O, Coffee. Is There Nothing You Can’t Do?

O, Coffee. Is There Nothing You Can’t Do?

Coffee has been a frequent subject of scrutiny by the medical community… perhaps because it’s so widely consumed, yet offers no apparent nutritive value. Or, maybe doctors are just looking for a really good cup of coffee.

Coffee & Health: More Benefits, Still

Coffee & Health: More Benefits, Still

Daily Coffee May Protect the Brain. New research suggests coffee may cut the risk of dementia by blocking the damage cholesterol can inflict on the body. Coffee had already been linked to a lower risk of Alzheimer’s Disease, and –according to the BBC– a study by a US team for the Journal of Neuroinflammation may explain why. “Caffeine appears to block several of the disruptive effects of cholesterol that make the blood-brain barrier leaky,” said Dr Jonathan Geiger, who led the study. “High levels of cholesterol are a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, perhaps by compromising the protective nature of the blood brain barrier. “Caffeine is a safe and readily available drug and its ability to stabilise the blood brain barrier means it could have an important part to play in therapies against neurological disorders.” And while we’re at it: Caffeine may help protect memory in women Coffee is tied to a lower risk of Parkinson’s Coffee is linked to a lower risk of Diabetes Coffee drinking is related to a lower risk of Liver Cancer. Drink...
Where Are the Great Good Places?

Where Are the Great Good Places?

In a coffee shop, and with her infant daughter snoozing at her elbow, a single mom — recently divorced, and struggling to make ends meet — writes a story about a boy wizard and an enchanted school. She writes in a coffee shop not for inspiration, but because she doesn’t have money enough to heat her apartment. Her story, of course, the book Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone; the single mom, JK Rowling. I’m given to understand both mom and daughter are doing rather well, these days. Rowling wasn’t the first author to take to the local coffee house — whether for warmth, or inspiration. Voltaire was an early coffee house patron, and he’s said to have tossed back between 50 and 72 cups a day (straying closer than most of us would dare to a lethal dose of caffeine) while writing works such as his fittingly frenzied Candide and Merope and his scathing Letters on the English. It was a coffee house called Tillyard’s that was the unofficial home of The Royal Society — a clubby bunch who lunched and drank coffee and argued about alchemy — and ultimately published the collected works of their chair, one Isaac Newton. And in Austria you may be hard-pressed to find a coffee house that *doesn’t* boast of an author, poet or playwright who sat at that very table. Given what passes for coffee house culture today, however, it’s remarkable that Rowling was able to pen a paragraph or two, much less a book empire. For all the lofty talk of the Third Place your chances of finding a Great,...
Roasted ’til the Bitter End

Roasted ’til the Bitter End

Science Daily reports that chemists have identified those chemical compounds largely responsible for coffee’s bitterness. More, their findings suggest that most of the bitterness is introduced during coffee roasting. “Everybody thinks that caffeine is the main bitter compound in coffee, but that’s definitely not the case,” says study leader Thomas Hofmann, Ph.D., a professor of food chemistry and molecular sensory science at the Technical University of Munich in Germany. Only 15 percent of java’s perceived bitterness is due to caffeine, he estimates, noting that caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee both have similar bitterness qualities. “Roasting is the key factor driving bitter taste in coffee beans. So the stronger you roast the coffee, the more harsh it tends to get…” This isn’t news to anyone who’s roasted coffee that they know to be exceptional, and ended up with something that could grow hair on a wildebeest’s chest. (And yes, that includes me. Er… as the roaster, not the wildebeest.) The bit that leaves me scratching my head, however, is this: “We’ve known for some time that the chlorogenic acid lactones are present in coffee, but their role as a source of bitterness was not known until now,” Hofmann says. I have a number of books on coffee — books that have been popular references for years — that, I believe, speak at some length to the links between chlorogenic acids and bitterness. Maybe I’m missing something here. Or maybe there’s more to come still from the...

Natural Decaf (Really!) — One Step Closer to Market

Coffee researchers in Ethiopia have started planting seedlings of a naturally low-in-caffeine coffee varietal that was found growing in the wild three years ago. Apparently the dust-up that followed that discovery — a pissing match between the Brazilian coffee researcher who “found” the plants and the government of Ethiopia which claimed the plants were taken without permission — has been settled. “Coffee research centres are in the process of planting seedlings of natural coffee with low caffeine varieties, to enable Ethiopia to supply the world market within the shortest possible time,” said Abera Deressa, State Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development. Don’t step out line for the processed stuff just yet, decaf fans. It’ll still be four years before this planting is mature enough to offer any potential for commercial sale… and even then, there’s still the matter of whether it will taste good. Speaking of which, Agriculture Minister Deressa further used the occasion to urge researchers to develop coffees with higher yields: “Although Ethiopia is home to arabica coffee with high generic diversity, the national average yield has not exceeded five to six quintals per hectare, which is lower than in other coffee producing countries,” he said. Crap… Um… Minister? Dude? We’ve been there. Done that. Planting varietals that boost coffee yields has always proved a disaster. Every. Single. Time. Plant your fancy decaf coffee. We’re totally cool with that. Hey, it might even sell! But leave the heirloom varietals alone, okay? The world wants quality coffee and Ethiopia knows how to deliver. Don’t mess with...

For the Price of a Cup of Coffee

It’s the kind of thing you can almost set your watch by. No, not Old Faithful… but the slow-news-day, non-story that laments how much we’re spending on our (thrice) daily fix of caffeine, courtesy the corner coffee shop. This time out its ABC’s Chicago affiliate taking a whack with Coffee Crazed, a hard-hitting piece that dares to uncover… how much we’re really spending for our caffeine addiction. Elizabeth Grandberry works in the Loop and visits her Starbucks about five times a week, spending anywhere from $3 to $5 each time. “It used to be unheard of to spend more than a dollar for coffee,” said Grandberry. It used to be unheard of to spend more than a nickel for a candy bar (back in the days when we could eat them without guilt) or thirteen cents for a postage stamp. It was similarly unheard of to spend thirty-nine cents on a loaf of bread, or a buck a gallon for gas. Surely, ABC, you can do better than this? Don’t you have, like, a financial expert that could put this all in perspective? Oh, why yes. Yes, you do… Financial experts say that money spent on multiple coffee runs could turn into a small investment. “Say you’re spending $4 a day every workday, that’s $80 a month times 12 months a year. That’s almost $1,000 a year,” said Christine Benz, Morningstar. Why… that’d buy a couple pair of shoes for well-heeled Chicagoans. Maybe three if they’re on sale! Really, if we’re going to talk about the opportunity cost of our caffeine fix, why don’t we think big? What could...
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