I didn’t start drinking coffee until around mid 2012 when a friend introduced me to it, over time it became a daily habit. However I recently decided to give up drinking coffee and am now what you could call ’20 days sober’ from the stuff. The reason for this being is that I have been constantly told by friends, family and work colleagues that it is bad for you, the fact is coffee makes you more productive so of course people assume that there must be a cost to you health, right? Well no wrong. During my sobriety however I decided to do some research. Back in the 1980s a few studies of caffeine came back with negative health results. These studies were widely republished and started a backlash against coffee but have since been disproven.
Now this is the important part – Caffeine is one of the most studied drugs ever and there are essentially no health problems for normal people ingesting normal amounts of the stuff. The benefits it provides are real and measurable.
Every day the world consumes 300 tonnes of caffeine – enough for one cup of coffee for every man, woman and child. The world’s largest buyer of coffee is, well no surprise, the United States. The US has to import nearly all of its coffee intake as the coffee trees from which caffeine is harvested will only grow at commercial levels between the tropic of cancer and the tropic of capricorn in an area called the coffee belt. The most enthusiastic coffee drinkers per capita however are, in increasing order, the Netherlands, Denmark, Iceland, Norway and, strangely enough, Finland, where they drink three times as much coffee a day as the average American. All of these countries are outside of the coffee belt and must import 100% of their caffeine supply.
To get this caffeine, first bees must pollinate the flowers of a coffee tree and these flowers develop into bright red berries. Unlike more cooperative domesticated plants, the coffee tree does not ripen all its berries at the same time so they need to be hand picked and sorted. Once picked, the coffee bean is removed from inside the berry. This young seedling of the tree is then dried, heated, ground and submerged in boiling water to get out the precious caffeine. It takes about 40 coffee beans to make one shot of espresso (thats a long process!). But why is caffeine in the coffee beans in the first place? The trees originally evolved caffeine for their own benefit. Caffeine is an insecticide that effectively paralyzes and/or kills bugs biting at the tree. Whether or not the insects go out experiencing the greatest caffeine high ever is not known (wouldn’t be the worst way to go). While caffeine is technically lethal, it’s adapted for 1g bugs, not human beings who are obviously a hell of a lot bigger.
To calculate the dose of caffeine you’ll need to ingest to have a 50% chance of death, take your mass in kilograms and multiply it by 150mg. Or in terms of coffee, for every kilogram of mass you have you need to drink one latte to snuff it. That’s a lot of coffee so it’s not surprising that there are no recorded deaths in healthy adults from this method and it’s doubtful that it’s even possible. Because, while you’re busy getting the coffee in, your body is busy getting it out by one way or another…
Poison though caffeine is, you do still develop addiction to the stuff. And it’s is a real physiological addiction not a wimpy psychological addition like people claim for videos games and the internet. But caffeine isn’t heroine – rapid withdrawal won’t kill you – it might make you cranky and give you a wicked headache (which to be honest I have never had) – but since caffeine releases dopamine to make you happy and it gets rid of headaches there’s really no reason to ever stop using it. And who would want to give up the stuff anyway? Caffeine is the world’s most used psychoactive drug – and with good reason it’s bloody brilliant. It increases concentration, decreases fatigue and gives you better memory. AND this isn’t just a placebo – these are real effects which have been replicated in a laboratory. Contrary to popular belief, drinking coffee isn’t a faustian bargain where the devil gives you the ability to work faster but in exchange makes your life shorter.
For normal, healthy humans there are no medical concerns. Coffee and the caffeine may even have medical benefits such as protection from cardiovascular disease, diabetes and Parkinson’s. Caffeine can even get rid of migraines, but the amount required and the and method of ingestion is… uncomfortable.
You know what else you can thank caffeine for? A little thing called the enlightenment. In the 1600s people drank more beer and gin than water. But with the introduction of coffee and tea, people switched from a depressant to a stimulant. It’s not surprising then that this time was an intellectual boom compared to earlier centuries. Ben Franklin and Edward Lloyd loved their coffee for the same reason that modern workers and students do. It’s invaluable for staying awake and concentrating. Coffee is the fuel of the modern world.
So with that all said I would like to announce I will be coming out of my ‘coffee retirement’ and stepping back into this oh so sweet world of pure delight.