In the 1800s Europe and America discovered a hot beverage called coffee. Ever since, coffee has…”bean” an integral part of today’s society.
Coffee is the product of percolating boiling water through the roasted seed grounds from a plant in the Coffee family, the Rubbiaceae (Roo-bee-eh-see-ee). In particular, one species, natively Ethiopian, grows the fruit from which about 85 percent of today’s coffee is brewed — Coffea arabica (Caw-fee-ah a-ray-bee-ca).
Coffea arabica makes ‘berry’ fruits — a botanist would call them ‘drupes’, the very same fruit type as cherries. Drupes have fleshy meat enclosing a pit, which is generally called the ‘coffee bean.’ Coffee doesn’t originate from the bean family, but no one would want to buy “roasted coffee pits.” Once picked, drying the drupe allows for easy removal of the outside of the fruit, retaining the coffee seed.
But the caffeinated seed is noxious to animals. Deterring animal digestion of seeds mean offspring have better chances of survival. Smaller animals can’t metabolize caffeine, and it is often fatal. Albeit, not all small animals die from caffeine intake image search “caffeine spider webs” and you’ll have a chuckle.
Being large animals, humans can benefit from the effects of caffeine. These benefits include neural stimulation and a clearer thought flow, increased coordination and decreased grogginess and lethargy. Perhaps you’ve noticed your writing and typing skills increase with a small amount of coffee, but overconsumption leads to poor coordination, over stimulation, and erratic thought flow.
For humans, at conservative amounts, caffeine is beneficial and has few (if any) negative impacts. Remember how your mother told you caffeine stunted your growth – that was a lie. She just didn’t want a hyperactive kid running circles around her. Yet, caffeine is lethal at around 1 gram, but that is far greater than the average ingestion.
If you are like me, that “alive” feeling doesn’t kick in until that delightful 2nd or 8th cup. I’ve come to rely on coffee for that extra boost in the morning and I’m not alone. Hundreds of thousands rely on the caffeinated seeds of Coffea arabica to lift them from the pre-8 a.m. zombie-stupor, making caffeine the most widely used psychoactive drug on the planet.
Nonetheless, coffee hasn’t always been wonderful; coffee has a dark history. Previously, coffee plantations in Central and South America caused anguish for many, especially indigenous peoples. Indeed, for anyone knowledgeable on Latin America, the demand for coffee oppressed thousands of Latin Americans and is a sad part of North American history. Fortunately, practices have been scrutinized and the production is more ethical and sustainable, in both human dignity and land stewardship.
To this day, many varieties are named after their region of origin: Colombian, Brazilian, Ethiopian, Arabian, Java – the list goes on with many derivations. But, chances are, whether you are drinking Highlander Grog or Sumatran Dark, you are likely consuming a caffeinated coffee concoction created from Coffea arabica.