Fifty-four percent of Americans over the age of 18 drink coffee every single day. Are you one of them? Whether you like it black or iced, sweetened or au lait, mixed with cream or chocolate – coffee is a drink that spans the world with its appeal. How much do you know about this sweet nectar of life? Check out these fascinating facts about coffee.
1. Legend tells that the magical coffee bean was discovered by an Ethiopian goatherd named Kaldi. He noticed that whenever his goats nibbled on the scarlet red berries of a certain bush, they would become very energetic and start jumping and dancing all over the place. Kaldi tried the fruit himself, and rushed to a nearby Islamic monastery to share the news. A monk threw the coffee berries into a fire with disapproval – but an aromatic smoke billowed forth and enticed the holy man. The beans were raked from the fire, ground and brewed in hot water – and thus, the world’s first cup of coffee was poured.
2. Coffee has been banned in various countries throughout history. The Christian church in Yemen and the Horn of Africa banned the drink during the 15th century because it was used in local religious ceremonies. Coffee was also banned in the 17th century for political reasons in the Ottoman Empire, as it was associated with rebellious activities.
3. Single or double? The modern espresso machine was invented in 1945 in Milan. The popular espresso beverage known as the Americano originated with World War II soldiers, who wanted the strong European espresso diluted with water.
4. Caffeine keeps you awake because it attaches to Adenosine receptors in your brain, which means that Adenosine cannot attach – a process that causes drowsiness. Your body reacts by producing adrenaline, a natural stimulant. Caffeine is also a natural dopamine enhancer.
5. Do you drink coffee as soon as you wake up? You might not need to. Your body naturally produces cortisol when you first wake up, a hormone that helps you to feel alert. Cortisol production dips an hour after you’ve been awake – and this is the perfect time for the coffee to hit your system.
6. Looking for health facts about coffee? There are plenty. Coffee is packed with antioxidants – in fact, it’s the top source of them in most Western diets. The average Westerner gets more antioxidants from his or her coffee than from fruit and vegetables combined. It may also help protect you from type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, age-related dementia and Parkinson’s.
7. But be careful – one of the somber facts about coffee is that caffeine addiction is real. Withdrawal symptoms can include fierce headaches and mood changes. If you want to cut back on your caffeine consumption, do so a little at a time.
Want to know more? Read "The Devil’s Cup: A History of the World According to Coffee" by Stuart Lee Allen, who treks around the world to follow the stories of the humble coffee bean.
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Photo by Russell James Smith