Cafe – the drink, the myth, the legend, Iona McDiarmid, Colchester Sixth Form College

I rely on coffee. I go to university and I take a double espresso: black, two sugars. Maybe I started relying on it too early in the year – now I can’t function without it. But why is this so important? Is it the addictive properties of caffeine, or is it built into society?

There are a few theories as to when and where it was found – the main one is that the plant was discovered in Ethiopia in the 11th century and the leaves were boiled – the resulting liquid is said to have medicinal properties. It is said to have spread to Constantinople (now Istanbul) in 1555 where, in the Ottoman Palace, a new method of drinking and brewing coffee was created. He quickly became an essential part of the palace kitchen and was very popular at the court, as evidenced by the post of chief coffee maker added to the list of court officials. From there the coffee spread to the mansions, and from there to the public. Thanks to the efforts of merchants and travelers passing through the city, Turkish coffee quickly spread to Europe and the rest of the world, arriving in England during the 17th century.

Today 95 million cups of coffee are drunk in Britain every day, according to the British Coffee Association, while the average Briton drinks 2 cups a day … but is that a good thing? When caffeine travels to the brain, it “activates” certain neurons that can improve memory, mood, energy, and cognitive function, as long as it is consumed in moderation. There is also some evidence to suggest that it may lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Although drinking too much can cause restlessness and anxiety in some people, isn’t this the rule for most things? Having something in excess is generally considered not too good for you, so I guess you can’t really tell it’s the coffee’s fault.

I know that for me caffeine helps calm me down – maybe it’s the routine, that I MUST just sit and focus on that one thing for a while, or the fact that caffeine stimulates the production of dopamine, which is sorely lacking in my brain. Caffeine can also increase the concentration of people with ADHD because it mimics some of the effects of more powerful stimulants used to treat ADHD, such as amphetamine medications. For me, I am just grateful for the creation of the drink. So grab a coffee and let’s raise those consumption statistics – well done!

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