Did you know that the world record for most coffee consumption is 82 cups of coffee in seven hours? Or that Hawaii is the only state that grows coffee? Or that in 1675, the King of England banned coffee houses, fearing they were encouraging treason? What's the buzz on your favorite brew? Read on, as we spill the beans about coffee.
1. Coffee was discovered by goats. Actually, no one's exactly sure where or when coffee was discovered. But in one of the more fanciful legends, it was in Ethiopia, when a goat herder noticed his furry charges becoming unusually frisky after nibbling small red berries from a bush. The berries were soon roasted, cooked into a potent beverage, and introduced to Arabic traders, who enthusiastically embraced the invigorating brew. According to legend, Mohammed proclaimed that after drinking coffee, he could "unhorse 40 men and possess 40 women."
2. Coffee may be as healthful as green tea. In terms of sheer disease-busting power, coffee has significantly more total antioxidant activity than either cocoa, green tea, black tea, or herbal tea. Coffee also has been shown in numerous studies to reduce the risk of diabetes, Parkinson's, cognitive decline, colon cancer, and other diseases. Green tea has a slight edge in the weight loss arena, but who says you can't drink both?
3. The "Americano" was named for American troops in World War II who ordered strong espressos at European shops and diluted them with hot water. Espresso, by the way, isn't a type of roast; it's a way of preparing coffee in which highly pressurized hot water is shot through finely ground coffee to extract the maximum flavor. Coffee experts say the best way to brew coffee at home is with some kind of pour-over system. Food and Wine magazine recently rated the Chemex Filter Drip Coffeemaker-a simple contraption in which a cone-shaped paper filter fits in the top of the pot and boiling water is poured through the coffee grinds-one of the best.
4. It's really true that there's a coffee made from animal excrement. Well, more or less: Kopi Luwak, a rare and pricey (upwards of $120 a pound) blend, is collected from the dung of the luwak, a species of civet cat native to Java. This discriminating creature eats only the finest beans at their perfect stage of ripeness, then excretes the partially digested beans several hours later. The beans are retrieved, ground, and sold as the world's most expensive varietal coffee. At least half of the Kopi Luwak on the market is said to be fake, but if you get the real stuff, apparently it's good to the last dropping.
5. Coffee causes acid reflux in an estimated 16 million people. Say it ain't so, Joe. If you're one of them, or if coffee's just not your cup of tea, try flavorful alternatives-some made with caffeine-free blends of roasted roots and grains that simulate the bittersweet flavor of coffee, others with a gently invigorating dose of caffeine. Top picks: Teecino Maya French Roast Herbal Coffee, Raja's Cup Antioxidant Herbal Coffee Substitute, Traditional Medicinals Organic Roasted Dandelion Root Tea, Choice Organic Ban-cha Toasted Green Tea, Naturalis Inka Instant Grain Beverage, Numi Chocolate Puerh Tea, Rishi Organic Yerba Mate. And if you can't bear to part with your morning cuppa Joe, try JAVAcid; add a teaspoon of this powdered formula to your coffee to improve digestive health and protect the stomach lining.
6. The average store carries more than 20 brands of coffee. And that's not counting the various blends and roasts within each brand. Where to start? Take a look at a few favorites (see right).
Brew Love: Blends for Every Palate
- Dean's Beans Organic Ahab's Revenge. It's a knock-your-socks-off blend of potent robusta and smooth Arabica beans, with an enthusiastic caffeine content.
- Peet's Uzuri African blend. A malty, sweet East African blend with undertones of rich berry-truly unique. The beans are grown by small scale farmers.
- Cafe Altura Organic New Orleans Blend. Richly aromatic, bold but smooth, with a definite edge-much like the Big Easy.
- Green Mountain Harvard Blend is a combination of light- and dark-roasted beans; it's crisp and bright, but rich, with a full, clean mouthfeel, and lots of contrasts.
- Equal Exchange Organic Black Silk Espresso. It's what you might expect from the name: smooth, dense and complex, with notes of caramelized sugar and chocolate.
- Grounds for Change Seabrook Blend. Sweet, light and perfumed, this blend is mellow with caramel undertones and a light, well-rounded mouthfeel.
- Café Campesino Organic Ethiopia Yirgacheffe. A medium roast, with a light body and notes of citrus and spice, this blend has a smooth, crisp mouthfeel and a lingering aftertaste.
- Conscious Coffees East Timor. This fully washed single-origin coffee has a bright, clean flavor, with notes of roasted nuts and an earthy sweetness.