Before coffee, what did people drink to wake up?

Coffee would leave its native Ethiopia around the 15th century, but humans were already managing to counteract sleep even before stimulant drinks came along. In fact, man has been using these substances for thousands of years: the oldest record of tea consumption dates back to 2737 B.C., in Asia.

cup coffee beans and coffee grounds

It is believed that the popular drink was discovered by Emperor Shennong who ended up drinking the infusion when Camellia sinensis leaves accidentally fell into his cup of boiling water (drinking hot water was a custom at the time). In addition to the tea’s own pleasant taste, the emperor experienced a strange revitalizing sensation sponsored by the plant’s caffeine.

Another stimulant drink used in antiquity may have been the infusion prepared with coca leaves, as suggested by the vestiges of the plant found in Egyptian mummies dating back to 1070 B.C. However, it should be clarified that while the drink may have been used for recreational purposes, it is also possible that it was intended for medical purposes, such as an anesthetic.

Emperor Shennong drinking coffee
The legend of Emperor Shennong, the inventor of tea.

The stimulating effect of coffee.

However, coffee has the merit of being the first product to be sold and advertised as a stimulant. The drink would have been discovered in 800 B.C. in present-day Ethiopia, at a time when it was considered a “dangerous” drink whose main effect was that consumers were willing to give their opinion and discuss. Several centuries later, the success and push of tea in Europe ended up dragging coffee down as well.

Around 1300, a very popular drink in the East called tea was “discovered” by the Portuguese and, soon after, the Dutch began to market it. A decade later, coffee also began to be exported from present-day Turkey, a region where it was widely consumed. Ironically, in the 14th century Turkey banned the consumption of coffee, with a penalty of up to six months in prison for anyone caught consuming the beverage.

Blessed coffee.

Clement VIII Cafe
Clement VIII

In the 16th century, seeing that it was the favorite drink of the Muslims, the Italians went so far as to ask Pope Clement VIII that coffee be declared “the drink of the devil”. However, after tasting it for the first time and finding it totally delicious, the pope made the decision to name the coffee to deceive the devil. Thus, Clement VIII became a fan of drinking.

The custom of consuming coffee “to wake up” or “hold back sleep” is relatively new and emerged in the eighteenth century. Prior to this, Europeans used to wake up at morning twilight and didn’t have a specific drink to wake up. Before they knew about coffee, the wealthiest drank freshly milked milk or wine in the mornings. The poor were content with water or some beer, a drink that was even consumed by children.