Caffeine: A Book Review

I listened to this book a long time ago (everything before the wartime is “a long time ago”), but I didn’t write a blog post, which I intended to write; other things took preference. By now, I have five books that I read and never wrote a line about, so I am trying to fill in the gap. 

That short book (or a long essay) was suggested to me by  Caffeine: How Caffeine Created the Modern World is available only in the audio format, which is, in any case, my preferred format. I really liked it; it was something unexpected:). For me, like for many of the readers, the part where the author Michael Pollan decides to live a caffeine-free life while working on this book looked a little bit weird. Being a heavy user of this drug for at least forty-six years, and also being off it for both of my pregnancies and breastfeeding periods, I do not understand how in the world skipping one cup of half-decaf drink can have such a drastic effect on a person! 

What I liked in the book was the history of caffeine-containing drinks (tea and coffee). I never linked the introduction of these drinks to the Europeans to the beginning of the Age of Enlightenment. But after Pollan mentions that fact, it seems so obvious! Yes, the coffee-drinkers got this new power – the ability to think faster (and getting irritated when people around them don’t do that :))

Also, I was very well aware of the fact that in Medieval times people would drink beer instead of water for sanitary reasons – water would often contain dangerous bacteria. And both coffee and tea came as safe substitutes of water! Pollan indicates that in the earlier times when manual labor didn’t require a lot of precision, it was ok if a laborer is always slightly drunk:). But for factory worker operating machines, it was unacceptable. So it all went hand in hand – progress, and caffeine!

There are lots of other interesting facts in this book, like the part about having coffee machines at the workplace, and why in some countries most people drink tea, and in others – coffee. 

But I still do not understand why the author decided to go without caffeine for several months. Maybe to create an intrigue 🙂

2 thoughts on “Caffeine: A Book Review

  1. Another fun factoid about beer as food: some historians reviewed the diets of typical medieval peasants and found they were short about a thousand calories needed to support the work peasants did… until they factored in the alcohol. It really was an essential part of the diet.

    I usually start the day with a few mugs of espresso but no caffeine after that. As an experiment, I’m planning to cut back to a glass of iced coffee once the weather warms. I suspect long term continual use of coffee (not just caffeine) has some consequences, but we’ll see.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am fifty-seven, and I drink a lot of coffee daily since I was twelve. Even taking into account, there was no good coffee in the Soviet Union, there was tea as well. And when in high school, I used to buy coffee beans and chewed on them to stay awake while studying. If it didn’t do any harm in forty-five years, I doubt it will 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s