Off The Shelf - "The World of Caffeine: The Science and Culture of the World's Most Popular Drug"

By Dan Century

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The World of CaffeineI'm a caffeine addict - no doubt about it. Every morning I brew myself a humungous portion of coffee. Throughout the day I'll treat myself to a Mountain Dew or Dr. Pepper and after dinner I enjoy espresso or a black coffee(*).

I've been a caffeine user ever since I discovered the sleep inhibiting properties of NoDoz and Dunkin Donuts back in college, but I became an addict when I entered the 9 to 5 work force. It may be a cliché that computer programmers and writers love caffeine, but in my case it's reality. I've tried quitting a few times due to caffeine's side effects - dry skin, nervousness, "coffee breath" and insomnia - but the withdrawal headaches are murder. Plus, coffee gives me the edge I need not to fall asleep in boring, miserable business meetings - how could I live without that?

My addiction truly blossomed in the fall of 2000. Suffice it to say I had a scary, alcohol-related run-in with the law. The situation was bad enough for me to quit boozing. I had to replace the alcohol with something, and that something was coffee. I tried drinking water (boring), soda (rotten teeth, belches and indigestion) and supercharged energy drinks like Red Bull (made me too wired and have the same side effects as soda), but nothing beats an extra large iced coffee from Dunkin Donuts. Sure I missed getting out-of-control drunk, but I don't miss the feel of handcuffs clasped around my wrists. Coffee is a great social drink - you can stay up all night, and it goes great with cigarettes (which actually counteract coffee's properties by speeding up your metabolism - really, it's in the book).

Admitting that I'm an addict is the first step, the second is to buy a book about the subject: which is why I ordered The World of Caffeine: The Science and Culture of the World's Most Popular Drug. When I bought the book it was only available in hardcover: 384 pages of well-bound, coffee brown, brick heavy, abundantly illustrated, roach crushing dead tree - fantastic. If you can afford it, get the hardcover version - it's just so much classier.

The World of Caffeine covers the culture and history of the three major caffeine sources: coffee, tea and cocoa. Coffee, it's assumed, first grew in Africa but was first used by Asian Muslims. Tea may have come from the Indian subcontinent, but the Chinese were the first to use it in daily life. Cocoa was first discovered on the American continents and the Aztecs were the first to truly celebrate its invigorating properties and chocolaty goodness. Coffee, tea and perhaps cocoa started as medicines and later became social drinks. I was amused to learn that the Muslims and Aztecs both turned to caffeinated drink as a socially accepted alternative to alcohol - reminds me of my own situation.

If you find history boring (Boston Tea Party - yawn), The World of Caffeine also explores into the culture of caffeine, including caffeine inspired pop culture such as the hilarious Too Much Coffee Man(**) comic , generation X & Y's relation to caffeine, and new caffeine related beverages such as Water Joe(***) and coffee infused beers. If you like pharmacology, chemistry or biology - and really, who doesn't - you'll find chapters about the chemical properties of caffeine, its effect on the human body and related health concerns. Wow - this book has it all!

Other stuff you'll learn:

If you want to celebrate your caffeine addiction pick up The World of Caffeine: The Science and Culture of the World's Most Popular Drug today. Even if you don't read it you can use it to smack someone goofy next time you experience coffee induced rage.

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(*) Talk to me when you hit 3 pots of strong coffee a day, Dan…amateur! Hehehe… [PAN]
(***) See Dan Century vs. Beverage Technology in Legends #127.

"The World of Caffeine: The Science and Culture of the World's Most Popular Drug" by Bennet Alan Weinberg & Bonnie K. Bealer
Published by Routledge
Copyright © 2001 by Bennet Alan Weinberg & Bonnie K. Bealer
ISBN 0415927226

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