Dr. Mark Plotkin on Coffee, the World’s Favorite Stimulant — Chemistry, History, and More (#698)


Welcome to The Tim Ferriss Show, where it is usually my job to deconstruct world-class performers to tease out their routines, habits, et cetera that you can apply to your own life. 

This time around, we have a very special edition featuring Dr. Mark Plotkin

Mark takes over my duties as host and shares an episode of the Plants of the Gods podcast. You, my dear listeners, are hearing the audio before anyone else, even before his podcast subscribers, so this is a Tim Ferriss Show exclusive. 

So, who is Dr. Mark Plotkin? Mark (@DocMarkPlotkin) is an ethnobotanist who serves as president of the Amazon Conservation Team, which has partnered with ~80 tribes to map and improve management and protection of ~100 million acres of ancestral rainforests. He is best known to the general public as the author of the book Tales of a Shaman’s Apprentice, one of the most popular books ever written about the rainforest. His most recent book is The Amazon: What Everyone Needs to Know. You can find my interview with Mark at tim.blog/markplotkin. 

This tightly-packed episode explores all things coffee—the most widely consumed mind-altering plant product in the world.

Please enjoy! 

Listen to the episode on Apple PodcastsSpotifyOvercastPodcast AddictPocket CastsCastboxGoogle PodcastsAmazon Musicor on your favorite podcast platform. 

This episode is brought to you by my very own COCKPUNCH Coffee!

The transcript of this episode can be found here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

#698: Dr. Mark Plotkin on Coffee, The World’s Favorite Stimulant — Chemistry, History, and More

This episode is brought to you by my very own COCKPUNCH CoffeeThis year, one way I’ve scratched my own itch is by creating COCKPUNCH Coffee—the first coffee I’ve ever produced myself, which I now drink every morning. It’s a tie-in to a fictional world I created, but that’s another story for another time. I enlisted the help of world-class experts and tested dozens of variations over many months. As longtime listeners know, I have very high standards when it comes to coffee. After dialing in the sourcing, roasting, and more, this is the combo that finally made me say, “This is the one!”

100% of my COCKPUNCH-related proceeds to date—now $2.5M+—including those from COCKPUNCH Coffee, go to my non-profit foundation, the Saisei Foundation, which focuses on cutting-edge, scientific research and other uncrowded bets.

To learn more about the latest projects that I’m working on, check out SaiseiFoundation.orgAnd if you’d like some of the best coffee in the US, at least in my humble opinion, check out cockpunchcoffee.com. I think you’ll love it as much as I do. Grab a bag—or two or three—at cockpunchcoffee.com.

If you’d like to hear the last time we featured a Plants of the Gods conversation on this show, listen to Mark’s interview with Brian C. Muraresku, author of New York Times bestseller The Immortality Key here. In it, they discussed the Eleusinian mysteries, stoned apes vs. drunk monkeys, changing attitudes at the Vatican, the role of beer and wine in the foundation of civilization, doing good in the world based on the otherworldly, the strange places where ethnobotanists find friends, and much more.

#646: Brian C. Muraresku with Dr. Mark Plotkin — The Eleusinian Mysteries, Discovering the Divine, The Immortality Key, The Pagan Continuity Hypothesis, Lessons from Scholar Karen Armstrong, and Much More

What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.



  • Connect with Dr. Mark Plotkin:

Website | Plants of the Gods Podcast

Amazon Conservation Team | Twitter | Facebook


  • [04:35] Plants of the Gods: the story so far.
  • [05:28] Coffee is the most widely consumed mind-altering plant in the world.
  • [06:35] Why they drink coffee with chicory in New Orleans and Vietnam.
  • [08:41] An acquired taste.
  • [09:18] Is coffee responsible for human consciousness?
  • [12:08] The origin story of coffee.
  • [13:10] The motivational power of caffeine.
  • [14:30] How coffee spread through the Arab world.
  • [16:07] Why such a “troublemaking social brew” persisted despite resistance from authorities.
  • [19:55] Intrigue brings coffee to Europe and the New World.
  • [28:26] How coffee shaped Brazil’s society and economy.
  • [31:19] Slave revolts, rainforest depletion, and income inequality in tropical America.
  • [33:20] Guatemalan Nazis.
  • [34:31] Colombia’s Jesuit java.
  • [35:21] Costa Rican egalitarianism.
  • [36:09] How coffee fueled European arts.
  • [38:25] Why coffee’s impact was magnified in Europe.
  • [42:34] “The combination between coffee drinking and coffee thinking is a real one.”
  • [44:21] Why coffee houses made Kings and clergy nervous.
  • [47:42] The Age of Reason’s internet.
  • [50:53] Harry Potter’s debt to the modern coffee house.
  • [52:07] The role of coffee in communist Romania.
  • [54:02] How coffee houses seeded some of today’s most vaunted institutions in England.
  • [55:27] French coffee house culture’s impact on the French and American revolutions.
  • [57:28] Coffee talk for botany nerds.
  • [59:01] Peaberry.
  • [59:27] Civets, turkeys, and elephants (oh, my).
  • [1:00:18] Robusta.
  • [1:01:27] Caffeine-free abominations.
  • [1:01:54] The global economic value of coffee.
  • [1:03:02] Coffee’s role in US history.
  • [1:07:45] A shift toward convenience as a priority and its inevitable backlash.
  • [1:09:20] The Beatnik-boosted specialty coffee movement.
  • [1:10:32] Why did this movement originate in the Western US?
  • [1:12:04] Thank you, coffee.


The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for “Best of Apple Podcasts” three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it’s been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.


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