What is Coffee?
Everyone recognizes a roasted coffee bean, but you might not recognize an actual coffee plant. Coffee trees are pruned short to conserve their energy and aid in harvesting, but can grow to more than 30 feet (9 meters) high. Each tree is covered with green, waxy leaves growing opposite each other in pairs. Coffee cherries grow along the branches. Because it grows in a continuous cycle, it’s not unusual to see flowers, green fruit and ripe fruit simultaneously on a single tree.
It takes nearly a year for a cherry to mature after first flowering, and about 5 years of growth to reach full fruit production. While coffee plants can live up to 100 years, they are generally the most productive between the ages of 7 and 20. Proper care can maintain and even increase their output over the years, depending on the variety. The average coffee tree produces 10 pounds of coffee cherry per year, or 2 pounds of green beans.
All commercially grown coffee is from a region of the world called the Coffee Belt. The trees grow best in rich soil, with mild temperatures, frequent rain and shaded sun.
Botanical Classification Of Coffee
Coffee traces its origin to a genus of plants known as Coffea. Within the genus there are over 500 genera and 6,000 species of tropical trees and shrubs. Experts estimate that there are anywhere from 25 to 100 species of coffee plants.
The genus was first described in the 18th century by the Swedish botanist, Carolus Linneaus, who also described Coffea Arabica in his Species Plantarum in 1753. Botanists have disagreed ever since on the exact classification, since coffee plants can range widely. They can be small shrubs to tall trees, with leaves from one to 16 inches in size, and in colors from purple or yellow to the predominant dark green.
In the commercial coffee industry, there are two important coffee species — Arabica and Robusta.
Coffea Arabica — C. Arabica
Varieties: Bourbon, Typica, Caturra, Mundo Novo, Tico, San Ramon, Jamaican Blue Mountain
Coffea Arabica is descended from the original coffee trees discovered in Ethiopia. These trees produce a fine, mild, aromatic coffee and represent approximately 70% of the world’s coffee production. The beans are flatter and more elongated than Robusta and lower in caffeine.
On the world market, Arabica coffees bring the highest prices. The better Arabicas are high grown coffees — generally grown between 2,000 to 6,000 feet (610 to 1830 meters) above sea level — though optimal altitude varies with proximity to the equator.
The most important factor is that temperatures must remain mild, ideally between 59 – 75 degrees Fahrenheit, with about 60 inches of rainfall a year. The trees are hearty, but a heavy frost will kill them. Arabica trees are costly to cultivate because the ideal terrain tends to be steep and access is difficult. Also, because the trees are more disease-prone than Robusta, they require additional care and attention.
Coffea canephora — C. canephora var. Robusta
Most of the world’s Robusta is grown in Central and Western Africa, parts of Southeast Asia, including Indonesia and Vietnam, and in Brazil. Production of Robusta is increasing, though it accounts for only about 30% of the world market. Robusta is primarily used in blends and for instant coffees. The Robusta bean itself tends to be slightly rounder and smaller than an Arabica bean.
The Robusta tree is heartier and more resistant to disease and parasites, which makes it easier and cheaper to cultivate. It also has the advantage of being able to withstand warmer climates, preferring constant temperatures between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit, which enables it to grow at far lower altitudes than Arabica. It requires about 60 inches of rainfall a year, and cannot withstand frost. Compared with Arabica, Robusta beans produce a coffee which has a distinctive taste and about 50-60% more caffeine.
The Anatomy of a Coffee Cherry
The beans you brew are actually the processed and roasted seeds from a fruit, which is called a coffee cherry. The coffee cherry’s outer skin is called the exocarp. Beneath it is the mesocarp, a thin layer of pulp, followed by a slimy layer called the parenchyma. The beans themselves are covered in a paper-like envelope named the endocarp, more commonly referred to as the parchment.
Inside the parchment, side-by-side, lie two beans, each covered separately by yet another thin membrane. The biological name for this seed skin is the spermoderm, but it is generally referred to in the coffee trade as the silver skin. Coffee has many health benefits which includes protection against type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, liver disease, liver cancer and promoting a healthy heart.
In about 5% of the world’s coffee, there is only one bean inside the cherry. This is called a peaberry (or a caracol, or “snail” in Spanish), and it is a natural mutation. Some people believe that peaberries are actually sweeter and more flavorful than standard beans, so they are sometimes manually sorted out for special sale.
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History Of Coffee
The earliest credible evidence of either coffee drinking or knowledge of the coffee tree appears in the middle of the 15th century, in Yemen’s Sufi monasteries.
Coffee beans were first exported from Ethiopia to Yemen. Yemeni traders brought coffee back to their homeland and began to cultivate the bean. The word qahwa originally meant wine, and Sufis in Yemen used the beverage as an aid to concentration and as a kind of spiritual intoxication when they chanted the name of God. Sufis used it to keep themselves alert during their nighttime devotions. A translation of Al-Jaziri’s manuscript traces the spread of coffee from Arabia Felix (the present day Yemen) northward to Mecca and Medina, and then to the larger cities of Cairo, Damascus, Baghdad, and Constantinople.
By 1414, the beverage was known in Mecca, and in the early 1500s was spreading to the Mameluke Sultanate of Egypt and North Africa from the Yemeni port of Mocha. Associated with Sufism, a myriad of coffee houses grew up in Cairo (Egypt) around the religious University of the Azhar. These coffee houses also opened in Syria, especially in the cosmopolitan city of Aleppo, and then in Istanbul, the capital of the Ottoman Empire, in 1554. In 1511, it was forbidden for its stimulating effect by conservative, orthodox imams at a theological court in Mecca.
However, these bans were to be overturned in 1524 by an order of the Ottoman Turkish Sultan Suleiman I, with Grand Mufti Mehmet Ebussuud el-İmadi issuing a fatwa allowing the consumption of coffee. In Cairo, Egypt, a similar ban was instituted in 1532, and the coffeehouses and warehouses containing coffee beans were sacked. During the 16th century, it had already reached the rest of the Middle East, the Safavid Empire and the Ottoman Empire. From the Middle East, coffee drinking spread to Italy, then to the rest of Europe, and coffee plants were transported by the Dutch to the East Indies and to the Americas.
Similarly, coffee was banned by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church some time before the 18th century. However, in the second half of the 19th century, Ethiopian attitudes softened towards coffee drinking, and its consumption spread rapidly between 1880 and 1886; according to Richard Pankhurst, “this was largely due to Emperor Menilek, who himself drank it, and to Abuna Matewos who did much to dispel the belief of the clergy that it was a Muslim drink.”
The earliest mention of coffee noted by the literary coffee merchant Philippe Sylvestre Dufour is a reference to bunchum in the works of the 10th century CE Persian physician Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi, known as Rhazes in the West, but more definite information on the preparation of a beverage from the roasted coffee berries dates from several centuries later. One of the most important of the early writers on coffee was Abd al-Qadir al-Jaziri, who in 1587 compiled a work tracing the history and legal controversies of coffee entitled Umdat al safwa fi hill al-qahwa عمدة الصفوة في حل القهوة. He reported that one Sheikh, Jamal-al-Din al-Dhabhani (d. 1470), mufti of Aden, was the first to adopt the use of coffee (circa 1454).
He found that among its properties was that it drove away fatigue and lethargy, and brought to the body a certain sprightliness and vigour.
Nutritional Benefits Of Coffee
Regular black coffee (without milk or cream) has a very low calorie count. A typical cup of black coffee only contains around 2 calories. However, if you add sugar and milk, the calorie count can shoot up.
There Are Essential Nutrients in Coffee
Coffee is more than just black water. Many of the nutrients in the coffee beans do make it into the final drink. Although this may not seem like a big deal, most people are drinking more than one cup per day. If you drink 3-4, then these amounts quickly add up. Although it doesn’t seem like much goes into a cup of coffee, it is full of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Some of the important nutrients found in a cup of black coffee are:
- Riboflavin (Vitamin B2): 11% of the RDA. helps the body metabolize proteins, produce red blood cells and grow properly.
- Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5): 6% of the RDA. necessary for the body to metabolize fats, carbohydrates and proteins from food and support healthy skin.
- Manganese: 3% DV – helps support bone health, correct anemia, and improve symptoms of PMS.
- Potassium: 3% of the RDA. supports the balance of sodium in the body, helps flush toxins and improves communications between cells.
- Magnesium:3% DV – vital for regulating blood sugar and blood pressure, creating muscle, bone and DNA and controlling muscle and nerve operation.
- Niacin (B3): 2% of the RDA. can reduce the risk of heart attack, prevent plaque buildup in the arteries and lower the amount of fatty substances in the blood.
- Thiamine (Vitamin B1): 2% DV – helps metabolize sugar and supports nerve and heart health.
Health Benefits of Drinking Coffee
1. Boosts Physical Performance
Coffee contains caffeine which increases adrenaline levels in the blood, adrenaline is the “fight or flight” hormone which helps prepare for physical exertion.
2. Helps manage diabetes
Coffee may help protect against type 2 diabetes. Researchers at UCLA identified that drinking coffee increases plasma levels of the protein sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG). SHBG controls the biological activity of the body’s sex hormones (testosterone and estrogen) which play a role in the development of type 2 diabetes.
3.Help in weight loss
Caffeine in coffee aids in fat burning.Several studies show that caffeine can boost the metabolic rate by 3-11%. Other studies show that caffeine can specifically increase the burning of fat, by as much as 10% in obese individuals and 29% in lean people.
4. Helps prevent Parkinson’s Disease
Researchers in the U.S. carried out a study that assessed the link between coffee consumption and Parkinson’s disease risk. The authors of the study concluded that “higher coffee and caffeine intake is associated with a significantly lower incidence of Parkinson’s disease”.
In addition, caffeine in coffee may help control movement in people suffering from Parkinson’s, according to a study conducted at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI MUHC) that was published in the journal Neurology.
5. Prevents Liver Disease
Regular consumption of coffee is linked to a reduced risk of primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), a rare autoimmune disease of the bile ducts in the liver.
6. Heart Health
Coffee supports heart health by protecting against arterial damage caused by inflammation. A landmark Dutch study, which analyzed data from more than 37,000 people over a period of 13 years, found that moderate coffee drinkers (who consumed between two to four cups daily) had a 20 percent lower risk of heart disease as compared to heavy or light coffee drinkers, and nondrinkers.
7. Reduces the risk of cancer
Coffee contains polyphenols, antioxidant phytochemicals which has anticarcinogenic properties which help reduce the inflammation that could be responsible for some tumors.
8. Controls Depression
Caffeine in coffee activates neurotransmitters that control mood, including dopamine and serotonin.
Multiple studies have linked coffee drinking to lower rates of depression in both men and women. In several studies, the data suggested an inverse relationship between coffee consumption and
depression: in other words, heavy coffee drinkers seemed to have the lowest risk (up to 20 percent) of depression.
9. Prevents Gout
The anti oxidant properties of coffee decrease the risk of gout by decreasing insulin, which in turn lowers uric acid levels (high concentrations of uric acid can cause gout).
10. Helps with short term memory boost
Caffeine in coffee affect the particular areas of the brain responsible for memory and concentration, providing a boost to short-term memory, although it’s not clear how long the effect lasts or how it may vary from person to person.
11. Limit your everyday pain
Are you in pain during the course of a typical workday? It’s not that unusual. But, what is surprising is the degree to which many people feel rejuvenated following a coffee break—there’s a reason why. Norwegian researchers observed 48 people performing office work and found those who consumed coffee only declared a pain-intensity level of 41, whereas participants who didn’t drink any coffee reported having a score of 55.
12. Coffee Raises Your Metabolism and Helps You Perform Better Physically
Studies have shown that drinking coffee can actually raise your metabolism and help you burn fat at a faster rate, thus positively affecting your weight loss. Caffeine does this by stimulating your nervous system, causing it to send signals to your fat cells to break down body fat. It also has been shown to improve athletic performance and endurance during exercise. Just these two reasons alone are awesome enough to drink more coffee, especially before heading to the gym.
13. Coffee Is a Great Sources of Antioxidants and Essential Nutrients
Believe it or not, coffee has a lot of nutritional value. It contains a number of essential nutrients, including riboflavin (11% of the RDA), pantothenic acid (6% of the RDA), manganese (3% of the RDA), potassium (3% of the RDA), magnesium (2% of the RDA) and niacin (2% of the RDA)
It’s also a HUGE source of antioxidants, and one of the top sources of antioxidants in the American diet. Antioxidants are substances that prevent or delay cell damage, and they can control how fast you age by fighting free radicals.
Translation…. Coffee makes you pretty and healthy!
So the next time you look at your coffee, remember it’s not just black water, it’s a tasty source of antioxidants and nutrients.
14. Caffeine May Lower Skin Cancer Risk
A study by the National Institute of Health found that higher coffee intake was associated with a modest decrease in risk of a certain type of skin cancer called melanoma. If you’re concerned about your risk of skin cancer, try adding a few cups of coffee to your diet to help lower your risks. And don’t forget your SPF while you’re at it!
15. Caffeine Can Help Protect You From Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is a type of disease that causes problems with your memory, thinking and behavior. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to eventually interfere with daily tasks. If you’ve ever know somebody with AD or dementia, you know how devastating this condition can be, not just on the sufferer but to those around them as well.
Research has found that drinking 3-5 cups per day while in your middle aged years was associated with a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia by about 65% in your later years. Did you get that?? A 65% reduction in your chances of developing dementia by drinking 3-5 cups of coffee a day! That is one of the most compelling arguments in favor of drinking coffee every day that’s I’ve even heard, especially if you’re in your 40’s and 50’s.
16. Make You More Athletic
Researchers have studied the correlation between caffeine and athletic performance for decades. Athletes often consume caffeine to improve their mental and physical capacity. As fatty acids are oxidized, you typically have more energy even though you feel as though you don’t have to work as hard.
This energy boost may result from the blocked adenosine receptors or the increased catecholamines in the bloodstream, which help the body better handle exercise-induced stress. The improvements in performance also be traced to the improved neurotransmitter communication associated with caffeine.
When your nerves are firing more frequently and efficiently, the entire body’s performance is optimized. In one meta-analysis, researchers found that caffeine consumption improved the rate of perceived exertion (RPE) after exercise that was constant and intense. While it did not improve the RPE after exhausting exercise, caffeine consumption prior to exercise did improve the RPE while the participants were exercising.
Indeed, caffeine may improve athletic performance by as much as 11-12% on average.
17. Reduce your odds of developing multiple sclerosis.
Research has been conducted to determine whether there is a connection between risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS) and coffee intake. The linked study looked at data from two population-based case-control studies from the United States and Sweden.
The researchers discovered that participants who consumed high amounts of coffee had reduced chances of developing multiple sclerosis. They hypothesized that the mechanism for this may involve caffeine’s neuro-protective effects, including the suppression of cytokine production.
18. Drinking more coffee can improve blood flow.
You already know that coffee is good for your heart. But did you know it can also improve the function of your blood vessels? This small double-blind, placebo-controlled study assessed finger blood flow using Doppler flowmetry in participants who were either assigned to drink caffeinated or un-caffeinated coffee.
The researchers wrote that “these results provide the first evidence that caffeine contained in a cup of coffee enhances micro-vascular function in healthy individuals.” Improvements of 30% for the group that drank the caffeine were observed to last for more than 75 minutes. More research is warranted given these hopeful results.
19. Possibly reduce your risk of being hospitalized for arrhythmia.
You may have heard that coffee – and more specifically caffeine – can increase your risk of heart arrhythmias. Actually, there is scientific evidence that the reverse may be the case. This study found that there was an inverse relationship between caffeine intake and hospitalization for arrhythmias.
Note that this data is correlative in nature, and does not prove a causal link between the two. It does serve as an indication that caffeine in moderation is ”highly” unlikely to increase your chances of dangerous arrhythmias. It also may point toward a causal connection, but more research is required to say whether that is indeed the case.
20. Reduce cellulite.
Cellulite is a cosmetic condition, not a health threat, but it can impact self-image, and that does affect your overall well-being. Research has been conducted on products for treating cellulite which contain caffeine as part of their formula.
These products have been shown to be effective in reducing cellulite with contrast to a placebo. Keep in mind that it is common for these trials to be on products which also contain other ingredients. For example, the product tested above also contained retinol and ruscogenine. As such, it is hard to establish for certain whether caffeine is indeed the ingredient responsible for the cellulite reduction.
21. Improve the integrity of your DNA.
Fascinatingly enough, coffee actually turns out to be good your DNA, the very building blocks of your body.
This study found that a dark roast coffee blend reduced the level of spontaneous DNA strand breaks.
This means that drinking more coffee can lead to improvements in DNA’s structural integrity.Improve the integrity of your DNA. Fascinatingly enough, coffee actually turns out to be good your DNA, the very building blocks of your body.
22. Coffee is surprisingly good for your teeth.
Coffee is acidic, so you would think that it would be bad for the enamel of your teeth, right? Actually, the opposite may be true. In this study, it was found that drinking coffee without additives can decrease the prevalence of dental cavities. Avoiding additives like sugar is important, because sugar can cause dental cavities (not to mention other health problems).
How Many Cups Of Coffee Should You Drink A Day?
Every one of these reasons tend to indicate that you should be drinking more than one cup of coffee a day for the best results. According to research, it’s recommended that adults should consume 3-4 cups of coffee a day to realize the most health benefits.
How Much Coffee Is Too Much?
If you happen to drink too much, there can be some short term side effects of coffee you may want to be aware of, such as:
- Anxiety or mild panic attacks
- Inability to relax
- Rapid heartbeat
- Unable to sleep
- Light headed or dizziness
- Stomach aches
If you encounter any of these side effects, you may want to consider reducing your daily consumption until the symptoms subside. If you can’t get them to go away after reducing your caffeine consumption, then you might want to consider cutting out coffee completely.
Coffee Drink Recipes
If you’re looking for some new ways to enjoy coffee, try these delicious coffee drink recipes from my blog.
- Almond Milk Latte
- Blended Mocha Cappuccino
These two drinks tend to be on the sweeter side, so they may be best as a dessert treat and not a substitution for a plain old cup of black coffee in the morning. But feel free to experiment with new ideas and ingredients to expand your coffee drink options.
Just make sure you are not adding loads of sugar as that will just negate the benefits. If you are looking for diabetic friendly sweeteners for your “Morning Joe” try honey, real maple syrup or raw Stevia, and try to add as little as possible so you develop a taste for less sugar.
I recommend using organic coffee when you can for the most healthy benefits without the risk of chemicals or toxins. And whenever possible try not to use tap water, you want good clean water that is not filled with fluoride as it changes chemistry when heated.
How to Make Perfect Coffee Video
How To Make A Perfect Cappucin Coffee At Home
Almond Milk Latte Recipe
- 1 cup strong brewed coffee
- 1 cup Almond milk, or milk of your choice
- ½ tsp. vanilla extract
- ½ tsp. almond extract
- 2 tsp. Sugar or Sugar in the raw- optional
- Heat the milk in a small sauce pan on medium low heat. Once warmed whisk briskly and constantly to create foam.
- Remove from heat, stir in vanilla, almond extract and coffee and serve. Add in sugar, please use only real sugar no substitutes.*
Blended Mocha Cappuccino
- 1 cup Strong Black Coffee
- 1 cup Almond Milk
- 2 tbsp Greek Yogurt
- 4 tbsp Chocolate Syrup– plus more for drizzling over top
- 1 cup Ice
- Organic Whipped Cream- optional and not included in nutrition below
In a blender combine all ingredients and give it a whirl until everything is incorporated and ice is smooth, about 1- 2 minutes. Pour into glasses and serve.
Negative Effects Of Taking Coffee
Bad coffee can be toxic. Bad quality coffee can have a lot of impurities in it, which can cause sickness, headache or a general bad feeling. This can happen if your coffee is made from beans that have been over ripped or otherwise ruined. Even one ruined bean can make your cup toxic. If you invest and buy high quality, speciality coffee you don’t have to worry about this.
Coffee can kill you. Yes, if you drink 80-100 cups (23 litres) in a short session. This dose is lethal and will amount in 10-13 grams of caffeine within your body. Before you reach this point, however, you’ll be vomiting most of it out since 23 litres of any liquid is a lot. Even drinking 23 litres of water can kill you.
Coffee can cause insomnia and restlessness. Again, it’s the caffeine working here. Your recommended maximum amount of caffeine is 400 milligrams, roughly the amount that you’ll get from 4 cups of coffee. If you’re caffeine-sensitive, be careful with coffee. You are probably already aware what amount and what kind of coffee suits, or doesn’t suit you. The amount of caffeine that is safe for human consumption is actually written in our DNA.
Don’t drink more than one cup a day if you’re pregnant. Studies on coffee’s effect on a fetus have been controversial, but one thing is sure: if you drink coffee when pregnant, caffeine will also reach the fetus, and your baby is highly sensitive to caffeine. So, if you’re a heavyweight coffee drinker and can’t stop drinking it while pregnant, at least reduce your coffee intake to one cup a day.
If you have high cholesterol please choose filtered coffee. Coffee beans contain cafestol and kahweol, two ingredients that appear to raise LDL cholesterol levels. Filtering the coffee traps most of the LDL, but cafestol and kahweol are found in espresso, turkish coffee, french press and scandinavian style “cooked coffee”.
- The intake of LDL from a cup of espresso is still so small, that for people with normal cholesterol levels, won’t be at risk. There are also some studies at preliminary stages of diagnosis that have found marks that cafestol and kahweol may have some beneficial anti-cancer effects, and be good for your liver.
Coffee for kids, may increase bed-wetting. One survey reported that caffeine consumption of 5-7 year old kids may increase enuresis a.k.a. bed-wetting.
Doesn’t Caffeine Increase Blood Pressure?
Great question. Yes, the intake of caffeine has been shown to cause an increase in blood pressure. This effect has been observed even in people who are healthy. Age or sex seems to be irrelevant with this increase. It has been observed in men and women, in the young and in the old. Thankfully it tends to be only around 5-10 mmHg. The mechanism may involve an increase of adrenaline and/or another hormone being blocked.
Fascinatingly enough, however, it appears that drinking coffee may minimize this particular effect of caffeine. Consider this study, which looked at whether coffee increases the risk of hypertension. The researchers analyzed data from 16 different randomized, controlled studies. In total, 1,010 subjects were involved. The conclusion was that ”Regular caffeine intake increases BP.
When ingested through coffee, however, the blood pressure effect of caffeine is small.” In other words, yes, taking caffeine can increase your blood pressure. But when in the form of coffee, that effect is minimal. So if you are concerned about hypertension, coffee is probably one of the healthier ways for you to take caffeine. There is other good news as well. Researchers have found that the increase in blood pressure is only temporary.
In fact, it seems that blood pressure is raised for only around 3 hours. After that, it dips back down to normal levels . The effect tends to be most pronounced for those who already have elevated blood pressure. Using blood pressure lowering medications does not reduce the effect. As of this point, scientists do not fully understand why blood pressure sometimes increases when imbibing caffeine.