25 June 2005

Shakin' All Over

      Reading this review of Antony Wild's Coffee: A Dark History, I was reminded of an old episode of James Burke's Connections in which Professor Burke managed to connect the development of modern technology to-- wait for it-- the ever-growing market for Scotch.   (The connection, by the way, was James Watt, a Scot Quaker trying to make a profit on his country's national imbibement).   I'm also remined of my own debts to coffee, especially in my undergraduate days when it was not uncommon for me to go through several pots of coffee in an essay-writing day.   Note, though, this paragraph, that explains so much:

Wild argues that the creative output of the movement's greatest artists and thinkers might have been significantly less if they'd been fans of sloth-inducing ale instead of energizing coffee. The Royal Society, for example, a group of pals who gathered to slurp coffee and discuss alchemy at an Oxford café named Tillyard's, was later responsible for publishing the works of its chairman, Isaac Newton. The Coffee Club of Rota met in Westminster at the Turk's Head, where luminaries such as Andrew Marvell and Samuel Pepys discussed and promoted new political concepts, including the early adoption of the modern ballot box. In France, meanwhile, Voltaire was reputedly downing between 50 and 72 cups of coffee a day, a habit that many link to the brevity and mania of Candide.
Whoa.... Even I in my more desperate days couldn't have done that much in a day, and I was raised on coffee as if it was mother's milk.   (In Hamilton, it moreorless is.)   It would hardly surprise me, though, if coffee really did have the broad cultural impact that Wild thinks it did.   After all, beer and whisky have already had their impacts assessed.   Now maybe it's time to look into the legacy of Irish Mist?

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