Bet You Didn’t Know This About Coffee

Bet You Didn’t Know This About Coffee

While tea was the leading hot drink for hundreds of years, coffee has rapidly overtaken tea over the past few decades. No one has yet produced a convincing reason why.

Few places in the world have an equal balance of tea and coffee consumption. One always dominates. Maybe the reason has to do with advertising by coffee companies. One company, Swiss multinational Nestlé, has been particularly effective with advertising for its nutritional, snacks and health foods. Nestlé controls over 25 percent of coffee production in the world.

Most people know coffee for its caffeine. Tea also has caffeine, though not as much, especially compared with brewed coffee. Caffeine was long thought to be nothing but a mild stimulant. Today it is treated almost like a drug in itself because of the way coffee stimulates some people, relaxes others and actually enhances the effects of other products such as pain killers.

Some may think of caffeine in terms of the popular energy drinks on the market. Energy (I use the term loosely) from coffee was used in energy bars by the Galla nomads of Ethiopia. They ground up coffee beans, then mixed them with animal fat as an energy snack some time in the first millennium.

A thousand years ago Arab traders brought coffee beans home from Africa and boiled them to produce a drink called qahwa, which translates as “that which prevents sleep.”

Most people would not consider using coffee for health purposes. German physician Max Gerson did, in the 1930s. He promoted the use of coffee in enemas, to detoxify the liver, stimulate the metabolism and even to cure cancers.

While the National Cancer Institute, the US government’s main agency for cancer research, says that Gerson’s claims are unsupported, and the American Cancer Society warns that illness or death could result from use of contaminated coffee enema equipment, it hasn’t deterred Prince Charles. The British monarchy’s heir apparent has raved about coffee enemas. Amazon.com sells DIY kits for coffee enemas.

Spoilers have searched for decades for ways in which coffee could be bad for the health. They were disappointed in 2011 when the Harvard School of Public Health reported after a huge study (48,000 men over 22 years) that men who drank six cups or more of coffee a day had a 60 percent lower rate

of dying from prostate cancer.

Sweden’s Lund University supported the distaff side in 2008 when it reported a study showing that drinking coffee lowers the risk of breast cancer for women with the relatively common gene variant CPY1A2, which helps to metabolize estrogen and coffee.

The Swedish team got even more attention with its report that women with the gene variant who drank three cups or more a day of coffee tended to have smaller breasts.

The following year researchers at UK’s Durham University reported that students who drank three cups or more each day were three times more likely to hear voices and have out-of-body experiences.

J.S. Bach expressed his love for coffee in a cantata. With libretto by Christian Friedrich Henrici, the Kaffeekantate was first performed in Leipzig, Germany in the early 1730s.

If that seems strange, check out some of the words of the soprano part. “Father, don’t be so severe!/ If I can’t drink/ My bowl of coffee three times daily/ Then in my torment I will shrivel up/ Like a piece of roast goat.” Kind of makes you want to watch that one play out, doesn’t it?

Americans show their devotion to coffee by spending $40 billion on it each year. Over the world, people consume close to 1.6 billion cups each day.

Starbucks may be best known for its coffee concoctions. Their grande (or medium) 16-ounce coffee has an amount of caffeine equivalent to 9.5 cans of Coke. Yup, that in one “medium” cup.

Coffee’s greed for water goes far beyond what goes into each cup. Including all the water needed to grow and process the beans, one cup of java requires about 4,700 ounces, or 37 gallons.

Coffee is grown on mountainsides, with just certain conditions. Change those conditions and coffee plants won’t grow. Highland forests in Ethiopia and South Sudan, where most wild coffee grows, may disappear as the planet warms, according to researchers at London’s Royal Botanic Gardens. However, domesticated coffee production will be safe for a while.

Safe, that is, from warming. Not necessarily from disease. 70 percent of coffee consumed today is produced from variants of the wild Arabica, or Coffea arabica, the wild bean that stores most of the genetic information needed to re-engineer coffee plants to produce beans under different conditions. Industrial coffee monocultures are as much at risk from one unanticipated disease as every other monoculture of agriculture.

One coffee grows already decaffeinated. Coffea charrieriana, found in Cameroon, is the only variety known to grow without the stimulant.

Elephants love coffee cherries, the fruit that surrounds the seeds we roast and drink. But don’t send them away. A smooth and caramel tasting variety of coffee is made from beans that made their way all the way through the elephant’s digestive system. Pre-hulled seeds are harvested from the dung. But wait, there’s more. Elephant dung coffee beans have been known to sell for as much as $500 a pound. Yes, with two zeroes.

Don’t worry about coffee making your breath smell bad. Tel Aviv University researchers revealed, in 2009, that adding coffee to a dish of saliva actually inhibited the growth of a bacterium that causes bad breath.

Now, if you will excuse me, it’s time for my coffee break.

Bill Allin is the author of Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents and teachers who want to grow kids who develop well in all ways, not just intellectually.

Learn more at http://billallin.com

[Primary information source: Discover, April 2013]

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