I nurse a moderate coffee addiction and a sweet tooth. Possibly as a result, over time I have a very low sensitivity to stimulants. This has both good and bad effects, but isn’t my point today.

Imagine you’re a striving young European intellectual in the mid 17th century. A lot is going on in Europe at this time – it would’ve been an exciting (albeit dangerous) time to be young and doing stuff. People you know start drinking this weird beverage called “coffee” which acts like lighter fluid on your brain. It was immediately associated with the intelligentsia and revolutionary troublemaking, which is why kings began outlawing it from their realms. (They tried for over a century – King Charles II in 1676 to Frederick the Great in 1777.) Many rulers wanted their people to go back to drinking beer instead, for obvious reasons.

The introduction of coffee gave its consumers an unfair competitive advantage over non-coffee drinkers, particularly those doing the knowledge work of the time. Caffeine is a psychotropic drug, after all. I wonder if it was received something like adderall is today among the wealthy, plugged-in urban set. I know lots of people (almost all white and from money) who went through college/grad school popping adderall to study and pull all-nighters. (Needless to say, none of them were ever the least bit worried about being caught/punished. Privilege at work.) That said, there’s still some lingering stigma around popping pharmaceuticals like this.

Of course, adderall ain’t caffeine. Different degrees of effect. But it does make me think about how performance enhancing drugs – and they’re all just drugs! – are culturally normalized over time.

Lastly – do you know about chewable coffee? I discovered this stuff a few months ago and love it now. Basically it’s gummy coffee-flavored cubes that pack caffeine. Recommend: GoCubes


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