32 Surprising Facts About Coffee

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We have changed from consumers of instant coffee crystals and second-rate percolated blends to coffee gourmets who demand our own personal designer beverages.

The Perfect Cup of Coffee

Sure you know how to order a venti, half-caf, fat-free vanilla latte, but can you brew the perfect pot of coffee at home? Or do you actually know what’s contained inside the cup you just ordered? Clark’s new nonfiction book gives the sweet, frothy side as well as touching on the darker, grittier aspects of the caffeinated beverage that four out of five adult Americans drink on a regular basis.

So whether the factoids below from the book Starbucked are revelations to you or just reminders for the hardened java junkie, feel free to impress your friends with what you know while relaxing in an over-stuffed chair during your next coffee klatch.

Fun Coffee Facts

  1. Coffee is the second-most-traded physical commodity in the world, ranking second only to petroleum.
  2. Americans buy more coffee than any other country, totaling nearly one-third of the world’s supply with consumption estimated at 110 billion cups each year.
  3. “Starbuck” was the name of the first mate in Herman Melville’s classic novel Moby Dick.
  4. To prepare the perfect cup of coffee at home, never boil or reheat coffee, and never reuse the grounds.
  5. The coffea arabica tree from the remote highlands of Ethiopia yields the best-tasting coffee bean.
  6. To accommodate even the most finicky drinkers, Starbucks has 55,000 different drink combinations to choose from (when mixing and matching beverage types, temperature, size, sweetener, creamer, and flavor preferences).
  7. Starbucks uses its 2,500 employees at its company headquarters to serve as taste-testers for its newest drink recipes.
  8. In 1999, during the World Trade Organization riots in Seattle, Washington, a group of protesters threw a metal USA Today box through the front window of a Starbucks, marking the first official rebellion against the powerful corporation.
  9. From 2000 to 2005, Starbucks tripled its U.S. store count from 2,700 to 7,500.
  10. Not only coffee, tea, and chocolate contain caffeine (an addictive additive without any taste benefit), but Sunkist Orange Soda, Barq’s Root Beer, and many other soft drinks have caffeine added to their products. Most decaffeinated drinks still contain traces of caffeine as well.
  11. There is an annual World Barista Championship where entrants from coffeehouses around the globe compare their impressive coffee-making skills before a panel of judges.
  12. Caffeine, the ingredient in coffee that gives it that stimulating kick, was first discovered by German chemist Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge in 1819, after an encounter with the great Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Goethe, a keen amateur scientist in addition to his many other accomplishments, gave the young Runge a handful of Arabian mocha coffee beans, and urged him to analyse them.
  13. Coffee first enters the historical record with the Sufis of the Yemen, who, according to the sixteenth-century chronicler ‘Abd Al-Qadir al-Jaziri, used a drink called “qahwa” as a stimulant to help them stay awake during their prayers.
  14. The coffee house first arose in the Middle East. By the early 1500s, the use of coffee had spread beyond the pious Sufis of the Yemen, and coffee had became a drink to be enjoyed in a social context, by all segments of society. Some coffee-houses were luxurious and impressive. In Coffee and Coffeehouses, writer Ralph Hattox quotes the Portuguese adventurer Pedro Teixeira (d1640) who describes a coffee-house in Baghdad: “This house is near the river, over which it has many windows and two galleries, making it a very pleasant resort.”
  15. The world’s first café, a French adaptation of the Middle Eastern coffee house, was opened in Paris in 1689 by Francois Procope, a Florentine expatriate. It attracted a notable clientele over the years, including Voltaire, Benjamin Franklin, Balzac and Victor Hugo.
  16. The Royal Society, the world’s oldest and most eminent scientific society, began in 1655 as the Oxford Coffee Club, an informal association of scientists and students. Its founding members included the astronomer Edmund Halley and physicist Isaac Newton. In 1662 they were granted a charter by King Charles II as the Royal Society of London for the Improvement of Natural Knowledge.
  17. The two main commercial varieties of coffee are arabica and robusta. Indigenous to Africa, they can now be found across the world, between 25 degrees North and 25 degrees South of the Equator. While robusta is a hardier shrub, they both require specific environmental conditions in order to grow.
  18. Coffee was originally regarded more as a medicine than as a drink. It was thought to cure a number of ailments, including drunkenness and asthma. Robert Burton, in the Anatomy of Melancholy (1632) listed coffee as an intoxicant, a euphoric, a social and physical stimulant, and a digestive aid.
  19. As coffee spread around the world, its use initially centred on the coffee-house. The social nature of these places, and their often lively political debates, meant they were frequently regarded with some alarm by the authorities, who periodically tried to ban them. The Mamluk governor Kha’ir Beg banned them in Mecca in 1511, although they soon re-opened. King Charles II’s attempt to ban coffee-houses in 1676 was likewise short-lived.
  20. Coffee made its way to the New World in 1723, when French naval officer Gabriel d’Erchigny de Clieu managed to acquire a purloined coffee plant from the jealously guarded royal gardens at court, and smuggled it into Martinique.
  21. According to statistics from the International Coffee Organisation (ICO), the USA is the biggest importer of coffee, importing 23,575,457.7 60-kg bags of coffee in 2009.
  22. Too Much Coffee Might Kill You: Not a big surprise since too much of nearly everything can kill you… When it comes to coffee, you apparently need to drink 80 to 100 cups of coffee in quick succession (23 liter of coffee, or 10 to 13 grams of pure caffeine). This is according to the Standard Safety Data Sheet for caffeine (ORL-RAT LD50 = 192 mg kg-1). And even if you could drink that much coffee, the excessive amount of water trapped in your body would kill you first by diluting essential nutrients in your bloodstream.
  23. A Healthy Cup of Coffee: Coffee and chocolate contain antioxidants that may promote health (That’s a likable piece of fact).
  24. Caffeine Motivates Female Rats to Have More Frequent Sex: Maybe not so important, especially since it most likely have no effect on the lust for sex among human females already accustomed to coffee.
  25. Painkiller: A recent small study from the University of Georgia found that moderate doses of caffeine, the equivalent of about two cups of coffee, can cut post-gym muscle pain.
  26. Keeps You Awake: Caffeine keeps you awake, that’s a known fact, but again habitual coffee drinkers seems to be less affected by the vigilant effects of caffeine – but bear in mind just how tired you would have been without your cup of joe…
  27. Caffeine in Decaf Coffee: If you drink five to 10 cups of decaffeinated coffee, you could get as much caffeine as from one or two cups of caffeinated coffee.
  28. Less Caffeine in Espresso: Caffeine content goes up as the water spends more time in contact with the grounds, so regular coffee often has more of caffeine than espresso or cappuccino. Darker roasts also yield more caffeine.
  29. Bitterness: Only 15 percent of coffee’s bitter taste comes from caffeine. Chlorogenic acid lactones (healthy antioxidants…), which include about 10 different chemicals in coffee, are the dominant source of bitterness in light to medium roast brews.
  30. Caffeine Can Enhance Performance in Endurance Sports: Historically, athletes have used caffeine to enhance their performance. Prior to 2004, caffeine was banned by the US Olympic Committee and the World Anti-Doping Association (WADA). The level at which caffeine was banned was about 1,200 mg of pure caffeine or 8 cups of strong coffee. However, this decision was reversed in 2004, allowing the use of caffeine in elite level. Caffeine does not appear to benefit short term, high intensity exercise.
  31. Coffee was Discovered by Goats: Yes, that’s how the story goes at least; 1 000 years ago, in the Ethiopian hills, a herd of goats kept a shepherd up at night after feasting on red coffee berries. The shepherd took his animals’ discovery to some monks. The monks brewed the beans into a hot drink, and discovered that the drink would keep them awake during long hours of prayer.
  32. You might also be interested in knowing that Caffeine may boost shift workers’ attention span and reduce the risk of on-the-job errors, data from a meta-analysis suggest.

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