History of Caffeine Use

The history of caffeine is a long one use, dating back thousands and thousands of years.

Any oral stories about who first used caffeine have long since been lost in time. It is thought that caffeine was consumed as far back as the Stone Age, when people would have eaten berries or leaves of plants that contained caffeine.

Legend has it that Emperor Shen Nung, the father of Chinese agriculture and medicine, enjoyed the first cup of tea in 2737 BC. Shen Nung is reported to have tasted hundreds of herbs while searching for medicines. He is also credited with developing acupuncture.

The Olmecs, who lived on the Gulf Coast of Mexico, were probably cultivating the cacoa tree by about 1000 BC, calling the tree "kakawa." The Mayans of southern Mexico and Guatemala changed the tree's name to cacao. The Mayan elite were privileged enough to drink Xocoatl, a spicy drink made of cocoa, chili peppers, vanilla and achiote. When the Mayan empire fell around 900 AD, cocoa beans were already being used as a form of money, a practice that was disrupted with the fall of the Aztec Empire to Herman Cortes in 1521.

Coffee beans are native to Ethiopia. The story behind the coffee bean is that around 900 AD, a shepherd or goat herder named Kali realized that his animals seemed to get a boost of energy after eating a certain berry. Kali tried the berry himself and the rest is history. Interestingly, the berry was not made into a drink, but was eaten wrapped in fat.

Coffee hit Europe by the mid-1600s and became the rage, followed by chocolate around 1700. Of course, tea was popular both in England and in the Colonies during this time period as well. However, the popularity of tea in the Colonies came into jeopardy when Britain passed the Townshend Revenue Act in 1767, which included a tax on tea. The Colonists reacted with the Boston Tea Party. Coffee has been more popular than tea in the United States ever since then.

If you think that the United States government went after Coca-Cola to remove cocaine from its product, you would be wrong. The U. S. Government went after Coca-Cola because of its caffeine content. On October 20, 1909, the Government seized 40 barrels and 20 kegs of Coca-Cola syrup under the Pure Food and Drug Act. The Federal lawsuit United States Government vs. Forty Barrels, Twenty Kegs, Coca-Cola went to court in 1911. The case went all of the way to the Supreme Court. In 1916, the Supreme Court ruled for the government and Coca-Cola reduced the amount of caffeine in its drink.   

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