FWP: [pouring his third cup of the morning] Thank You, God for coffee, the chemical without which modern life would be impossible….You know, that’s one of the great mysteries of human history.
CSO: Hm? What do you mean?

FWP: Well, the coffee plant is native to South America, right?
CSO: Yeah…

FWP: And Europeans didn’t have it until they came to the New World, right?
CSO: Yeah…

FWP: So how did we go from the caves to the Industrial Revolution without coffee?
CSO: Oh, the Euros had other things to chew on.

FWP: Chew on?
CSO: [shrugs] Coca leaves, maybe?

FWP: Nope, those are South American too.
CSO: Oh.

FWP: So the mystery persists!
CSO: Wait, didn’t Viking explorers come to the West before Columbus?

FWP: Yeah, eleventh and twelfth century…why?
CSO: Some of them might have brought coffee back to Europe!

FWP: I suppose it’s possible.
CSO: So without South America, we might still be living in caves!
FWP: [sips] Hm.

     Yes, that conversation actually took place a few minutes ago. What do you discuss with your spouse at 4:30 AM?

UPDATE: Two persons — longtime reader Fred and our own beloved Linda Fox — have informed me that coffee is not native to South America, but was brought there from Africa!

Sheesh! Once again, Kin Hubbard’s aphorism has been demonstrated to be correct:

It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.

Well, anyway.


  1. Before coffee there was tea. In its treated form, a potent stimulant.
    But, in fact, although coffee is grown in South America, coffee – as Europeans know it – comes from Africa. Arab traders discovered it, and the use spread to the Crusaders. Which pre-dated the Age of Discovery by quite a lot.
    For that matter, the Romans may have had access to coffee through their African possessions.
    Anywhere there are mountains or highlands, you can grow coffee trees. A favorite trick of invading armies was to uproot and destroy the coffee trees. It takes YEARS to establish them.

    • TRX on March 9, 2022 at 3:10 PM

    > FWP: So how did we go from the caves to the Industrial Revolution without coffee?

    Note that >99% of everything we consider “progress” came about after the New World was rediscovered.

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