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Who doesn’t enjoy the fresh aroma of a cup of steaming hot coffee? This time-honoured beverage has graced tables and stimulated conversation around the world for more than 1,000 years. Coffee has stood the test of time and holds its position as the second most traded commodity in the world following petroleum.
A Bit of History
One legend has it that coffee originated in Ethiopia through a goat herder who noticed that his goats were particularly”energized” after eating some berries from a bush. He shared this information with the abbot of a local monastery. The abbot thought it would be a good idea to make a brew from these berries. So he took some berries, roasted them, ground them up and dissolved them in hot water to make what we now know as coffee. Other legends claim a different story and origin. Whatever the case, it seems that coffee did originate in the hot climate of Eastern Africa.
A Wildly Popular Drink
Coffee became a wildly popular drink throughout Eastern Africa and the Middle East. Pilgrims travelling from all over to Mecca sought to drink the beverage, the most popular drink of the time. From the Middle East coffee was introduced to Europe, Indonesia and the Americas largely through Dutch traders.
Fascinating Coffee Facts
(1) Coffee was banned at least three times in history
The first time it was banned (16th century) in Mecca by Muslim rulers because they believed that the stimulating side effects of drinking coffee were undesirable and unacceptable. Coffee was banned a second time ( 17th century) by Charles the II. Then it was again banned (in the 17th century) by Frederik the Great.
(2) Coffee was the reason for the invention of the Webcam
In 1991 at the university of Cambridge (England), It seems that people were tired of walking across campus only to find that the coffee pot was already empty. The Webcam was invented as a way to stream the coffee machine online so that people could check (online) to see if the coffee pot had coffee in it.
(3) Coffee started a social revolution
Coffee houses began appearing all over the Middle East and East Africa where people would go for entertainment and to catch up on the latest news and gossip. There was usually dancing, gaming (chess games), musical shows, and other entertainment. These coffee houses were the place to be if you wanted to be “in the know.”
(4) Coffee beans are not actually beans.
The coffee “bean” is, in fact, the seed of a berry which grows on a bush. Although the coffee “bean” has worldwide popularity, the fruit does not seem to enjoy the same popular recognition.
(5) Caffe Suspeso is an Italian tradition
In Italy, there is a long held tradition which originated in Naples called Caffe Suspeso (suspended coffee). According to this tradition, customers “pay-it-forward” by buying an extra cup of coffee to be put on hold for other customers who don’t have the money to buy coffee. When a “down-on-his-luck” customer comes by, he asks if there are any caffe suspesos available.
(6) Coffee used to have the name “Arabian Wine”
The Arabic name for this beverage was literally translated as ” wine of the bean.” through the different languages and cultures; Turkish (Kahve) , Dutch (Koffee) and Italian (caffe), the beverage came to be known what we now call coffee.
(7) Expensive coffee is made from elephant dung
Some of the most expensive coffee in the world comes from Thailand. Here the elephants are fed coffee beans and then the coffee beans are picked out of the elephant waste matter. It seems that this procedure gives the coffee a smooth, earthy taste.
(8) Coffee Bath
In Japan, for about $30 (US) you can have a coffee bath where you can have coffee poured all over you. The coffee bath is one of several “beverage baths” available. There are also wine baths, chocolate baths, green tea baths and sake baths.
The Health Benefits of Drinking Coffee
(1) Caffeine improves brain function and activity
“The study results showed that caffeine promotes neuronal connections, providing possible mechanistic insights into caffeine’s enhancing effects on memory and cognition.”
Professor Kere (researcher) continued: “For example, our research shows that inhibition on neuronal connectivity is downregulated by normal levels of caffeine – similar levels to what you might drink in a day. This might well help understanding in part why coffee has been suggested to improve memory and protect against memory loss in the elderly.”
(2) Caffeine protects against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases
“Alzheimer’s is the most common neurodegenerative disease and the leading cause of dementia. A 2007 quantitative review of observational studies demonstrated a new, positive effect of coffee consumption on lowering the risk for AD – approximately by 30% as compared to non-coffee consumers . A 2010 review of longitudinal epidemiological studies suggested that daily intake of 3–5 cups of coffee in middle age may lower the risk of the disease by 64% as compared to lower amounts of coffee.”
“A meta-analysis of cohort and case-control studies by Hernán et al., including reports published between 1966 and 2002, revealed a strong correlation between coffee consumption and the incidence of PD (Parkinson’s Disease). Coffee drinkers were at a 30% lower risk of the disease as compared to non-drinkers , which is consistent with the latest meta-analysis from 2014 and the conclusion that the strongest positive effect (28% lower risk) was observed for the daily intake of 3 cups of coffee . Additionally, that analysis demonstrates a linearly dependent correlation between caffeine dose and risk for disease.”
(3) Caffeine may reduce the risk of Type II diabetes
“These results suggest that moderate consumption of both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee may lower risk of type II diabetes in younger and middle-aged women. Coffee constituents other than caffeine may affect the development of type II diabetes.”
“High coffee consumption has been associated with better glucose tolerance and a substantially lower risk of type 2 diabetes in diverse populations in Europe, the U.S., and Japan (1–3). However, it remains unclear what coffee components may be responsible for the apparent beneficial effect of coffee on glucose metabolism.”
(4) Caffeine protects against liver disease (cirrhosis) and cancer of the liver
“Overall, drinking coffee has been associated with up to a 40% reduced risk of liver cancer compared to those who do not drink coffee34-39.”
“Coffee drinking has also been related to a reduced risk of other liver diseases. A systematic review published in 2014 suggested coffee consumption was associated with beneficial outcomes in patients with chronic liver disease, cirrhosis, hepatocellular cancer and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease7. A 2016 review also concluded that coffee intake of more than 2 cups per day in patients with pre-existing liver disease was associated with a lower incidence of fibrosis and cirrhosis, lower hepatocellular carcinoma rates, and decreased mortality9.”
(5) Caffeine may lower heart disease risk
“In conclusion, our meta-analysis suggests a non-linear relationship between coffee consumption and CVD risk. Moderate coffee consumption was associated with lower CVD risk, with the lowest CVD risk at 3 to 5 cups/d of coffee consumption, and heavy coffee consumption was not associated with CVD risk. This non-linear association with coffee consumption was observed for both the risk of CHD and stroke.”
The Downside of Coffee
(1) Hydrochloric Acid Secretion
“Intragastric instillation of coffee, decaffeinated coffee and pure caffeine in humans significantly stimulated gastric secretion. After intragastric caffeine, basal serum gastrin concentrations were not changed. However after instillation of coffee and decaffeinated coffee serum gastrin increased significantly. Thus acid secretion was significantly greater after coffee and decaffeinated coffee than after caffeine. Roasted products seem to be responsible for the gastrin-releasing effect of coffee.”
(2) Mineral Depletion
Coffee drinking can contribute to moderate or significant loss of calcium, magnesium and iron.
(3) Stress and Tension
Coffee (or caffeine) may contribute to stress and tension:
“The current study has presented results that suggest caffeine consumption may be associated with stress, anxiety, and depression in secondary school children, though the effect on stress disappeared after additional dietary, demographic, and lifestyle variance was controlled for statistically. The effects observed also appeared to differ between males and females. Though caffeine consumption was associated with anxiety in males at the multivariate level, no such observation was made in females. Furthermore, though the effects relating to depression occurred in both sexes, the threshold at which they appeared was lower in males than it was in females.”
So, There You Have It…
Coffee, the ubiquitous beverage, with an interesting social history, still leaves us wondering: is it good for me or is it bad for me? There are some significant benefits to drinking coffee, but perhaps it would be good to limit the cups to one or two and consume coffee after a meal rather than before. Cheers to you, let’s drink to that!!
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