As one of the world's favourite drinks, coffee is consumed every day to energise the body and stimulate the mind. This popular beverage is a huge global commodity with a rich history that stretches across continents. Coffee is more loved than ever in the 21st century, and its popularity is growing constantly. Once derided in health circles for its high caffeine content, coffee is now widely appreciated positive effects.
Let's take a detailed look at coffee, from its long history and plant variations to its many health benefits.
A Short History of Coffee
Coffee has a long history full of many anecdotes. While the evidence is scarce, there are various tales of travellers, sheikhs, and goats feeling energised after finding coffee beans in the wild and munching them down. The earliest credible evidence of coffee use comes from the 15th century in Yemen, where coffee was roasted and brewed much like it is today. Coffee probably made its way to Yemen from Ethiopia, spreading across the Middle East into Persia, Turkey, North Africa, and beyond.
Italy was the first European nation to start drinking coffee, and even today, it has a strong coffee culture. With Venice driving trade across much of the world, it wasn't long before other nations took notice of this exciting new black drink. Coffee spread west to the Americas, east to Indonesia, and deeper into North Africa and the Middle East. Even during these early days, coffee was noted for its health benefits. According to Leonhard Rauwolf, a German physician who lived towards the end of the 16th century, coffee was "useful against numerous illnesses, particularly those of the stomach."
The next chapter in coffee's evolution is linked to colonial history. The Dutch East India Company imported the beverage from Java to the Netherlands, and it soon became popular in England as well. Coffee failed to take off initially in North America, although its use accelerated after the Revolutionary War and Boston Tea Party in 1773. By 1860, the United States had become the largest coffee consumer in the world, and by 1920, it accounted for roughly half of all global consumption.
The mass production of coffee began in Brazil following the nation's independence in 1822, with the South American powerhouse soon exporting around 70% of the world's coffee. Neighbouring South and Central American nations also invested in cultivation, as did African countries like Uganda and Ethiopia, and Asian nations like Vietnam and Colombia. In recent years, coffee has enjoyed an economic and cultural renaissance. New technologies and markets have emerged, consumers have become interested in environmental and ethical cultivation, and scientific studies have discovered numerous health benefits associated with the world's favourite drink.
Different Types of Coffee
Not all coffee is the same, with different plants and roasting techniques giving rise to numerous variations. While all seed-bearing plants in the Rubiaceae family can be called coffee plants, there are two distinct species: Arabica, and Canephora. Arabica beans have two common varieties, Typica and Bourbon; and Canephora has a single common variety called Robusta. While each bean differs in quality and taste due to its growing location and conditions, there are noted similarities between these variations.
- Arabica beans are generally thought to be superior in taste. They are smoother with a hint of sweetness, and they have notes of fruit and chocolate. These beans also have less caffeine, however, which is both a good and bad thing.
- Robusta beans typically have a stronger taste, and most of the time, they are harsher and more bitter. Instead of fruit and chocolate, you can expect grainy and rubbery overtones, along with high caffeine content, for maximum stimulation.
Is Coffee Healthy?
Like many of the things we consume, the health effects of coffee vary widely based on consumption patterns and product qualities. Luckily, the sheer popularity of coffee has spawned numerous studies over recent years, so we have a pretty good idea of how the human body responds to coffee. In the past, coffee had a bad reputation and was thought to cause health problems. Recent research has contradicted this position, however, with moderate coffee intake now associated with a number of health benefits.
To comprehend why coffee is healthy, it's important to understand its components. Coffee is a great source of many nutrients, including vitamins B2 and B3, magnesium, and potassium. It's also a great source of many phenolic compounds, which are absorbed through the intestines to protect against damaging free radical reactions. Among these phenolic compounds, the polyphenols and antioxidants in coffee are possibly responsible for its protective role against disease.
The following health benefits are among the most noteworthy:
The energy-boosting effects of coffee can be advantageous, with this wonderful drink helping to fight fatigue and regulate energy throughout the body. Coffee provides energy by blocking adenosine receptors, which helps to increase dopamine and other neurotransmitters in your brain. Consuming coffee provides a short-term energy hit, which helps to inspire and fuel physical and mental performance.
Some studies have linked coffee consumption to heart health, with 3-5 cups per day associated with a 15% reduction in the risk of heart disease. There is also evidence that coffee helps to reduce the risk of stroke, with 3-4 cups per day associated with a 21% lower risk of stroke onset. Diabetes rates are also affected by coffee consumption. According to a review of 30 studies, each cup of coffee consumed per day was linked to a 6% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Along with the heart, coffee has positive links with the other most significant organ in the body - the brain. Coffee may have a positive influence on neurodegenerative disorders, including Parkinson's disease. In one study, not only did regular coffee consumption lower the risk of developing Parkinson's disease, but it also slowed the progression of Parkinson's disease over time. In addition, moderate coffee consumption may help to lower the risk of dementia and cognitive decline.
Along with helping to improve physical health outcomes, regular coffee consumption may help with depression and other mental health disorders. According to one review, each cup of coffee consumed per day was linked to an 8% lower risk of depression. In fact, moderation is not particularly important in this context, with another study showing greater benefits from drinking at least four cups of coffee per day compared to one.
Along with specific health conditions, coffee consumption has also been studied in relation to longevity. Coffee offers a multitude of health benefits, which can potentially impact a wide array of health conditions. In one comprehensive review, drinking 2-4 cups of coffee per day was linked with a lower risk of death, regardless of how it occurred. This study found benefits for everyone, regardless of demographics or specific risk factors like excessive weight and alcohol consumption.
How to Make Coffee Even Healthier
As you can see, coffee can be healthy when consumed in moderation along with a balanced diet. Like many of the best things in life, however, it's very easy to overindulge. If you want to enjoy coffee in a way that's healthy and sustainable, the following tips are a great place to start:
Enjoy in moderation
Coffee is best enjoyed in moderation. While more than 2-3 cups per day can have some beneficial effects, it can also be damaging. Excessive caffeine consumption can raise your blood pressure and increase your heart rate, and it can also lead to insomnia, headaches, and nausea. While the effects of caffeine differ widely based on things like weight and tolerance, it always pays to be careful.
If you're a serious coffee lover looking to maximise your health, it's important to avoid processed instant coffee. While instant coffee products offer many of the same health benefits, they have fewer antioxidants and more unwanted additives. For example, acrylamide is a potentially harmful chemical that forms when coffee beans are roasted, and instant coffee features way more of it.
One of the easiest and most effective ways to make coffee healthier is to avoid sugar. Coffee without sugar allows you to fully embrace the pure taste of the coffee beans, and it also means you consume less sugar. With most people in the Western world already consuming way too much sugar, it's important to cut down wherever you can.
If you want to avoid the chemicals linked with coffee cultivation, you should choose organic coffee products. Organic coffee is free of pesticides and artificial fertilisers, which are often used on the ground to boost harvest rates. Commercial coffee is grown in many developing parts of the world, including some nations with less than robust health regulations. Choosing organic coffee reduces the risk of harmful chemical ingestion.
Environmental and ethical considerations
While it's not directly related to health, more and more coffee consumers are thinking about environmental and ethical issues. The global coffee trade can be very problematic, from habitat destruction and unsustainable management practices to inferior workplace safety and conditions. Buying Fairtrade-certified coffee is the best way to ensure safe working conditions and improved terms of trade for farmers and workers across the world. Buying local products is another simple way to reduce your carbon footprint and support hard-working Australian farmers.
If you're looking for delicious, healthy, and organic coffee products, we have what you need. At Healthy Being, we support local coffee drinkers with organic Fairtrade products made right here in Australia. So check out our website today and enjoy free shipping options across Australia and worldwide delivery!