Constantly Caffeinated

T, Hanson. (2015). The Triumph of Seeds: How Grains, Nuts, Kernels, Pulses, & Pips Conquered the Plant Kingdom and Shaped Human History. p. 143-160.


Well, I find myself currently having finished drinking an iced coffee from Starbucks in order to stay awake during this reading. It turns out I didn’t even need it. Wow – Thor Hanson introduces us to the ‘Cheeriest Beans’, aka coffee beans, in the most wonderful way imaginable. As a coffee lover, I found this chapter so interesting! We are first introduced to the naval officer by the name of Gabriel-Mathieu de Clieu, who is depicted to the right. Apparently this man, who provided ‘infinite care‘ (p.143) for the single coffee plant sapling he mysteriously managed to obtain, ‘boasted nearly 20 million highly productive trees,’ (p.145) from his plant alone. Incredible! One other aspect of coffee that I found interesting is the properties of the caffeine that each bean contains. I would have never even guessed that caffeine worked as a natural insecticide, or how caffeine allows the coffee plant to ‘clear a tiny patch of ground to call their own‘ (p.148). I really loved Thor’s comparison of how the coffee trees’ caffeinated flowers attract ‘a dedicated cadre of pollinators, lined up like morning commuters at their favourite espresso stand,‘(p.149). Imagery such as this is such an excellent tool in drawing the reader in, and makes reading Thor’s work truly enjoyable.


After having read this chapter, I have now fully realized how great our addiction to coffee (and the caffeine it contains) truly is. Caffeine is widely known to ‘make people alter, energetic, and arguably more productive‘ (p.151), and the discussion that Thor brings up on this topic struck me as fascinating. Hanson speaks of how we used to spend time at cafes not only sipping coffee, but discussing political and cultural topics; coffeehouses were called ‘penny universities‘ (p.153) because of the vast amount of knowledge that would be spoken at such places – how awesome! If I could go back in time to live in those ages, I would definitely be a James Swift character. Who wouldn’t want to listen in on the thoughts of well known philosophers and writers, absorb their knowledge, and at the same time read your mail (that was delivered specifically to the coffeehouse) all while sipping a fresh cup of java? Just me?

The idea of how coffee is now driving the technologies that we develop, is a really interesting concept. Hanson quotes that the caffeine delivered through the form of coffee is ‘the drug that makes the modern world possible,'(p.155). This really got me thinking – how many ideas have come to be, because of coffee alone? What wouldn’t we have right now, in terms of technology and the like, if the concept of drinking coffee hadn’t been discovered? This subject alone is just plain interesting!

Next time I go drink a good ol’ cup of joe, I will now think of the journey that the coffee beans took to reach my mug.



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