For many people around the world, having the first cup of coffee of the day is a comforting and ritualistic experience. For others, it may be a necessity to jump start into high gear for the busy day ahead of them. Whatever the motives, the International Coffee Organization estimates that 1.4 billion cups of coffee are poured around the globe every day to the pleasure of coffee drinkers everywhere. As one of the most popular drinks in the world dating back centuries, coffee has had quite an interesting history riddled with curious characters, strange events, and creative methods of cultivation and production. Here are 10 fun facts that you probably did not know about coffee:
Several myths abound about the origins of coffee consumption. Many stories recount that the stimulating effects of coffee were supposedly discovered when Ethiopian shepherds noticed their goats eating coffee berries and subsequently becoming rather excited and lively, while others speak of an Ethiopian philosopher that noticed birds’ behaviour after eating coffee berries and discovered their properties after following suit. In any event, Africans soon began covering coffee berries in animal fat to eat as a flavourful energy boost.
- The earliest documented evidence of coffee cultivation and consumption comes from the mid-1400s in monasteries in Yemen, though it is thought to have migrated there from northern Africa. After Yemen, history tells us coffee spread across the Middle East and the Mediterranean, eventually reaching Asia and the Americas.
- The Finnish are the world’s greatest consumers of coffee. They drink a whopping 12 kilos of coffee per person, every year. They keep their coffee makers busy, surely.
- Americans dominate the largest proportion of the world’s coffee drinkers, consuming 45% of global coffee annually.
- The most expensive coffee available today is known as Luwak, or civet, coffee. It costs $160 per kilo and is produced in Indonesia. This specialty may burn a hole in your pocket, but it’s for a good reason. Luwak coffee is produced by processing the remains of the coffee beans after they have been eaten by a mongoose. Apparently the bacteria found in the digestive tract of the mongoose alter the coffee in a surprisingly tasty manner.
- Coffee trees prosper in a tropical, mid-highland climate – thus the coffee belt that straddles the equator.
- The popularity of coffee helped support and maintain the establishment of the slave trade throughout the Caribbean, along with its complementary crop sugar.
- “A cup of joe”, as coffee is often referenced throughout the U.S., is actually a term derived from the habits of American troops during World War II. G.I. Joes, as soldiers were often known thanks to the popular child’s toy, were huge coffee drinkers and quickly became known for being some of Europe’s best customers of the energetic drink.
- Relatedly, Americans abroad would often ask for an espresso with a small glass of hot water that they would then add to dilute the strong European coffee. Today, ordering an “Americano” across Europe will still get you the same combination of espresso and hot water.
- Multiple, massive studies have been conducted worldwide to understand how coffee drinking, whether heavy or light, affects our health. A recent study found that for those under 55 consuming more than 4 cups of coffee a day could be dangerous, especially for men. A study by The New England Journal of Medicine found the opposite results, however, concluding that having up to 6 cups of coffee a day might actually lower a person’s mortality rate. The American FDA has concluded, though, that coffee enemas, a cleansing method made popular in the 1920s that supposedly clears the system of more toxins than a basic saline enema, has been linked to multiple deaths and should never be performed without first warning the person of the potential dangerous side effects.