Does your coffee have powers like Popeye’s spinach? Do you need Morning Mud to start the day? Do you guzzle java like a TV cop on a stakeout?
Coffee. It has a lot of aliases like jitter juice, rocket fuel, cup of jolt, and cupped lightning. That’s no surprise when over one billion people around the world down the stuff each day. Americans alone drink 400 million cups daily, 146 billion cups yearly, or an average three cups a day. But America isn’t number one in that category – Finland, the Netherlands, and Sweden take that title.
How about you? Consider these infamous coffee drinkers:
*President Teddy Roosevelt drank up to a gallon of coffee a day, adding 5-7 lumps of sugar for each cup.
*Napoleon asked for a spoonful of coffee on his deathbed.
*Thomas Jefferson called coffee “the favorite drink of the civilized world.”
A few centuries ago, some people believed coffee was the drink of the devil, unfit for children, women, and men who worried about their virility. So coffee lover Johan Sebastian Bach composed a tasty comedic opera in 1735 called The Coffee Cantata.
Father sir, but do not be so harsh!
If I couldn’t, three times a day,
be allowed to drink my little cup of coffee,
in my anguish I will turn
into a shriveled-up roast goat.
Although not many Americans turned into shriveled-up roasted goats, coffee had a tough rap in the states. Rumors of bad-for-your health thrived but were ignored. Everyone freely continued to drink their jitter juice, hoping for better news. Finally, things changed.
America announced that their favorite brew is healthy!
You just have to watch what you put into it, like cream, sugar, and shots of Irish whiskey. Recent research links coffee to protection against diabetes, Parkinson’s, skin cancer, liver disease, and depression. One study in The New England Journal of Medicine, found that 50-71 year olds who drank 4-5 cups a day live longer than their non-coffee-drinking peers.
It all began in Ethiopia, Sudan, and Kenya where the coffee plant was native. One popular legend says that an 11th century goat herder from the Kingdom of Kaffa noticed his flock got very lively after eating some red berries. He decided to try them and discovered he was as happy as his goats.
The Muslim community eagerly adopted coffee and by the 13th century drank it at home and in pubic houses that were social and political centers. Coffee became popular with the masses, but not always with their leaders. Sultans in the 16th century Ottoman Empire made drinking coffee a capital offense – the first time you were caught the punishment was a beating. The second time you were sewn into a leather bag and thrown in the river like a teabag.
Not much fun.
In a 1674 English manifesto, coffee was called abominable, heathenish, and poisonous to the body and soul. Maybe that’s why we like it so much?
These days coffee has gone rogue. Try the world’s most expensive coffee – Black Ivory – that costs $1200 per kilogram (35 ounces). It’s made when elephants are fed Arabica beans and poop. The elephant dung is roasted and processed into the rarest coffee in the world.
The second most expensive is Kopi Luwak – at $600 per kg or a discount version of Black Ivory, made from the poop of a critter called a luwak.
Today there’s one sultan -sized caveat to our beloved brew: climate change. According to Justin Worland in Time Magazine, “the future of coffee remains at the mercy of a global population that continues to pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere”
The issues are clear: rising temperatures, increase in pests, fungus, and reduction in areas suitable for coffee. The only solution is to change – embrace new and resilient beans that can grow in climate change conditions.
There are 124 species of coffee beans but most drink only two – Arabica (60%) and robusta (40%). Adding a new mix of beans will change the flavor. Will one billion lovers of jitter juice be able to adapt?
Only time will tell.