Coffee Facts: Stuff You Should Know About Your Daily Cup

Americans consume one-quarter of the earth’s coffee. With great caffeination comes great responsibility, so here’s some essential knowledge about our favorite legal drug.

Face it, it it weren’t for coffee, most of us would be unemployable. We count on a cup (or three) to jolt us out of our slug-like state in the morning and propel us to productivity. The average American drinks 2.1 cups of coffee a day. Think that’s a lot? The average New Yorker drinks seven times that much, according to Massive Health, maker of an app that keeps track of everything you consume and makes you feel terrible about that quart of Ben & Jerry’s you ate out of the carton.

Our coffee love began in the late 18th century, when ticked-off colonists threw a shipload of British tea into Boston harbor, effectively telling the Brits they could stick their taxes and their king up their bums. By the time the American Revolution started two years later, coffee had become the patriotic drink of choice, replacing that damn imperialist tea. Now we drink 25 percent of the planet’s coffee, even though we are just 4.4 percent of the planet’s people. Can you say “coffee junkies,” kids?

Coffee is good for you

It’s true, despite what your green-tea-drinking friends might say. Coffee lowers your risk of Type 2 diabetes, unless you are drinking lots of sugary lattes. It also lowers your risk of strokes, liver cancer and Alzheimer’s. It may slow the aging process and can reduce factors for depression and suicide. We might extrapolate un-scientifically and say that too little coffee can lead to depression. Anyone who has ever faced Monday morning without coffee can attest to it.

How much caffeine is too much? The Mayo Clinic says 400 mg per day is safe for adults. That means you can can safely drink about four cups of coffee (or 10 cans of cola or 16 cups of tea). For those who like maximum efficiency, you can get an entire day’s worth of caffeine in three double shots of espresso.

Coffee is grown in more than 50 countries

The list includes Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia, Ethiopia, Honduras, Costa Rica, Yemen and the good old U.S. of A. Each country’s coffee has a distinct flavor determined by its growing circumstances, including soil, altitude, rain conditions and light exposure. The length of time coffee beans are roasted impacts taste, too. There are four types of roasts: light, medium, medium dark and dark. Roasting cooks the caffeine out of the beans, so the darker the coffee, the less kick per cup.

There’s a venti-sized political problem with our favorite legal drug. Much of the world’s coffee is grown using agricultural techniques that damage the earth and business practices that exploit the farmers who grow it. Enter Fair Trade, a system trying to right those wrongs by guaranteeing farmers get a fair price for their beans, as long as they use organic growing methods and pay their workers a livable wage.

If you want coffee with all the taste but none of the human exploitation and environmental destruction, buy the kind with a Fair Trade label on the bag. Improve the world while getting your buzz. New Yorkers, you can improve the world seven times faster than the rest of us.

This post is getting long and I need a cup of coffee, so quickly, let’s cover a few points of wisdom and a few nuggets of trivia.

  • Caffeine has something in common with cocaine, pot and LSD: They’re all classified as psychoactive drugs. Really.
  • Avoid stale coffee: Store your beans in an airtight container in a dark, cool cabinet. Do not freeze coffee – taking it in and out every day will impart flavor-destroying moisture. The only time you should freeze beans is when you buy in massive quantities and need to store them for a long time.
  • Grounds are good: Don’t throw them out. Put coffee grounds in your composter and turn them into dirt. Or put grounds directly into the soil for acid-loving plants like blueberries, roses and azaleas. Do not put grounds on your houseplants, this will kill them. New Yorkers, if you do so and kill your houseplants seven times faster.
  • Monkey-poop coffee: Called kopi luwak, it’s made from coffee berries eaten and then defecated out by civets, Indonesian animals that look like a cross between a cat and a ferret. Yes, the coffee fruit goes in one end of the civet and comes out the other. The resulting excreted beans are roasted and sold for up to $600 a pound to coffee drinkers with more money than sense. It’s the most expensive coffee in the world, and it comes out of an animal’s ass. How stupid do kopi luwak growers think we are? It’s not like we chose a reality show star to be the leader of the free wor … oh, um … wait. Never mind.