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Coffee: Technically A Hot Bean Soup

There’s a soup that you drink every single day. It’s meant to be consumed hot, made from berries that originated near the Red Sea, and almost 1 billion people around the entire planet consume this soup every day.

Alright, I may have been a bit liberal with my definition of soup – but that’s not new for me, especially after that one time I made the argument that pina coladas should be classified as a soup, but that’s beside the point. What I’m talking about, of course, is coffee.

Today I wanted to take a little detour from strictly soup and go into the history and potential health benefits or hazards that lay in the deep, dark depths of our coffee mugs.

Aside from water and tea, coffee is the third-most consumed drink in the world. The economies of many countries like Brazil, Vietnam, and Colombia are supported by the worldwide addiction to coffee.

Coffee was first cultivated, as I mentioned above, around the Horn of Africa and the southern Arabic Peninsula in the 1400s, potentially being used even earlier in Ethiopia. Coffee’s name is disputed, but most people seem to agree that it comes from the Arabic word ‘quwwa’, which means ‘power’ or ‘energy’. Coffee was slow to take off on the Silk Road, but first captured the hearts of Muslims in Arabia. It became so popular that some Islamic religious leaders actually established a fatwa against coffee. However, the popularity of the energising drink could not be contained, and after a military victory in 1523 by the Ottomans in Vienna, coffee had reached Europe, slowly spreading to the other major European kingdoms over the next two centuries.

The colonisation of the Americas also gave coffee an explosion akin to the earlier Muslim embrace. South American climates proved perfect for coffee cultivation. Indeed, to this day, Brazil remains the largest coffee producer in the world. Interestingly, coffee’s popularity also increased in 1773, after the Boston Tea Party, when drinking British-imported tea was considered unpatriotic by American revolutionaries. Because of this, to this day coffee is more popular than tea in the United States.

Coffee is now the third-most consumed beverage in the world, but there is rarely a week that goes by without some kind of article popping up declaiming the health virtues or vices of coffee. Coffee has been touted both as good for your heart, and an addictive over-stimulant. It can apparently both increase your longevity and send you to an early grave. It is good for your heart, liver, and gut, but bad for your sleep, blood pressure, and teeth.

Too many different studies are out there about coffee, and there are even studies about the studies that wonder why there is such inconclusiveness when dealing with the health effects of coffee.

My perspective is that we know coffee is delicious, potentially good for your heart, but addictive and stimulating. Everything is good in moderation, which is why I try not to drink too much of it beyond the first hour or two of the morning. That is, unless the barista makes a really cute design in it – in which case, I’m hooked.

So… what’s your order?

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Tayla Blaire

Tayla Blaire is a South African writer, teacher, epicurean, and (most importantly) mother to all cats. Tayla has been thinking (and subsequently writing) about food since she was a tiny tot after her mother taught her that measuring ingredients was for the weak. If you’re interested to see what Tayla has whipped up recently, check out her Instagram profile @tayla.blaire to see the recipes that she has lovingly filmed in her very own too-small kitchen.

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