Monday, August 21, 2006
Teaser Appetizer: The Caffeine Manifesto
On the seventh day She said, “Let there be light.” But nothing stirred: not a blade of grass, not a leaf. Then on the eighth day She said, “Let there be Caffeine.” And the whole world came into being; life found a purpose: the trees trembled, the fish floated, the birds buzzed, the women went shopping and the men went to war.
Well, all men except Mr. Cafenos, a toothpaste salesman who believed he was born to achieve more than sell lies about the whitening magic of his toothpaste. Always searching for a break from the white lies, he had an intuition: if packaged properly, caffeine could trumpet the wake up call for the sleepwalkers of the world. He brewed the business plan in his mind. “It is all in the packaging” he uttered the cliché and claimed it as his original thought. He set out to unravel the science and art of his product and he found the following information.
Caffeine - a white bitter powder when dried - is chemically a xanthine alkaloid. Two other xanthines (theophylline and theobromine:’theos’) live as a close family with caffeine in coffee, tea, cacao beans, mate, cola nuts and guarana.
The quantity of these three related compounds varies in different plants. Caffeine concentration is up to 4% in tea leaves and coffee but tea has more of the other two ‘theos’, which explains its occasional stronger kick. The ‘theos’ relax the smooth muscles of the breathing tubes (bronchi) while caffeine stimulates the heart and jolts the brain.
Cola nuts have lower caffeine content while cocoa contains eight times more theophylline than caffeine. Guarana soda is popular in Brazil and it wakes up the brain minus the coffee jitters. It is likely that guarana and mate deliver their unusual punches with some other compound besides caffeine.
A 7 oz cup of coffee has the following caffeine (mg):
Coffee is safe in moderation and it takes 50-200 cups to kill a man. Theobromine is not as assertive as its two other cousins except for chocolate devouring dogs - in excess it is a ruthless poison and a pound can kill the dog.
For the chemical sleuths the alias of caffeine is: 3,7-dihydro- 1,3,7-trimethyl- 1H-purine- 2,6-dione.
With all these discoveries Mr. Cafenos began his caffeine enterprise. The unwanted effects of caffeine that he had learned, he kept to himself - like a well groomed salesman.
He built a bohemian coffee shop and his Sumatra Mandheling-Lintong drip coffee, extracted by clean soft water at precisely 95 degrees Celsius, was an instant hit. His obsessive quality controls demanded freshly roasted ground beans from the finest crops of the world. And he insisted on cleaning the equipment after each brew, for clean equipment is as important as the bean quality to yield the right flavor. Oil and resins stick to the pot and spoil the taste.
With the stirring success of his first venture he expanded and soon his shops were proliferating faster than the dandelions in your backyard.
He brewed exotic beans of the world. His varietals/staights included Brazil Bourbons, Celebes Kalossi, Colombia Excelso, Colombia Supremo, Costa Rica Tarrazu, Ethiopian Harrar-Moka, Guatemala Antigua, Indian Mysore, Jamaican Blue Mtn/Wallensford Estate, Java Estate Kuyumas, Kenya AA, Kona Extra Prime, Mexico Pluma Altura, Mocha Mattari (Yemen), New Guinea, Panama Organic and Tanzania Peaberry.
His blends and dark roasts were Colombia Supremo Dark, Espresso Roast, French Roast, Vienna Roast and Mocha-Java.
Mr. Cafenos appeared on every billboard, magazine, prime time TV, football game, radio, newspaper and the Internet.
His caffeine laced the products on every grocery shelf; he got the drug into you either through his brew or his grocery adulteration.
Mr. Cafenos’s caffeine empire ruled. But every thing must change and so did his luck.
A lonely chemist from his R&D department - who like every other ‘lonely’ had excess spare time - invented a technique to remove the buzz from the coffee. But no one cared, which added depression to his loneliness. So the lonely, unwanted, depressed chemist published his invention in a scientific journal, describing the bad effects of coffee on health, hence, the importance of decaffeinating. He, in his scientific honesty and business naiveté, mentioned the bad effects that Mr. Cafenos had assiduously suppressed.
He wrote,” Caffeine causes thinning of the bones (osteoporosis), decreases the motility of the sperms, increases irritability and may harm the pregnant mother. Caffeine is habit forming and sudden cessation causes withdrawal symptoms.”
His candor cost him his job like many other scientists before him. And an unemployed scientist is a disabled parasite; he needs the crutch of a laboratory to feed his stomach.
The lonely, unwanted, depressed and now jobless chemist had only one asset: he knew the process of decaffeinating. The asset was valuable for a detractor of Mr. Cafenos, who offered business partnership to the chemist and thus was born the ‘decaf coffee’.
They borrowed all the leaves from Mr. Cafenos’s business plan and countered his every concoction with a decaf version. Decaf, they declared, was pure, non toxic and virtuous and they were surprised by the number of gullible neurotics who paid for their decaf. And as their luck would have it, the neurotics multiplied as fast as their products.
We all know, capitalists accommodate competition only if it can’t be killed. Mr. Cafenos tried both and failed; his profits plummeted. To make matters worse, his wife discovered a new emotion unknown to her so far: her love for him matched his balance sheet. She decided - like a faithful wife - to announce her declining love for him. But she did not get a chance.
He had disappeared without a trail or trace.
Decafs got into action and declared him dead due to caffeine poisoning; it suited them. The wife accepted widowhood with alacrity; it suited her. The prime time TV cashed high ratings on his death; it suited them.
The happy widow promptly proceeded to annex the caffeine empire and then a strange thing happened.
After twenty-three days, Mr. Cafenos reappeared in a purple robe and a brown cap – oh, never mind the color mismatch.
The marketing genius, Mr. Cafenos, called a prime time press conference and declared in front of the ogling cameras that he had meditated on the roof of his ninety-five storeys high rise building for twenty-three days and he had a revelation.
He had known from history of religion that there are higher chances of communion with God, if you climb on a higher ground or something; in his case he chose a city sky scrapper. Yes, the God had spoken to him and She had said “Let there be caffeine.”
He demonized all the decafs as blasphemous, heretic pagans who will be roasted like coffee beans in the life after.
But that did not solve his immediate problem here on earth: cash flow at the coffee shop. So taking the help of his new found religion, he announced “The Caffeine Manifesto.”/p>
He made it simple and articulate, but you should be kind enough to overlook the intellectual dishonesty. (Why shouldn’t you; you have done it before.)
The new religion said:
- Caffeine is God’s gift.
- Caffeine energizes and thus increases economic productivity.
- Productivity is the source of all profit.
He proceeded to sermonize from the pulpit of the press conference, the corollaries derived from the new axioms: “The Decafs are parasites on the economic system; they thrive on the profits created by the sweat and toll of the “caffeinated” worker; Down with the pop gulping, wine sipping, beer guzzling, cognac sniffing decafs; All the caffeinated workers of word unite!”
When a reporter asked, “Why the purple robe and the brown cap?” He replied, “It is all in the packaging!”
This all infuriated the decafs and thus started the protest phase of the caffeine war.
They mounted pressure with all persuasive techniques created by mankind: media saturating advertisements after midnight, rallies on bridges and beaches; civil disobedience in all wrestling arenas; bikini competition in all grocery stores; car washes in snow storms.
The reincarnated Mr. Cafenos retaliated by renaming his coffee shops as ‘Temples of Caffeine’. His newly converted clergy delivered vitriolic sermons at the temples on Thursdays. His followers wore purple wristbands and coffee-bean-shaped brown caps.
And both camps checked their profit and loss statements every quarter. And it seemed the decafs camp was having more fun in life and also winning at the cash register.
When Mrs. Cafenos discovered no turnaround and mounting losses, she reactivated her plan A. She eloped with a decaf, filed for divorce and demanded half the assets of Mr. Cafenos before the balance sheet got redder.
This infuriated desperate Mr. Cafenos and in his next Thursday sermon he announced his next plan. He demanded a new nation carved out of the old one and called it “CaffeiNation” The productive, hard working caffeinated workers will be free from the tyranny of the decafs. He promised a nation based on the new religion and caffeine.
Right after the sermon a faithful follower, inebriated on the new religion and propelled by extra-strong-no-cream-double-colombia-excellso in his blood marched briskly to Mrs.Cafenos’s lover’s house and burned it down. Next morning the fire fighters found two charred bodies but none was of Mrs. Cafenos or her lover.
The decafs called it the death of innocent civilians and appealed to the Human Rights activists, who at that time were in a conference in Bahamas discussing “water as a female right.” They replied by email, “We do not involve with gang violence unless one of the gangs is the Government. We will investigate the situation when we return. Please ensure press coverage.”
Both sides declared this a vindication of their stand and the Decafs proceeded to retaliate by burning down a Temple Of Caffeine.
Thus started the second phase of the caffeine war – the violent phase.
History reminds us repeatedly that love does not beget love in spite of all the gurus, but violence attracts violence unfailingly and urgently, which the masses seem to enjoy more compared to this love-thing. So the bystanders in the caffeine war promptly chose and joined their preferred violent gang. The decision was easy as it was made by the limbic system of the brain and not by the cortex. And biology tells us, when limbic system plays, rational cortex is a dumb spectator.
Thus started the next phase of caffeine war - the limbic system war that is the most brutal, bloody, destructive, unrelenting and unstoppable. The rescue from this vortex is possible only by an external force, as suggested by one of Newton’s laws.
Mr. Cafenos understood this all and as he witnessed relentless charring of his temples, he appealed to The United Notion and demanded its intervention to secede and form an independent “CaffeiNation.”
One member of The United Notion said, “Independence is not the same as freedom.”
The second said,” Violence over caffeine is stupid.”
The third said,” We should not even discuss this ridiculous appeal.”
The other Notional members agreed not to discuss it except the wise president of The United Notion. He said,” We will discuss this serious issue in the assembly without delay. Those who consider this matter stupid and ridiculous apparently haven’t tuned into the CNN world news lately.”
Posted by Shiban Ganju at 12:05 AM | Permalink
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