If you know everything there is to know about coffee, then you may know these – in which case, the post title would be wrong. But in any case, this is a list of 6 facts about coffee that the majority of people aren’t aware of. Knowing these things puts you in the upper echelons of coffee lovers, you are soon to be one of the enlightened ones. Well, maybe not – but there are some interesting facts here nonetheless:
1. Franz George Golschitzy – The Father of Coffee in Europe.
Up until the late 1600s, coffee probably had found it’s way into Europe by the way of explorers and traders bringing samples, but as far as we know there were no coffee houses or coffee trading of any kind going on anywhere in Europe until then.
The Ottoman Empire was in the process of conquering Europe in the late 1600’s, they suffered a defeat in Vienna to King John III of Poland, due to a guy called Franz George Kolschitzky who spoke seven languages and disguised himself as a Turkish officer in order to get to the Polish armies and let them know that Vienna was under siege.
When the Turkish forces left, they left everything behind including coffee. No one knew what to do with it, except Franz who had spent time in the Middle East. Legend has it that he took the sacks of coffee, and opened the first coffee house in Europe, in Schlossergass, Vienna, called Hof zur Blauen Flasche, which means “The House Under The Blue Bottle” – which is where Blue Bottle Coffee got their name.
We know from historical documents that Franz existed, spoke several languages, and played a crucial role in the battle of Vienna. In terms of the story of him going from there to opening the first European coffee shop, it’s difficult for anyone to separate legend from historical fact, even historians can’t agree, however it is known that he was at least one of the first to obtain a licence to serve coffee in Vienna. Franz is considered a hero in Vienna, there is a statue of him on the street named after him, and they used to have celebrations every October there in his honour, up until fairly recently.
2: Coffee contains over a thousand different compounds!
How can such a tiny coffee bean contain so many different things?? They must be tiny! 😉
Nature amazes me. It’s one thing that such an amazing thing as Caffeine would be found in side a seed hidden inside a cherry, which just so happens to taste amazing when roasted, ground and brewed. But the fact that all these other incredible natural chemicals are also found in the coffee berry seed, is just bizarre when you consider it – I mean, why?
I can understand why the flesh of the cherry would be appealing to animals in order to ensure that the seed is swallowed, taken away and, erm, ‘planted’ ;-), but what is the purpose of the bean itself containing all of these amazing compounds given that it’s probably safe to assume that most of them wouldn’t be released into the blood stream of the animal via digestion? Goats or some other animal with molars for chewing would I suppose chew up the seed too maybe, in which case caffeine and at least some of the other compounds would probably make their way into the system of the animal munching on them – but why would that be the design of nature given that this would render the seed useless?
It’s as if somehow nature designed the coffee beans specifically for us humans to enjoy in coffee!!
If you want to know all of the different chemicals found in coffee, the only book I can find which lists them all is “Coffee: Volume 1, Chemistry” by Ronald James Clark, which claims to list every single compound found in coffee.
I would think this would be a particularly interesting thing to know for Baristas, coffee roasters, and other coffee professionals, for most of us though the price tag of £72 probably isn’t really justified – although come to think of it, if we drink a lot of coffee is this too much to spend in order to know exactly what in in what we’re drinking? Probably 😉
3: A coffee bean isn’t a bean at all.
To be fair, if you’ve read some of my other posts such as the difference between instant coffee and filter coffee, then you may know this already, and if you’re a Barista or coffee roaster, or involved in the coffee business then of course you’ll know this, and probably all of the others come to think of it, I didn’t write this with coffee experts in mind ;-), I wouldn’t assume to know more about coffee than a coffee pro such as a barista or roaster.
Coffee “beans” are seeds of the coffee cherry, but they’re not actually beans at all.
All beans are seeds, but not all seed are beans. To be a bean, the seed has to be a member of the bean family (Fabaceae, Leguminosae or Papilionaceae) and this isn’t the case with coffee seeds.
Many people also don’t realise that except with “pea-berries”, there are two seeds (coffee beans) in each coffee cherry. They look more like peanuts than anything else I think, when they’re removed from the skin and the flesh.
4: Humans started consuming coffee as a food, not a drink.
It is believed that early East African tribes are the first people to have consumed coffee, and that they did so by mixing coffee cherries with animal fat to make a kind of coffee / fat energy ball! This is basically the worlds first protein power bar ;-).
It’s thought that the tribes people would have stored these balls and eaten them when they wanted an energy boost, for instance maybe before going hunting. It wasn’t until around 1000 A.D that humans began to process coffee so that it could be enjoyed as a drink, apparently, although as with anything like this, I always wonder how they really know that, and how much of it is fact and how much is theory.
In any case I think it’s safe to assume that we would have eaten coffee before drinking it. It’s a nice looking red berry, it’s not poisonous, most of them I believe have a taste that isn’t unpleasant as long as they’re picked when ripe, and if they’re just sucked and then swallowed rather than chewing them which can bring out a bitter taste.
I’m not actually sure how much I buy into this theory of coffee fat balls though. I know that green coffee bean extract is thought of as a super food, so eating the green coffee seeds would make sense, but if they were putting whole cherries into a fat ball, wouldn’t it be hard to eat them given that you’d be munching on rock solid seeds that would probably bust your teeth? Maybe they swallowed them, but then would they get anything from the bean that way? Answers on a post card ;-).
5: The world’s first ever webcam was a coffee-cam.
In the “Trojan room” computer lab in the University of Cambridge, there was a pot of coffee which was viewed by millions of people all around the world – this was the first ever webcam, and the only thing it showed, was a pot of coffee… Fair enough.
I’m not sure whether there was any reason for creating this webcam, other than because they could. Maybe there was a reason, maybe they wanted to keep track of who was drinking the most coffee?
6: Coffee Can Prevent Accidents.
We’ve all seen the signs ‘Tiredness can kill, take a break!’, and it seems a bit over the top, but actually it is believed that around 500 road deaths per year are a result of tiredness.
While stopping & closing your eyes for a while usually makes us feel more alert, studies have actually shown that a short nap after drinking a cup of coffee or other caffeinated drink, does actually increase your state of alertness after the nap as opposed to if you had the nap without the caffeine.
It’s because of something in the body called Adenosine, which slows down nerve cell activity and makes us feel drowsy. Researchers believe that the nap naturally clears the Adenosine from cells, allowing caffeine to get in and lock on to receptors more effectively than if there were more Adenosine molecules still locked in to these cells.
So it’s not a myth, scientifically it makes sense that pulling into a service station and having a coffee then 20 mins of shut eye does actually increase alertness, reduce drowsiness & probably does prevent accidents!
So there you go, hopefully you’ve learned something new today about coffee :-).
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