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10 interesting facts about coffee that will surprise you

Coffee is one of the most popular, and we dare say even the most interesting drink in the world. These 10 facts will definitely interest you.

#1 A coffee bean is a cherry stone

Coffee beans as we know them are obtained from the coffee tree – a flowering shrubby plant that bears cherries. Each coffee cherry contains two or three seeds – stones, which are processed in different ways after ripening. There are about 60 known species of coffee tree in the world, only three of which are grown for seeds.

ripen cherries of the coffee tree

Although coffee cherries are not extra fibrous, they are common edible fruits whose taste, similarly to the coffee, depends on the region and climate. From the planting of a coffee tree to its first harvest, usually 4 years pass, while the average yield of one shrub per season is about half a kilogram of roasted coffee.

#2 Coffee was actually the first tea

Long before people roasted the first coffee beans, they used to drink cascara. The word, which comes from Spanish, refers to the skin of the coffee cherry, from which various decoctions and infusions were prepared in the past. Today, dried flesh with skin is considered a by-product of production that ends up in waste or at best as a fertilizer for coffee trees.

cascara - dried coffee tree cherry peels

As the caffeine content in cascara is relatively low and even the taste is not very similar to coffee, very few farmers process it and sell it. However, the cherry peels are full of vitamins and antioxidants and their pleasantly sweet, fruity taste with tones of roses or rosehips would surely attract many tea lovers or coffee connoisseurs.

#3 Great thinkers have succumbed to coffee

Although coffee has had many opponents throughout its history, it has always had multiple times a bigger number of supporters. And some of them had really crazy coffee habits. For example, Voltaire was allegedly able to drink up to 50 cups of coffee a day and, despite his doctor’s warnings, lived to be a beautiful 83 years old. Similarly, US President Theodore Roosevelt drank up to a gallon (about 3.8 litres!) of coffee a day.

gardens in Versailles

Honore de Balzac, who drank up to 60 cups of coffee a day during the literary zeal, and the French King Louis XV, who grew his own coffee tree in the greenhouse of the Palace of Versailles, were also passionate coffee enthusiasts. He allegedly collected, roasted and ground the grains himself, so that he could receive his palace guests with his own coffee.

#4 Bach composed a song about coffee

Around 1735, Johann Sebastian Bach wrote the composition Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht, also known as the Coffee Cantata. It is a set-to-music version of a satirical text in which a father criticizes his daughter for drinking a lot of coffee as a reason why she still does not have a suitor. The lyrics of the song were a reaction to the popularity of drinking coffee in Germany of that time. Only in Leipzig, where Bach lived, there were up to eleven public cafes at the time, and coffee was still served in parlours.

piano with a collection of Bach compositions

#5 Coffee got them to the Olympics

When the Great Depression hit the world in the 1930s, much had to be improvised. Therefore, in 1932, when Brazil wanted to send its athletes to the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, the government decided to put them on a ship with 50,000 bags of coffee. The athletes had to sell them on the way, and thus obtain funding for the expedition.

historical photograph of the Brazilian ship Itaquice

Out of 82 athletes, only 67 finally made it to the Olympics. As the authorities charged $1 for each person who disembarked at the port, the game organizers allowed entry only to those who felt they had a chance to win a medal. The rest of the crew sailed on to San Francisco, where additional bags were sold, allowing water polo players, rowers and athletes to take part in the games. Despite all efforts, Brazil did not win a single medal.

#6 Bees also enjoy caffeine a lot!

Due to its bitterness, caffeine protects plants from various pests and in high doses it can even be toxic to pollinators. However, at low concentrations, it attracts them and, according to research carried out on honey bees by the neuroscientist Geraldine Wright, it also increases their long-term memory.

bee pollinates the flowers of a coffee tree

Bees travel thousands of kilometres due to nectar, often pollinating different types of flowers. Wright found out that when the nectar contains caffeine, the bee not only remembers it better, but also evaluates it as significantly better than it actually is. Therefore, it returns to flowers whose nectar contains caffeine much more often and directs also other bees in the hive towards them. Thanks to caffeine, the flower is literally unforgettable for bees.

#7 Farmers often drink the worst coffee

Do you think that coffee plant farmers have access only to the highest quality coffee beans? Unfortunately, this is not the case. Until three years ago, up to 75% of the production of the best Colombian coffee was exported, leaving very little amount for domestic consumption and at a price that ordinary people could not afford anyway.

jute bag full of green coffee

However, the situation is slowly changing for the better not only in Colombia but also in developing countries, thanks to fair trade programs and fair purchase prices for farmers. However, compared to the American or European coffee culture, it is still a big disparity in terms of availability of quality coffee.

#8 Behind the most expensive coffee stands… elephant!

Kopi Luwak, also known as civet coffee, is one of the most exotic and most expensive coffees. However, civets are not the only animals used in the production of lucrative coffees. In Thailand, they use elephants on a similar principle, which, like civets, add coffee cherries to their feed.

elephant among coffee trees

Unlike civets, elephants are herbivores, which means that completely different processes take place in their stomachs. During the 12 to 27 hours of digestion, the food is fermented, thanks to which the coffee beans lose their bitterness and their chocolate-fruit tones are accentuated. If the production process does not discourage you, go to a 5-star hotel in Asia and ask about Black Ivory Coffee.

#9 Coffee should not be drunk immediately after waking up

During the day, there are changes in the production of cortisol in the human body – a stress hormone, which, among other things, affects our attention. According to the scientists, we should avoid coffee during the phases of high cortisol production, i.e. between 8:00 – 9:00, 12:00-13:00 and 17:30-18:30.

light sign coffee o´clock

If we have coffee at these times, not only do we reduce the effect of caffeine, but we also artificially increase our caffeine tolerance. In practice, this means that we will need more and more coffee to kick. But what to do when you are a morning bird? Scientists recommend waiting and having your first coffee an hour after waking up.

#10 The oldest cat in the world was a coffee enthusiast

The holder of the Guinness World Record for the “Longest Living Cat” was until recently Creme Puff, who lived to an incredible 38 years of age. According to the owner, in addition to bacon, eggs and broccoli, coffee with cream was an integral part of her daily diet. The most interesting thing about this story, however, is that before Creme Puff, the holder of this record was a cat named Granpa Rexs Allen (34 years old), who belonged to the same owner and therefore had the same diet. A coincidence? Maybe yes, maybe no. 😉

Did you get a taste for coffee after so much reading?

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