Tobacco Alcohol and Caffeine—Centuries of Use - Caffeine
tea coffee consumption united
Stone Age peoples were probably familiar with most of the caffeine-producing plants. Early humans chewed the leaves, bark, and seeds of many plants and learned to enjoy the sensations of alertness and elevated mood produced by some. Consequently, caffeine-producing plants were cultivated widely from early times. It was not until much later, however, that people discovered that steeping the plants in hot water released more of the stimulant. From that discovery came all of the present-day caffeinated beverages, including coffee, tea, colas, and cocoa.
As early as the sixth century C.E. (Common Era), Ethiopians were cultivating the coffee plant and chewing its berries, although the first written record of coffee was found in tenth-century Arabic documents. At first the berries were mashed, fermented, and made into a wine called qahwah. It was not until five hundred years later that the Arabians began to brew a hot beverage from roasted coffee beans. They called this beverage qahwah as well, from which the word coffee is derived.
In the 1600s the Dutch established coffee plantations on Java, an island of Indonesia. By the mid-1700s the French and British did the same in their Caribbean colonies. Coffee cultivation spread from the Caribbean islands to Central and South America, and by the early 1800s Brazil was the major producer and exporter of coffee. By the mid-1800s the United States was the largest consumer of coffee, using more than three-quarters of the world's production of this beverage. At that time more than half the coffee consumed in the United States was imported from Brazil.
By the twenty-first century the United States was still the largest consumer of coffee, using annually about one-fifth of all the coffee grown in the world. Other leading coffee consumers are Brazil, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, and Japan. Although Brazil produces about one-fourth of the world's coffee, the crop is vital to the economies of many Latin American countries.
Tea, called ch'a (or t'e, pronounced "tay" in the Chinese Amoy dialect), may have been used in China as early as five thousand years ago. Around 600 C.E., many aspects of Chinese culture, including tea drinking, spread to Japan, although tea would not become a regular part of Japanese life for another seven hundred years.
In the seventeenth century Dutch traders with China introduced tea to Europeans. Although tea was very expensive, its popularity spread quickly throughout Europe, and in some areas tea became more popular than coffee. Tea was particularly popular in the North American colonies, where a visitor in the 1760s reported that American women "would rather go without their dinners than without a dish of tea."
During the colonial period the British, through their East India Company, had a virtual monopoly on the importation of tea, most of which came from China. The British levied a special tax on tea and other items imported into the American colonies. This tax became a rallying point for colonists dissatisfied with British rule, and Americans began a tea boycott, primarily using coffee as a substitute. They also destroyed cargoes of tea. On December 16, 1773, a group of citizens disguised themselves as Mohawk Indians, boarded three ships in Boston Harbor, and dumped the cargoes of tea overboard. This incident, known as the Boston Tea Party, and the reprisals undertaken by the British government against the colonists, helped consolidate resistance to British rule and ultimately hastened the start of the American Revolutionary War (1775-83).
During the early 1800s the popularity of tea declined in Britain because of high taxation (the tax on tea was fifteen times the domestic tax on coffee). As a result, between 1800 and 1840, coffee use grew tenfold, and coffee became more widely used than tea. A series of coffee adulteration scandals (situations in which contaminants were added to coffee) and reductions in the tea tax led many people to return to tea drinking in the mid-1800s. Today, the countries that consume the most tea per capita include India, Indonesia, Kenya, Sri Lanka, China, Japan, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.
Cacao and Kola (Chocolate and Colas)
Both the cacao bean and the kola nut are longtime companions of humans. Cacao (from which the word cocoa is derived) is native to Central and South America; as early as 1000 B.C.E. the Mayas, Toltecs, and Aztecs made a drink from roasted cacao beans. On one of his voyages to the New World, Christopher Columbus was served a cacao drink. Since it was unsweetened, however, he found it unpleasantly bitter. Later, in Mexico, Hernando Cortés tasted the chocolate drink of the Aztecs, who sweetened theirs with honey and added spices and vanilla. Cortés liked it so much that he took cacao powder back to Europe with him. Europeans who could afford cacao powder liked to drink this chocolate beverage as well. Even before coffee and tea were introduced to Europe, wealthy Europeans were drinking hot chocolate.
In the early 1800s the Dutch learned to make cocoa powder from cacao beans. The English learned to make solid dark chocolate and, later, solid milk chocolate. Today, people all over the world enjoy chocolate in hot and cold drinks, cakes, pies, ice cream, candies, and other sweets.
Kola trees are native to West Africa, where the inhabitants chewed the kola nuts to enjoy the stimulating flavor. The kola nut was first used in a beverage in the United States in the mid-1800s. Although carbonated "soft" drinks (called that to differentiate them from "hard" alcoholic drinks) were popular in the United States in the early 1800s, they were usually made from local herbs, roots, and other flavorings. A pharmacist in Georgia created the first cola soft drink in the 1880s, making syrup from coca leaves (from which cocaine is derived), kola nuts, citrus flavoring, cinnamon, and other spices and flavorings. At first, the syrup was mixed with plain water to make the drink, but some enterprising person tried mixing it with carbonated water. The result was the first successful soft drink, Coca-Cola, followed closely by other brands with slightly different formulas.
Caffeine in Modern America
A wide variety of caffeinated beverages are popular in the United States. Soft drinks are very popular, and many soft drinks on the market today contain caffeine. Americans have more than doubled their consumption of carbonated soft drinks since 1966. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture figures, the consumption of carbonated soft drinks increased from 20.3 gallons per person in 1966 to 46.4 gallons per person in 2003. Americans have also increased their annual consumption of tea, from 6.5 gallons per person in 1966 to 7.6 gallons in 2003. However, Americans have reduced their coffee consumption during the same time span. In 1966 per capita consumption of coffee was 35.7 gallons. In 2003 per capita consumption was 24.3 gallons. The rise in tea consumption could be related to sales of green tea, a beverage deemed healthy because it is rich in antioxidants. Although coffee consumption is down, Americans are drinking more specialty coffees, now thought to be an estimated $7 billion industry. Caffeine appears to have a significant place in the diet of many Americans.