March is Caffeine Awareness Month. With that in mind, please enjoy these bits of history, mythology, and fun facts about America’s favorite psychoactive drug, caffeine, and its loving host, coffee. You may even see that morning cup in a whole new light.
Caffeine occurs naturally in many substances, including coffee, tea, and chocolate.
In addition to the benefits of alertness, clarity, enhanced concentration, and increased energy, many studies show that moderate caffeine consumption may offset the effects of Alzheimer’s, slow the decline of cognitive ability in women, and reduce the risk of Parkinson’s, several kinds of cancer, and type 2 diabetes. Caffeine exhibits anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine qualities. Studies also show that caffeine may benefit people who suffer from asthma. (Source: WebMD)
Consuming too much caffeine in the evening can contribute to insomnia. Too much caffeine consumption in general can cause teeth grinding, gastrointestinal upset, and calcium and magnesium loss. (Source: WebMD)
It is recommended that pregnant women consume less than 200 milligrams (that’s about 20 ounces of coffee) a day due to increased risk of miscarriage. Nursing women should be interested to know that caffeine is transferred through breast milk. Please, be responsible about coffee while planning a family.
There are many ways to decaffeinate coffee. One of the more popular (and tasty) methods is the Swiss Water Process, in which unroasted coffee beans are soaked in hot water to remove the caffeine and coffee solids. The caffeine is filtered out and the solids form an extract that is able to leech the caffeine from a new batch of beans. The caffeine previously filtered out is processed, then sold to soft drink and pharmaceutical companies.
Unless special genetic engineering is developed, coffee can never be completely decaffeinated.
Dark roasted coffee has less caffeine than light roasted coffee but the difference in amount is negligible.
The origins of coffee are shrouded in interesting, endearing myths and legends. The most popular legend about the discovery of coffee dates back to the 17th century and involves an Ethiopian goatherd named Kaldi. One day, Kaldi noticed his goats acting “frisky” after eating the leaves and fruit of a mysterious bush. Upon trying the fruit himself, Kaldi became rejuvenated to such a degree that he began dancing with his goats in the pasture. A passing Sufi monk, who witnessed the coffee sacrament and the resulting man/goat dance, began brewing a stew of the fruit to keep awake during long prayer sessions. Some myths even identify this monk as the famous Sufi poet Rumi, making him the legendary father of coffee.
Similarly, the origins of tea are shrouded in gross, violent myths and legends. According to legend, the Bodhidharma lapsed into a brief sleep during a lengthy meditation. As an act of contrition, as well as insurance against future carelessness, he cut off his eyelids. The Bodhidharma’s withered, severed eyelids then became tea leaves with the ability to revive and re-focus anyone in need of a little clarity. So much for tea’s reputation as the sensible, civilized caffeinated beverage.
Drip coffee has about 13 milligrams of caffeine per ounce. Espresso coffee has about 52 milligrams of caffeine per ounce.
Coffee is the second most popular beverage in the world, next to water. Coffee is also the second most traded commodity in the world, next to oil.
Coffee beans are actually the seeds inside the pits of coffee cherries, a dark red drupe produced by the coffee tree. There are two beans per cherry. Cherries with only one bean are called “peaberry” and are prized for their robust flavor.
One coffee tree produces about a pound of coffee beans per year, each of which is harvested by hand. Think of it this way: if you grind and brew one pound of beans every week, you are essentially drinking fifty-two trees’ worth of beans every year, each bean hand-picked by a sun parched man, woman, or child halfway across the world. See why Fair Trade is so important?
The term “bold” is a vague marketing term usually interpreted to mean “coffee made with more grounds than usual.” “Bold,” in reference to coffee, doesn’t actually mean anything, and confounds serious baristas on a daily basis.
While caffeine is an addictive substance, the physical dependence it can create is mild. Withdrawal symptoms generally only last a day or two and include headaches and irritability. Although caffeine is only slightly addictive, many people have come forward as “caffeine addicts” to speak out against the “evils” of caffeine.
Napoleon and company conspired in coffee shops before bringing about the French revolution. The Boston Tea Party helped secure coffee as America’s national beverage; the founding fathers conceived of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution in New England coffee houses.
Virtually every coffee-drinking country has gone through an anti-coffee period, including religious scrutiny and government outlawing, eventually resulting in revolution, great social change, and a renaissance. Coffee consumption put an end to the Dark Ages by providing a potable, non-alcoholic alternative to beer. Coffee stands for enlightenment, creativity, and social betterment. Consider coffee the beans of change.
Click here to calculate how much caffeine you consume each day.
Click here to learn how much caffeine is in some common beverages.
Click here to find out how much of your favorite caffeinated beverage it would take to kill you.