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The Healing Powers of CoffeeA Complete Guide to Nature's Surprising Superfood
By CAL OREY
KENSINGTON BOOKSCopyright © 2012 Cal Orey
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Power of Coffee
Ah! How sweet coffee tastes! Lovelier than a thousand kisses, sweeter far than muscatel wine! —J. S. Bach, "Coffee Cantata"
More than half a century ago, I was born in a Brazilian villa sitting upon a lush green coffee tree plantation. My mother and father were third-generation migrant coffee roasters. So, I grew up in an atmosphere of a tropical delight. Playing amid the magic of coffee trees with white flowers, red berries, and green beans to cups of java was part of my Coffee World. My father, Jack, from Italy, was a hard worker out in the field overseeing the coffee workers; and my mother, Patricia, with Spanish roots, ran a charming coffee café. That is my fantasy.
In the real world as a little girl (with a big imagination) I didn't live in Brazil, nor was I raised surrounded by coffee trees (actually an evergreen shrub or plant). Back in the fifties, I was born in a suburban neighborhood in San Jose, California—a place where coffee was bought in a can at the store and percolated in an electric coffeepot. My life as I knew it was simple amid houses with white picket fences, sidewalks, and planted shrubs and flowers. It came with two parents—my father was Scottish, my mother Irish Catholic—two siblings, a dog and cat, and the music of the ice-cream man and milk bottles delivered on our doorstep. In our house there was a European-style round table, wall oven, dishwasher, and salmon-colored countertops. I was familiar with the aluminum coffeepot—a constant in my parents' world. It created a strong, familiar coffee aroma wafting into my bedroom seven days a week, including Sundays, the day I went to church.
One fall day, during the priest's sermon, I, a seven-year-old kid, was desperately trying to stay awake. My mother whispered, "Sit up," and nudged my arm. The words "ice cream" were my mantra to help pass the grueling prayers in Latin. After Holy Communion we were released and my mom treated me and my siblings to a local ice-cream parlor.
She ordered a large cup of hot, black coffee (not the kind she served to our priest when he came to dinner). My first coffee experience was in the form of ice cream. Since it was a flavor for grown-ups, I felt like I was entering the land of forbidden fruit. The cold, creamy coffee ice cream was bittersweet. The flavor intrigued me. My taste buds didn't love it; in my mind I liked it. This event began a Sunday ritual. I was hooked on coffee ice cream (maybe it was the caffeine), which ignited my journey into Coffee World.
These days, coffee has a place in my grown-up life as I know it. I wasn't raised on a coffee plantation, but coffee did have a way of permeating its way into my run-of-the-mill life in suburbia—a place where it looked perfect but it was a place from which I yearned to escape to an exciting world. And I got a taste of coffee and its healing powers throughout the years of growing up and blossoming like a young coffee plant with potential to branch out and away from its farm.
Today, I sit here in my mountain cabin, like a coffee tree on a high mountain elevation, and I feel the spirit of the fruitful plant as I work on The Healing Powers of Coffee. My kitchen is chock-full of coffees—all kinds—as I scrutinize each one like it is a new, exotic fish in an aquarium. I am discovering the powers of coffee, and a world I've called Coffee World that I want to share with you.
Java Jolt: Nature's Surprise
As legend has it, nature's amazing coffee tree—a member of the Rubiaceae family (genus Coffea)—was first discovered in Ethiopia. Its magical healing powers made eyes open up in Arabia. Then, coffee via man made its journey from country to country, including Turkey, North Africa, and Persia, southern India, and the Balkan states, into Europe, and eventually the United States. As time passed, coffee had made its place throughout the world. And nature's miracle brew continues to surprise people with its plethora of healing virtues.
The first coffee bean (among Turkish rugs and silks) was noted in 1615 in the trade center of Venice. When Pope Clement VIII tasted the coffee, he described it as "heavenly." This declaration upset Italian Christian leaders who claimed it to be "satanic." So, the devil's brew continued to make a controversial presence from the past into even the present day.
Meanwhile, coffee lovers can and do enjoy a variety of coffee beverages—from a simple mug of American roast and espresso-based drinks, such as a cappuccino or latte enriched with milk, to flavored coffees and special blends from regions around the world.
Coffee Plants in a Bean Shell
Welcome to the coffee plant, a member of the Rubiaceae family (genus Coffea). Technically speaking, the three most popular species of coffee grown commercially are arabica, robusta, and liberica (similar to robusta). Coffee drinkers, about 75 percent, take to arabica, which is mild, aromatic, and has less caffeine than robusta. The other 25 percent drink robusta (not as high quality as arabica), which is intense and bitter tasting but boasts more caffeine power. Its main use is for its role in tasty coffee blends, espresso, and instant coffees that we turn to for convenience.
Within the genus, the National Coffee Association of U.S.A., Inc., notes the fact that there are over 500 genera and a whopping 6,000 species of tropical trees and shrubs; and coffee plants can range from small shrubs to tall trees, which grow around the globe.
Making the Grade of Coffee
Brewing coffee, like harvesting its trees, is a learned art, and knowing the grades of coffee, like chocolate, can help you to grade your cup of java's quality, which varies by country, bean size, bean density, defects, growing altitude, and taste. Here are some decoded "grades" to help you get a handle on terms so you'll understand what's inside a coffee bag.
AA: Refers to a specific, larger than normal bean size. AA+ refers to coffee beans AA or larger. The term AA is used as a coffee quality grade, which can vary from coffee bean size and flavor.
Altura: Means "height" in Spanish and is used to describe high-grown, or mountain-grown, coffee.
Excelso: Used mostly in grading Colombian coffee. Excelso beans are large, but a bit smaller than Supremo coffee beans.
Hard/Strictly Bean: Refers to coffee grown at altitudes 4,000 to 4,500 feet above sea level. The taste of high-grown beans makes them more desirable and expensive than coffees grown at lower elevations.
Strictly Hard Bean: Coffee grown at altitudes higher than 4,500 feet above sea level.
Supremo: Used mostly as a coffee-grading term in Colombia. Supremo coffee beans are slightly larger than Excelso beans.
A TASTE OF FOUR ROASTS
While the process of seed to cup is time consuming, it doesn't go unappreciated. Like more than 50 percent of American households, you may have coffee in your kitchen cupboard but can't tell the difference between a light and dark roast.
There are four basic color categories—light, medium, medium-dark, and dark—for both your health and taste. A debate continues between scientists about whether dark or medium roast contains the most antioxidant power. (For more light on this topic, refer to chapter 4, "Where Are the Secret Ingredients?")
The Health Buzz about Joe
Not only are there different roasts of coffee to savor, but there are a wide variety of blends and different ways to prepare it. Coffees put to use solo or in drinks are making the news around the world and are in demand from fast-food drive-thrus to five-star restaurants, health spas, beauty salons, businesses, and coffeehouses. (Refer to chapter 2, "An Awakening of Java.")
Coffee is not just a beverage to wake you up in the morning or help you pull an all-nighter at college or work. It's an ancient medicine that has finally been getting kudos from the medical world because it may help lower the risk of developing conditions from heart disease to cancers and diabetes and even prevent conditions from gallstones to dental caries. Coffee is also touted to help stoke your metabolism, which can help take off unwanted pounds and body fat.
Top scientists and medical doctors know coffee health studies show this superfood contains the same—and even more—disease-fighting antioxidant compounds that are found in fruits and vegetables, which fight heart disease, cancers, diabetes, and obesity, four problems in the United States and around the globe.
Drs. Sanjiv Chopra and Alan Lotvin, authors of Doctor Chopra Says: Medical Facts and Myths Everyone Should Know, discuss coffee and call it a "lifesaver": "If you're like most people, coffee can be very beneficial for you. And more coffee is even better for you. Coffee has been shown to reduce the incidence of several serious diseases."
Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., renowned author of The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth: The Surprising, Unbiased Truth About What You Should Eat and Why, also praises coffee in his book: "If you're surprised to find coffee on the list of the world's healthiest foods, you're not alone. But when coffee showed up on a couple of my experts' top ten lists, I started really looking at the research and quickly realized that coffee was actually pretty darn good for you."
While most people enjoy a coffee for its jolt of caffeine power, which acts as a stimulant, back in 2005, chemistry professor Joe A. Vinson, Ph.D., and his team of researchers at the University of Scranton, Pennsylvania, analyzed the antioxidant content of dozens of foods, including vegetables, fruits, nuts, spices, and oils. They found that coffee is the number one source of antioxidants in the U.S. diet. And this mind-blowing discovery is just one sobering finding of coffee's perks.
Most medical doctors and nutritionists I spoke with are aware of the healthful compounds in coffee. Yet, while coffee is not 100 percent perfect, its "good food" reputation keeps on percolating in the science world and outweighs the "bad food" rap.
THE COFFEE LOVER'S LEXICON
Here are some other familiar coffee-related words that come up often in Coffee World and I'd like to introduce you to each one—and you'll get to know them better in upcoming chapters.
Eye-Opening Coffee Tidbits
Since the process of bean to cup goes through an amazing experience to give mankind coffee's healing powers, it makes sense to provide some eye-opening coffee facts revealing its wow factor. Take a look at these fascinating factoids that'll show you its strong jolt of power around the globe.
1. Coffee is the second-most-traded product in the world (after petroleum).
2. Brazil, the world's largest coffee-producing nation, is responsible for 30 to 40 percent of the total world output.
3. It takes five years for a coffee tree to reach maturity. The average annual yield from one tree is the equivalent of one pound of roasted coffee.
4. Twenty-seven percent of U.S. coffee drinkers add a sweetener to their coffee. This compares to 43 percent of German drinkers who add a sweetener.
5. Thirty-five percent of coffee drinkers prefer black coffee; 65 percent prefer to add cream and/or sugar.
6. Women say that drinking coffee "is a good way to relax," while men indicate that coffee "helps them get the job done."
7. Coffee beans are actually berries. Coffee's botanical classification as a fruit helps explain its high level of health antioxidants.
8. All coffee is grown within 1,000 miles of the equator, from the Tropic of Cancer in the north to the Tropic of Capricorn in the south.
9. To make a roasted pound of coffee it takes around 2,000 handpicked Arabica coffee cherries. With two beans per cherry, this means around 4,000 beans are in a single pound of coffee.
10. Coffee grows in more than 50 countries, and Hawaii is the only coffee-producing state.
(Courtesy: The Oldways Conference on Refreshingly Good News for Coffee Lovers, New York, NY 2006; The Roast and Post Coffee Company; real coffee.co.uk.)
It's not rocket science to get that your favorite coffee, from tree to cup, is part of a painstaking process and deserves its ranking as a prized commodity—and a superfood (a food that provides health benefits) for people like you and me.
Here is a recipe that is both healthful and energizing and you can brew it without the help of a barista. Then, sit back and sip your beverage as you come with me back into ancient times and a present-day exciting Jurassic Park type of Coffee World that'll wow you and keep you on edge with its giant surprises.
A Cup Full of Perks
Research, especially in the past decade, shows that quality coffees, both regular and decaf, which are derived from a plant that produces the beans for coffee around the globe, may help you to: lower your risk of heart disease; stave off diabetes; lower the risk of developing cancer; prevent Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease; slow the aging process; and add years to your life.
In this book, I will show you how using coffee (teamed with other superfoods) no longer deserves a bad rap. But note, it is a wide Coffee World, and knowing which type, how much, when, and why to indulge in the magical beans is key to reaping the benefits of one of the healthiest foods in the world.
You can also get your daily brew from cooking and baking with coffee. I've included dozens of recipes to wake up your palate and to help nourish your body, mind, and spirit. And coffee infused in candy, ice cream, cosmetics, candles, and beauty products—and its household uses—will enlighten you, too, with its versatile virtues.
So, pour another cup of coffee—and read on. It's time to get a real taste of the magical beans. Take a fresh look at your everyday coffee lover's findings, from yesteryear and today—and discover exactly why and how this high-octane stuff is one of the world's most powerful and delicious medicines.
Chapter TwoAn Awakening of Java
Coffee is the common man's gold, and like gold, it brings to every person the feeling of luxury and nobility. —Sheik Abd-al-Kadir
So while churchgoing had its coffee perks for me as a kid with a restless nature, I now get why monks chewed coffee beans to get through long bouts of prayer. During my grade school years the aroma of coffee awoke me every morning. My parents would rise at 6:00 A.M. five days a week, like the Groundhog Day film—repeating the same day as they'd rush to get ready for work and look forward to the 10- to 20-minute coffee break.
In the fifties, America's workplaces were changing and giving workers a break, so to speak. Lunchrooms in office buildings (like my parents worked at) and factories (like my next-door neighbor went to) were part of the work drill. History tells it that The American Coffee Bureau saw a chance to market its coffee and started a campaign with a slogan: "Give Yourself a Coffee Break—Get What Coffee Gives You." And this spawned the coffee break, giving hardworking Americans time out to recharge during the daily grind.
One Monday morning, warm and cozy in bed during a winter storm, I faked sick and took a coffee break day. When I was home alone, I made a coffee concoction from the leftover brew in the coffee percolator on the kitchen countertop. I poured a large copper mug full of java spiked with whole milk and table sugar. I watched Julia Child on The French Chef, and coffee commercials—a husband unhappy with his wife's coffee greeted me.
I was happy in my own self-made Coffee World. On the charcoal-colored walls in our family room, I enjoyed the framed posters of places where coffee plants grow: Africa and Costa Rica. Like a coffee plant blossoming with its fragrant flowers, I escaped into my own exotic world. It may not have been in the "bean belt," the area between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, but it was a comfort zone for me, a kid enjoying the novelty of coffee.
Excerpted from The Healing Powers of Coffee by CAL OREY Copyright © 2012 by Cal Orey. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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