Can you imagine a world without coffee or chocolate chip cookies? From coffee to chocolate chip cookies to nachos, some of the world’s best food and beverages were completely discovered by accident. Thanks to human luck or divine intervention, these famous foods have achieved iconic status in the food industry. These food items are loved by everyone and are easily available everywhere around us. Here is a list of the top ten famous food items discovered by mistake and their interesting backstory.
1. Coffee – Coffee was discovered in the 9th century by a goat herder named Kaldi. He found his goats frolicking and full of energy after eating the red fruit of the coffee shrub. He tried some of them himself and was soon acting as hyper as his herd.
This world-famous brew can be traced back to the ancient coffee forests on the Ethiopian Plateau. An Ethiopian coffee herder named Kaldi discovered the magic beans. He noticed his goats being hyperactive and refused to sleep after eating certain berries. After trying some for himself, he too experienced the same symptoms. He reported his finding to the seer of a local monastery.
The monks brewed a concoction from the berries and found that it kept them alert for long hours of prayer. Soon, word began to spread about the magic beans and the plantation owners in the Arabian Peninsula started cultivating coffee. Around the 16th century, coffee made its presence felt in Persia, Egypt, Syria, and Turkey. Then coffee made its way into Europe carried there by travelers in the 17th century.
It was dubbed as the “bitter invention of Satan” by the people and local clergy in Venice. The controversy surrounding the drink reached such a peak that Pope Clement VII had to intervene. He tasted the brew himself and awarded it a “papal approval” after he liked its taste. The brew started replacing traditional breakfast beverages such as wine and beer. It was preferred by people as it imparted a feeling of alertness. By the 18th century, coffee had become one of the world’s highest money-making export crops. It is the most sought after commodity in the world after crude oil. (source)
2. Splenda – In 1976, Sucralose (Splenda) was discovered when a scientist at a British college misheard instructions about testing a substance. Instead, he tasted it and realized that it was highly sweet.
The artificial sweetener was an accidental discovery made by researchers at the Tate & Lyle and Queen Elizabeth College, University of London. In 1976, the British sugar company, Tate & Lyle, was exploring new ways to blend sugar with laboratory chemicals. The research was carried out in collaboration with Professor Leslie Hough’s laboratory at Queen’s College. She halogenated sugars and placed a request for “testers” to experiment with the compound.
However, a foreign graduate student, Shashikant Phadnis, misheard the request as “tasters.” He sampled the sugar compound and found it to be three hundred times sweeter than sugar. Soon, word began to spread about the sweet discovery. Canada became the first country to approve the use of Splenda in 1991. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted American marketing approval in 1998.
Shortly after its approval, Johnson & Johnson purchased the rights to develop sucralose in the United States as a commercially available product and started marketing the product aggressively. Today, it is the most recognizable and iconic low-calorie sweetener brand in the world. It has sold more than 100 billion yellow packets since its launch. (source)
3. Yogurt – Around 6,000 BCE, Neolithic peoples of Central Asia were also herdsmen. They began the practice of milking their animals. The natural enzymes in the carrying containers (made from animal stomachs) curdled the milk, essentially making yogurt.
The creamy goodness was discovered accidentally as a result of milk being stored by simple methods in tropical regions. The word “yogurt” is derived from the Turkish language and was discovered by Neolithic peoples of Central Asia. The herdsmen left the milk in the carrying containers made of animal stomachs that contained natural enzymes. The enzymes activated by warm temperatures curdled the milk making it into a thick, creamy consistency.
The yogurt was preferred by the people due to its enhanced taste, texture, and longer storage period. It is recorded in history that Genghis Khan, the founder of the Mongol Empire, and his army thrived on yogurt. They consumed yogurt during their invasions to ward off stomach infections.
The benefits of yogurt began to spread, and it was soon made commercially available. It was produced on a large scale by Isaac Carasso in 1919 in Barcelona under his company Danone. The company was instrumental in popularising the yogurt in the United States. Moreover, many brands cashed in on the healthy trend by offering the yogurt in various forms such as yogurt with fruits, fruit-flavor-infused yogurts, and frozen yogurts. (source)
4. Tea – The history of tea began in 2737 BCE when the Emperor Shen Nong accidentally discovered tea. While boiling water in the garden, a leaf from an overhanging wild tea tree drifted into his pot.
This miracle brew has its origin in ancient China. The legendary Emperor of China Shen Nong, also the inventor of agriculture and Chinese medicine, discovered tea. Around 2737 BCE, the emperor was boiling a pot of water for drinking when few leaves were blown from a nearby tree into his pot. The leaves changed the color and the taste of the water. The emperor was blown away by the taste and restorative property of the brew and recommended it to his subjects.
Tea was considered as a medicinal drink during the Shang Dynasty in the Yunnan Region. The drink finds prominence in the medical text written by Hua Tuo, a Chinese physician who lived during the 3rd century CE. The tea became a rage in China that during the late eighth century. A writer called Lu Yu wrote the first book entirely about tea, the Ch’a Ching or Tea Classic. The Chinese began trading their prized commodity to other countries via the “Silk Road” into India.
During the 17th century, the British East India Company introduced tea in India, Britain, and Europe to break China’s trade monopoly over tea. In order to preserve its freshness and taste during its long journey, the traders discovered the popular “black tea.” Various varieties of tea such as green, black, white, Oolong, Pu’er, and yellow tea are obtained from the same plant, the Camellia sinensis. The plant is native to China and is one of the drinks that more than half the world has come to love. (source)
5. Popsicle – In 1905, eleven-year-old Frank Epperson left a cup filled with powdered soda, water, and a stirring stick on his San Francisco porch. That night, low temperatures caused the mixture to freeze, and the result was originally named “Eppsicles.”
Popsicles were originally named “Eppsicles” after their eleven-year-old founder Frank Epperson who left a cup filled with soda water and a stirring stick on his porch. The low temperatures caused the soda mixture to freeze onto the stirring stick giving birth to the world famous “Popsicles,” or should we say “Eppsicles.” In 1922, an enthusiastic Epperson debuted his invention at a fireman’s ball, and the “Eppsicles” were sold out in a jiffy.
Later in 1923, he began selling the frozen pops to the public at Neptune Beach, an amusement park in Alameda, California. Shortly afterward, he applied for a patent for “frozen ice on a stick” called the “Epsicle ice pop.” His children persuaded him to rechristen his invention to “Popsicles”. He partnered with the Joe Lowe Company of New York to distribute the yummy treats all over the country.
The food giant Unilever acquired the Popsicle brand in 1989, expanding the brand beyond its original fruity flavors. Over the years, the Popsicle has achieved an iconic status of a frozen, summertime treat. It is popular among both kids and adults. (source)