Coffee, The Life-Giving Fluid

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cups of various kinds of coffee

America allegedly runs on coffee.  We have chains of fast food restaurants devoted to it. Early in the morning the zombie groan “coooffeee” is heard as its fans try to get some. It’s the life-giving fluid, and many of us love it.


Well, that business was originally a joke.  But lately a spate of scientific studies have told us that coffee is not dangerous in quantity, the way they used to say in the old days.  The Mayo Clinic, no less, tells us that 400mg of caffeine, or about 4 cups of brewed coffee a day, should be safe for adults’ hearts.

If you drink more than four 8-ounce cups a day, fear not.  Many of us get coffee in cups and mugs quite a bit larger than 8 ounces.  Turns out some of us handle the side effects better than others, but it takes more than you can drink to really harm you.

Early concerns about coffee causing high blood pressure and racing heartbeats turned out to be overblown.  Though the caffeine in coffee can temporarily raise blood pressure or speed up your heart, those effects wear off.  You don’t get stuck that way from it.

What can coffee do for you?  According to this Harvard health blog post, coffee has antioxidants that help lower the risk of certain cancers and other health problems, including cardiovascular disease.  Research is ongoing into other things the antioxidants in coffee can do.

Now the caveats

When you hit the drive-through for a fancy mocha with raspberry flavoring, extra cream and sugar, you can drive away with your calories and fat for a week.  Coffee as a treat like that might as well be baked.  Beverages aren’t free of calories, and the more stuff you have in it, the more fattening it is.  Those guys in lab coats are talking about coffee, not cream and sugar added.

So everything in moderation, right?

Absolutely.  Caffeine in coffee is a stimulant drug.  You can get it in pill form for long drives at night or cramming for exams.  It wires you up so you won’t sleep.  However, it isn’t much good for your thinking process.  Your thoughts tend to speed up but they don’t make more sense.  Some people get the shakes from too much caffeine too.  So when you see yourself having the jitters it’s time to switch to something without caffeine in it.

Caffeine also is habit-forming.  Some people, like me, get migraines when totally deprived of coffee.  I used to go visit my father, whose home did not feature coffee.  I took caffeine pills along to fend off headaches, because I was used to 3-4 mugs a day, and I hate soda.

Finally, if you have insomnia, do a quick caffeine audit.  How late is your last cup?   I found I was having my last one at suppertime and I couldn’t sleep till after midnight.  I cut out all coffee after noon and now can go to bed at 11 PM and sleep in a few minutes.  Pretty good for me!

Coffee culture

Coffee brings people together.  Every morning at the source of coffee in the office, people gather and trade reviews of last night’s TV shows and the latest gossip.  Going out for coffee, at least up here in rural New England, is a daily custom for many.  Women meet their friends and grab a booth in a restaurant, and retired men populate the counter at a friendly spot and trade stories over coffee.

Going visiting in my neck of the woods, you get offered coffee.  We have a drip machine that takes care of the average day’s supply for us, and a Keurig if there’s more needed on the fly.  The Keurig is just the thing since it allows a guest their choice of brew.

Coffee is served after services at church, so people will linger and visit. Coffee attracts people.  Just look at any airport Starbucks store.  They’re never not busy, even though the names of the coffee are foreign and you may not know what you’re ordering.  That must be part of the fun.

Coffee and the military

If it weren’t for coffee, our military would be a very different enterprise.  In addition to all the office workers, the military has a huge number of technical people who run on coffee.  In my experience with the Army, I occasionally drank so much of it at work that I would get beyond shaky to woozy.

Military coffee tasted like boiled boots.  No amount of creamer powder and sugar would help, so I drank it black.  Small wonder the side effects were strong!

One might say the reason for all that coffee was all the alcohol consumed during off-hours.  Can’t argue with that.  Wouldn’t even try.

Worlds of coffee

But the thing I loved about being in the Army was being stationed in Berlin so I could stand outside a German coffee shop and just smell it.  Or staying in a hotel in Europe and getting really good fresh-brewed coffee for breakfast.  Or being stationed in Monterey, California, where the local mall sold fine beans.

Coffee grows in volcanic soil, so it comes from some exotic places, like Hawaii, Jamaica, Central America, Sumatra and other volcanic and warm locales.  The beans come to us from all over the world and get roasted different ways to please different consumers.

Some people love the Cuban, espresso or Turkish style coffees that are very dark and strong and served in small cups.  Others like a medium roast, easy to dress up with cream and sugar.  Still others like high-technology cappuchino with the steamed milk added.  Some swear by mocha lattes with berry syrup.  There’s something for everybody.

What’s your favorite brew?


multiple cups of coffeeoutline of coffee cup drawn in beansFrench press, glass mug and coffee beans

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