We Owe Our Caffeine Addiction To Goats That Got High


As you sip your cup of morning joe or cappuccino, don’t forget to thank goats. Why? Because, legend has it, it’s thanks to them that we even have coffee. As the story goes, an Ethiopian goatherd named Kaldi was minding his own business one day when he found his charges getting super-frisky. They were nibbling on the berries and leaves of a mysterious plant, leading them to dance on their hind legs.

Kaldi decided to take a bite of the berries and experienced a rush of energy. He took the berries to a holy man who tossed them on a fire, emitting the heavenly scent of coffee we know and love today. Someone wise took the roasted beans from the embers of the fire and used them to brew a cup of what we guzzle today! The word “coffee” itself may derive from the Ethiopian region of Kaffa, though Yemenites claim their country as the place of origin.

fro7xgrbfkq6gdlztqfq                               Look at this gorgeous cup of cappuccino! Thanks, goats. 

Whether or not goats actually led humans to discover coffee, Ethiopia was one place with a strong coffee history. The first written reference to coffee came in the tenth century, courtesy of the great Persian doctor named Rhazes, author of one thousand books, though the drink was probably made for centuries beforehand.

Rhazes referred to bunn, as it was referred to in Ethiopia, of which he quipped, “It is a drink that is good for those with hot nature, but it decrease[s] the libido.” Unfortunately, this probably wasn’t the exact same kind of brew that we drink today, which didn’t appear for another few centuries.

Feature image via World on a Fork

Written by Carly Silver, HistoryBuff


Did A Nazi Billionaire Create the Gummy Bear?


In 2013, the candy world mourned the death of Hans Riegel Jr., a scion of the German-born entrepreneurial family behind the ubiquitously edible Haribo Gummi Bears. En route to a multi-billion dollar fortune, the Riegels made these munchies the most delicious, yet problematic, snacks in the game. 

German candy kaiser Hans Riegel Sr. of Bonn, Germany founded Haribo (an acronym for Hans Riegel, Bonn) in 1920. A trained confectioner, he started his own really small business. Riegel invented the gummy bear in 1922—inspired by dancing circus bears—and soon the candy became popular with the likes of Alfred Einstein and an exiled Kaiser Wilhelm II. The latter monarch dubbed them “the best thing to come out of the Weimar Republic,” the democratic German government formed in his home country after he was exiled.

fktvtqsuglhe2rwwzumxJustin Bieber and his Haribo gummies. (Coolspotters)

During World War II, though, the Riegels became a bit suspect. Their business suffered, Riegel Sr.’s sons were prisoners of war, and employees were few and far between. But when the German government rallied many prominent businesses to compensate the hundreds of thousands forced into labor during the war, but Haribo didn’t join in the effort. As a result, it’s been speculated the Riegels used forced labor to keep the business afloat. Time reported in 2000, “Haribo, makers of the jelly bear candy sold around the world, was named in the German parliament as having used forced labor, a charge it denies.”

After Riegel Sr. died in 1945, his two sons built the company up to unprecedented heights. Since the 1980s, they’ve dominated Americans’ sweet teeth, boasting fans worldwide. Despite its success, though, in recent years, Haribo also sold racist candy.

Written by Carly Silver, HistoryBuff


World’s Oldest Tea Discovered In 2,100-Year-Old Tombs


Archaeologists discovered 2,100-year-old plant remains in ancient Chinese tombs that they believed to be tea. A new analysis reported by NPR confirms their suspicions, making this the world’s oldest evidence of the beverage. Proving how important tea has been in Chinese culture even this far back in time, one of the samples was found in the tomb of Jing Emperor Liu Qi, who died in 141 B.C.

That’s no surprise, because one of the tombs, the Han Yangling Mausoleum in Xi’an in western China, was built for the Jing Emperor Liu Qi, who died in 141 B.C. The other tomb is the slightly younger Gurgyam Cemetery (maybe A.D. 200) in Ngari district, western Tibet. In both, archeologists found remains of millets, rice and a kind of spinach. They also found tiny leaf buds that bore an uncanny resemblance to the finest tea. Tea does not grow in the area of the tombs, so the evidence shows not only that it was present and valued enough to be buried with important people, but also that it was being imported to Xi’an at least 141 years B.C., and westwards into Tibet by the second century.

While it can’t be determined whether the tea was used for brewing a beverage, James Benn, professor of Buddhism and East Asian religions at McMaster University in Canada and author of the recent book Tea in China: A Religious and Cultural History, stated that the tea was certainly consumed “in some form,” possibly for medicinal purposes.

Head over to NPR to read more about this ancient tea.

Feature image via FCartegnie.

Written by Ryan Kristobak, HistoryBuff


Ever Think About Why Carrots Are Orange? Well, Here’s That Story


Here’s something you’ve probably never thought about before: why are carrots orange? Turns out the veggies didn’t get their characteristic hue because of any accident of nature. Instead, we humans intentionally bred orange carrots—because of history.

Eaten by humans for millennia, carrots originally came from the Middle East and were introduced to Europe during the Middle Ages. For most of their history as food, they came in two varieties: white and purple.

The familiar orange color only appeared in the 17th century, which is not that long ago in the grand scheme of things. Why orange? It was (for obvious reasons) the favorite color of the family that ruled the Netherlands, the Orange-Nassau dynasty, and in particular of William I, Prince of Orange.


During William’s rule, the mostly-Protestant Netherlands had, though a convoluted inheritance scheme of the incestuous European monarchy, become the property of the Catholic king Philip II of Spain. After two decades of persecution, the Dutch Protestants decided they’d had enough. Their lengthy but ultimately successful revolt, which William sanctioned and later led, became known as the Eighty Years’ War (1568-1648).

The descendants of the orange carrots that were bred in support of the House of Orange-Nassau—and, by proxy, Dutch independence from Spain—were later taken to England and eventually to the New World.

So how does cross-breeding a white and a purple carrot make an orange one? The photograph below shows the full spectrum available today, and how the orange carrots fit neatly between the two original colors.



Recently, purple and white carrots have made a comeback as foodies have gotten into “heirloom” vegetable varieties.

Written by Caroline Wazer of History Buff


History Says That Fork In Your Hand Actually Has Some Devilish Beginnings

AKA the Devil’s tool


Weird thought of the day: people ate with their hands for the majority of human history. Alexander the Great, Louis XIV, and Queen Elizabeth I all would have sat down to formal dinners at tables full of aristocrats and dignitaries of the highest order, and everyone would have just shoveled it in with their bear paws.

And while eating utensils in general weren’t always super popular or accessible, it’s forks specifically that didn’t gain acceptance or popularity until the last few centuries. Many in the Middle Ages thought the three-pronged utensil was reminiscent of the Devil’s pitchfork and thus was an unholy and ungodly instrument. According to Eduardo Galeano’s Mirrors, “every time musician Claudio Monteverdi felt obliged to use a fork, he purchased three masses to pay for his sins.”


Bronze forks made of iron during the 8th or 9th century, via Wikipedia

The fork didn’t really begin to catch on—at least among the aristocracy—until the 18th century in France, with several other cultures beginning to use them at least for the sake of appearances. Recounting a dinner party he attended in Turkey, a French military officer noted that, “I saw one woman throughout the dinner taking olives with her fingers and then impaling them on her fork in order to eat in them in the French manner.”

Forks became a more or less commonly-used item in Europe by the 19th century, especially with the rise of a growing middle-class who strove to emulate the aristocracy in all manners and customs. However, they still sometimes had a vaguely off-putting and “feminine aura,” with reports of sailors refusing to use them as late as 1897.

Written by: Toria Sheffield // // Feature image via Wikimedia


1979: Why Did Vets Bomb Switzerland With Rabies-Infected Chicken Heads?

The assault lasted from 1979 to 1984


Here’s one of the strangest stories you’ve never heard: chicken heads rained down on the Swiss countryside from 1979 to 1984. Why? The government was desperate to stop an epidemic of rabies carried by red foxes. Infected with a weak strain of the virus, the vaccine-infused chicken heads proved irresistible.

The Atlantic reports:

“In 17 October, 1978, Steck deployed the baits in a real field trial—the first of its kind. At the time, the rabies epidemic was spreading along the east shore of Lake Geneva, so Steck’s team created a grisly firebreak of 4,050 chicken heads. The heads also contained a chemical marker—tetracycline—that could later be found in the teeth and bones of foxes that were shot by hunters. When it became clear that the foxes were actually taking the bait, the initiative garnered more interest, money, and effort. The team dispersed more baited heads, mostly by flinging them onto roadsides and paths. For more remote areas, they used helicopters.”

Written by: Julia Mason // // Feature image via Wikimedia


This 18th Century Swedish King Went To Extreme Lengths To Prove Coffee Was ‘Dangerous’

This experiment, designed by coffee-hating King Gustav III, sounds like a pretty sweet deal to us!


Sometimes, in the study of history, you come across individuals who shouldn’t necessarily be counted among the worst people to ever live, but who are nevertheless total goobers. One such fellow is the Swedish king Gustav III, who reigned from 1771 to 1792. Gustav was a bit of a mixed bag, overall: an “enlightened despot,” he abolished the torture of people accused of crimes and passed legislation promoting religious toleration.

He also had a lifelong vendetta against the greatest beverage in the world, coffee. In fact, the consumption of both coffee and tea (the second-greatest beverage in the world) had been restricted in Sweden since 1746, coincidentally the year of Gustav’s birth.


via Wikimedia

Even so, coffee-drinking grew in popularity during the second half of the 18th century, much to Gustav’s horror. During his reign, the king decided to use science to prove once and for all that coffee was not to be trusted by forcing some guy to drink coffee until he died.

According to the Cambridge World History of Food,

In the best scientific tradition, Sweden’s Gustav III reputedly commuted the death sentences of twin brothers convicted of murder on the condition that one be given only tea to drink and the other coffee.

First of all, how convenient is it that Gustav was able to find a pair of twins, both convicted of the same capital crime? And second, how lucky were these guys? Instead of being executed, they got to live out their lives in comfort, enjoying tasty caffeinated beverages.

The experiment didn’t exactly go as planned.

The tea drinker died first—at age 83—and Sweden became the world’s most ardent coffee-consuming nation, with its citizens drinking five cups per person per day by 1975.

Gustav never found out that his experiment failed—the king was assassinated at a masquerade ball by his political enemies long before his test subjects passed away from natural, non-coffee-related causes.

Written by Caroline Wazer // History Buff // Featured image via Wikimedia


5 Crazy Diets From History You Won’t Believe Ever Existed

Need to drop a few dress sizes? Snack on some parasites!


Human history is littered with broken diet resolutions. Even though people have been trying to lose (and gain) weight for centuries—the concept of the “fad diet” didn’t really take off until the 19th-century. Remember that terrible cayenne pepper cleanse you tried in college? Blame it on the Victorians. Here are 5 crazy vintage diets nobody’s going to miss.

1. The “Grahamite” Diet:

In the 1830s, a Presbyterian minister named Sylvester Graham decided to cure physical lust with…Graham flour (which was also used to make the original crackers). “Spices, stimulants and other overindulgences lead to indigestion, illness, sexual excess, and civil disorder,” Graham preached. His followers, known as “Grahamites,” subsisted off of bread made from coarse graham flour, vegetables, and water. The father of the Graham cracker believed his vegetarian diet would prevent masturbation—which he thought caused “blindness, disease, and death.” Weird fact: At one point, The miserly diet was imposed on Oberlin College’s entire student population.



2. The Chewing Diet:

In 1903, Horace Fletcher was an unknown San Francisco art dealer with a weight problem. His life changed forever when he was denied health insurance due to his weight. He dropped 40 pounds and became a diet-guru in the process. His secret? Take a bite, chew it 32 times, and then spit it out. Nicknamed “The Great Masticator,” the PR genius coined the phrase “Nature will castigate those who don’t masticate.” Known as Fletcherism, his bizarre chewing fad attracted plenty of famous followers. (Franz Kafka chewed his food excessively throughout the 1920s).


3. The Tapeworm Diet:

Need to drop a few dress sizes? Snack on some parasites! The “tapeworm diet” reportedly gained traction during the early 1900s. The eye-catching advertisement promised women that they could “EAT! EAT! EAT! & Always stay thin!” All you had to do was ingest pills that contained sanitized tapeworm larvae and let them live off of your digestive juices. The worms would then absorb your excess calories into their bodies and grow larger—until they had to be removed (we’d rather not think about how). Note: some historians believe the “tapeworm diet” is nothing more than a (gruesome) urban legend.


4. The Vinegar Diet:

Was Lord Byron the world’s first celebrity dieter? The fatphobic poet subsisted off of soda water and vinegar-soaked potatoes for most of the 1800s. Because of his massive cultural influence, Byron’s questionable dietary habits elicited a fair amount of concern within the medical community. The American physician George Miller Beard famously lamented that “young ladies lived all their growing girlhood in semi-starvation because of their fears of incurring the horror of disciples of Lord Byron.”


5. The Cigarette Diet:

In the late 1920s, Constance Talmadge became the poster child for the The Cigarette Diet. The silent movie star appeared in an endless string of advertisements promoting Lucky Strikes as a diet aid. Craving a hamburger? Go smoke five cigarettes! In the mood for ice cream? Take a couple long drags and you’ll be right as rain. Instead of reaching for sweets, women were advised to chain-smoke:

“Instead of eating between meals … instead of fattening sweets … beautiful women keep youthful slenderness these days by smoking Luckies. The smartest and loveliest women of the modern stage take this means of keeping slender … when others nibble fattening sweets, they light a Lucky!.”


via Beebo

Written by Julia Mason // History Buff // Feature image via 19th-century Bottle Diggers