by Tori Avey writing for PBS
Second only to oil, coffee is the most valuable legally traded commodity in the world. We love it, we rely on it, and we drink it in massive quantities. It is estimated that 2.25 billion cups of coffee are consumed each day worldwide. New Yorkers are said to drink 7 times the amount of any other U.S. city, which is why it may seem like there is a Starbucks on every corner of Manhattan. Famed French writer and philosopher Voltaire was rumored to have drunk 40 – 50 cups per day. Coffee is a daily ritual in the lives of millions of humans around the globe. Where exactly did this caffeinated phenomenon begin?
As with most foods that have been around for centuries, coffee’s beginnings are enveloped in mystery and lore. There is a popular Ethiopian legend wherein coffee is discovered by a goat herder named Kaldi, who found his goats frolicking and full of energy after eating the red berries of the coffee shrub. Kaldi tried the berries for himself and had a similar reaction. After witnessing their strange behavior, a monk took some of the berries back to his fellow monks; they too spent the night awake and alert. Of course, they would have been reacting to coffee’s high dose of caffeine. This natural stimulant also serves as an inborn plant pesticide, protecting the coffee berries from insects.
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