments ·

Introduction | What is Caffeine: Molecule Structure | Stimulating Science: The Properties of Caffeine | Discovery: The Magical Bean | Coffee Creates a Social Lifestyle in Europe |Colonization and Coffee|Coffee’s Impact on the Nation of Brazil|Coffee Industry Today| Conclusions


There is no doubt that human beings have consistently consumed caffeine since the Stone Age. It is hypothesized that ancient people discovered that chewing on certain plants had stimulating effects on the body and mind. Myths of the initial discovery of the coffee bean and its properties vary from culture to culture. Coffee is indigenous to Ethiopia, therefore it comes as no surprise that one well known legend comes from this nation. The Ethiopian myth describes the story of a goatherd named Kaldi, whose goats nibbled on a bush covered in red berries. After the goats had consumed the berries, they became frisky and started to dance on their hind legs. Kaldi was intrigued by the strange actions of his goats and decided to try the berries for himself. After tasting the magical berries he too became energized and started to dance with his goats. A local monk noticed the goatherd’s behavior, and came to the realization that the invigorating effects of this bean could help monks remain alert and awake during long religious sessions of prayer. It was then that the monk brewed the first cup of coffee.



The consumption of coffee spread across northern Africa, and then into Arabia. And by the sixteenth century, coffee had become a staple throughout the Arab world. So much so that in countries such as Turkey the drink was considered to be as important as bread or water. The popularity of coffee can not only be contributed to the beneficial effects of the caffeine, but also to the religious ties in the Middle East to Islam. Islamic law prohibits the consumption of alcohol; therefore coffee provided a substitute. As the popularity of the beverage increased, the western world began to take notice.

Tags: Caffeine