Speeding Through the Ages
According to Arab legend, an Ethiopian goatherd named Kaldi first recognized the special powers of coffee sometime around A.D. 850. He noticed that when his goats ate berries from coffee trees, they didn't sleep at night. It's thought that tea was used in China as early as 2700 B.C. as a medicinal drink.
CIRCA 1500 Coffee is believed to first have been brewed as a drink in Arabia and consumed at home and in public coffeehouses.
1600s Europeans got their first taste, after the Dutch transported a coffee tree from Yemento Holland. But the brew didn't gain a following, the story goes, until Pope Clement VIII gave it his blessing.
1674 An anonymous writer in England published The Women's Petition Against Coffee, complaining that men were spending all day in coffeehouses. "We find of late a very sensible Decay of that true Old English Vigour," it said, "due to the Excessive use of that Newfangled, Abominable, Heathenish Liquor called Coffee."
1773 Over in the New World, the Boston Tea Party gave coffee a big boost. After a band of rebellious colonists dumped tea shipments from Britain into the harbor, patriots shunned tea.
1886 The first advertisement for Coca-Cola appeared in the Atlanta Journal. Pepsi-Cola got its name in 1898.
1906 Ludwig Roselius, a German coffee merchant who believed his father had died from drinking too much caffeine, patented the decaffeination process.
1932 The drug amphetamine was introduced as Benzedrine, a decongestant nasal inhaler for asthma and hay fever. Soon it was used for everything from obesity to behavior problems.
1940s Scholars believe Hitler used amphetamines, a common practice at the time. The U.S. military issued amphetamine tablets to soldiers during World War II to prevent fatigue.
Mid-1950s Ritalin, thought to be less prone to abuse than amphetamines, was introduced as a mood enhancer.
1971 The first Starbucks opened in Pike Place Market in Seattle. At the end of 2006, the company counted 12,440 outlets worldwide.
1987 Red Bull, with more than twice the caffeine of Coke in a serving only two-thirds the size, was created in Austria. Ten years later, it arrived in the United States.
2004 Lynette, one of ABC's Desperate Housewives, took one of her four children's Ritalin so she could get everything done.
Today Caffeine laces everything from candy and sunflower seeds to doughnuts and soap. Beer makes you drowsy? Not necessarily anymore.
Sources: Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World, by Mark Pendergrast; Forces of Habit: Drugs and the Making of the Modern World, by David T. Courtwright; Encyclopaedia Britannica
This story appears in the April 23, 2007 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.