Key takeaways from audiobook Caffeine by Michael Pollan  #Books

01 Mar 2020

Caffeine has helped us to build the modern world as much as steam machines and electricity. While engines have been aiding us in physical applications, caffeine has been powering our minds. While it is all wonderful, it must be admitted that caffeine is a drug in that it alters our mental state and invokes addiction. It is also the only drug that people all over the world provide it to their kids in the form of Coke. Modern western (or perhaps even global) society is dependent on caffeine so much so, that the baseline of consciousness has shifted from the default unaltered state to the state of caffeine addiction.

Interestingly, the rise of coffee popularity in Arabic world and later in Europe coincided with the blooming of Arabic arts and sciences, and imperial advancements and industrial development in Great Britain, Paris and Netherlands. Similarly, when tea (the other caffeine drink) became popular in China, the epoch was marked by rapid development and prosperity. While there is not necessarily a causation in these events, there are certain reasons to believe that the events did fuel each other. For example, coffee and tea were the unique drinks that required boiling water for brewing. As such, these drinks were naturally more healthy than other non-boiled drinks, and less mentally impairing than the other sanitized drink alternative: alcohol. In Europe's plants and factories, there used to be times when workers would have a liquor break (instead of the more common coffee break that we have today). Needless to say that coffee was a much better substitute to ensure safer and more productive environment. Under natural conditions, our minds can be compared to a lantern, calmly shining in all directions, unobstructed. Caffeinated mind can be compared then to a spotlight, which focuses its light on a particular subject. As such, coffee and tea increase focus and productivity, but do not necessarily make us smarter or less prone to errors. The way caffeine works is that its molecules block adenosine receptors, preventing adenosine molecules from playing its role in controlling our circadian rhythms and prompting our fatigue. Through research, it was established that coffee or tea do not have major side effects like increasing likelihood of cancer, hypertension or heart attack. Furthermore, coffee consumption may be beneficial for decreasing the risk of Parkinson's disease, depression, suicide - unless coffee is consumed in excess (8+ cups a day). One thing in which coffee does harm our lives from health perspective is that it prohibits us from having a healthy sleep. Even 1 cup of coffee a day still leaves about 1/4 of caffeine molecules in our brains by midnight, resulting in reduced quality of deep sleep. And shorter or lower quality sleep leads to shorter life (references to the Why We Sleep book). On top of all, caffeine invites addiction. In fact, bees prefer caffeinated nectar to regular nectar. Coke adds caffeine to its drinks exactly with this purpose. Pete's coffee at Berkeley is an inventor of the modern coffee age. When Pete arrived to the US, most of Americans were consuming dissolvable cheap coffee. Pete brought the culture of roasting and grinding Arabica coffee beans. Starbcuks founder have worked for Pete for some time. The author himself lives in Berkeley, so high-five to him! :)