Friday, January 17, 2014
Musings on Coffee
As a youngster, I was allowed to drink tea, but not coffee. Back in 'those days', the general notion was that, among other ill effects, coffee would stunt the growth of a young child. In fact, in the early twentieth century, cereal Tycoon C. W. Post put out a major ad campaign to discourage children from drinking coffee. Some of the advertising Post sponsored claimed that drinking coffee resulted in the undernourishment of children, as it crowded milk out of their diets. Before you start nodding your head at how wise Mr. Post was, you should know that the same advertisements proclaimed that coffee 'robs children of their rosy cheeks' and 'lessens their resistance to disease'. Post even claimed that a famous research institute had determined that drinking coffee resulted in lower grades for children. There was a popular ad in 1933 which showed an empty classroom, save for one small child with his head on his desk. The text said "Held back by coffee... this boy never had a chance."
Now admit it .. you're reading this, scratching your head, trying to figure out why a cereal tycoon would care about coffee consumption. Well here's your answer, boys and girls... years before Mr. Post began selling Grape Nuts, he sold Postum, a caffeine-free coffee substitute. He wasn't merely discouraging coffee consumption, he was advocating that people replace their coffee with Postum!
Today, much of the coffee that is consumed is decaffeinated. But interestingly enough, studies are now showing that caffeine is not the villain it was once thought to be, and the consumption of caffeine has even been shown to have some health benefits... reducing the risk of certain illnesses and diseases, like diabetes, Parkinson's disease, gallstones, and even Alzheimer's.
But coffee is about so much more than just caffeine. After all, without coffee, what would you drink during your coffee break? What would you order at a coffee shop? How would you make coffee cake? What would we do with all those unused coffee beans?
Have no fear, coffee die-hards, coffee is here to stay. Recent studies show that, among US coffee drinkers, the average consumption is 3 cups per day. That sounds a bit low to me, but what do I know?
But this information did make me wonder... how does this compare to the rest of the world? Which country consumes the most coffee? I came up with several guesses, including Turkey (wrong) and Brazil (wrong again)... turns out that the Finns drink more coffee per capita, than anywhere else in the world. The average Finn actually drinks 3 times as much coffee as the average American. Wow. 9 cups a day. 9 cups a day of anything, is a lot... those Finns must be a thirsty bunch!
In my wanderings, I found a couple of other interesting things about coffee. In 1674, a group of women in London published a pamphlet entitled "The Women's Petition Against Coffee". The pamphlet spoke of the 'debilitating effects' of this beverage, asserting that it rendered their men... ahem... let's just say it alluded to performance issues. The Petition had no effect, so I can only assume that the coffee did not have the alleged affect.
And finally, some of you may have heard reports that NASA conducted a study in which various drugs - including caffeine - were administered to spiders and scientists then studied the webs that those spiders spun. This may or may not be true, but I didn't bother to check into it because, frankly, with the possible exception of Peter Parker, I'm not sure why anyone would care about the impact of caffeine on spiders. (See note below, re: image)
You may be wondering why I'm musing about coffee, when you thought I only drank tea. Well, I'm trying to show how open-minded I can be. Just because I don't like coffee, doesn't mean I can't think about it. But as it happens, you're right. For me, the beverage will always be tea. A cup of Typhoo with a bit of lemon, please.
Note Imagine a spider web here, with spiderman in the middle. I tried to find one to insert, but couldn't find anything that wouldn't run afoul of copyright laws. So you're on your own!