Whether you’re pouring a spoonful into hot water, creating it yourself from scratch or picking it up at your nearest Starbucks, coffee is a massively important of getting through the modern day. If you’re anything like me, you won’t be able to function properly until you’ve had a liberal dose of the beans in the morning, and its smell, taste and versatility make it truly unique in the world of food.
You probably know a bit about the coffee bean, or about the various ways your cup of joe can be prepared. But how much do you really know about your cup of coffee? Here are some pretty curious facts about coffee that will blow your mind, just as sure as you burn your tongue on that delicious morning elixir.
1. What you think as a coffee bean is actually just a seed
Although we refer to them as coffee beans, coffee is technically a stone fruit, like a plum, peach or avocado. Coffee fruits, or ‘coffee berries’, look a lot like berries, where two seeds sit in the center of the fruit, flat sides touching. Those, my friend, are your coffee beans. Sometimes, there will be one seed instead of two, and if you were to roast the seeds of this ‘peaberry’, you’d get a super flavorful coffee.
2. We can thank frisky goats for the discovery of coffee
I don’t know about you, but I generally don’t think about goats having sex when I think of massive, world-changing discoveries. But if not for our favorite stubborn farmyard animal, we may not have coffee at all. Legend has it that shepherds in Ethiopia first noticed the effects of caffeine in goats, who often ate coffee berries and would start to dance around and… get frisky.
3. Initially, coffee was a food instead of a drink
Once coffee was discovered, it was only a matter of time before humankind put them to good effect, but it took a little bit of time before we got to the hot brew we know and love. First, we had coffee energy balls; African tribes would mix ground coffee berries with fat, creating little Malteser-sized balls. Ideal for getting a little energy boost when they needed it most.
4. All the coffee in the world is grown in a very specific place
If you look at a map of the world, you’ll notice three lines that run laterally through the various continents around the globe. The middle line, of course, is the Equator; but the two lines either side of it are the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. Known as the ‘Coffe Belt’, all the coffee in the world is grown between these two lines. The only US state which falls in this area is Hawaii, and wouldn’t you know it: that’s the only state that grows coffee.
5. Coffee was banned in England for a while
Typically, we think of the British as being more tea drinkers than coffee lovers, but for a while in the 17th century, you couldn’t get coffee (or any hot drink) at all. Back in 1675, coffee was outlawed by King Charles II, who banned coffeehouses as he believed that was where his enemies would meet to conspire against him. Not only did he ban coffeehouses, but chocolate, sherbet and even tea were banned under the King’s rule.
6. George Washington invented instant coffee
No, not that George Washington. In 1906, a Belgium-born inventor by the very same name as the first President of the United States was a cattle rancher out in Guatemala, when he came across an inventive new way to prepare coffee that didn’t need an extensive brewing process. Soon after, he moved to New York City to improve his invention, and we can thank him for inventing instant coffee as we know it. Interestingly, he also had a very brief run in the 1920 Presidential election. Thank goodness he pulled out; that would have been very confusing.
7. Coffee is the second-most traded commodity on Earth
If not for the near ubiquity of oil in our trade deals, coffee would be the most important thing we buy and sell. Coffee berries are picked, dried, before stripped down to little more than a little green bean. These beans are then shipped, before being roasted at around 500 °F. After that roasting, the beans will ‘pop’ and double in size, before popping again. That second ‘pop’ means that the coffee beans are ready for consumption.
8. Americano coffee was invented during the Second World War
Back in the early 1940s, American soldiers were doing their best to fight the good fight, in order to defeat Hitler and the rest of the Axis forces. In order to stay alert, US troops would drink coffee; but they found the taste was too strong for their liking. So, they diluted their coffee with hot water, and thus, the Americano was born. WWII also where the phrase “cup of joe” comes from; American servicemen (aka GI Joes) were notorious for being massive coffee drinkers. Go figure.
9. This is how caffeine works in your brain
So how exactly does coffee get you going in the morning? Long story short, there’s a chemical in your brain known as adenosine, which responds to certain types of receptor. When adenosine meets this receptor, you get drowsy, but caffeine stops adenosine from combining with this receptor by combining with the adenosine. This is all picked up by your pituitary gland, which reacts by telling your adrenal gland to produce more adrenaline, giving you a timely boost. In addition to that, coffee also helps to boost dopamine levels in your brain, helping you to improve your mood at the same time.
Well, wasn’t this educational? No matter what time it is wherever you are in the world, why not celebrate this wonderful roasted seed by making a cup of coffee right now? If it’s bedtime at the moment, then a decaf will do just as well.