Do you think you know all there is to know about one of the world’s most popular and frequently overpriced beverages? I’ve been up for a hundred and eight continuous hours researching coffee just to bring you the following little known facts.
Nine Things You Didn’t Know About Coffee
- No one is entirely sure how coffee was discovered.
According to legend cited by many scholars an Ethiopian farmer discovered coffee when he noticed his goats becoming extremely active after eating beans from the coffee plant (genus Coffea). Some scholars dispute this and cite an alternative legend that the pyramid of Cheops was built by a single man who’d been drinking water from a stream that coffee berries had fallen into. The first scholars are very annoyed by this legend and point out that the berries would have to be heated for enough of the qualities of coffee to enter the water and the second scholars reply that maybe there are undiscovered geothermal spots in Egypt and the whole thing pretty much spins out of control from there.
- Espresso did not originate in Italy.
During a flour shortage caused by the Crimean War a Belgian scientist named Aloysius Beignet was working on an alternative way to make waffles. After failed attempts using mustard, chicken, cabbage, chalk, and bacon he discovered that the combination of high-pressure boiling water and coffee beans produced a potent beverage that would allow him to stay up all night continuing to find ways to make waffles. He would go on to win the Nobel Prize for Beverages just before the award was discontinued.
- There is one country where it’s illegal to drink coffee.
The tiny Pacific island nation of Spelata sits right on the International Dateline. The confusion among locals who find that if they set out from one end of the island on Tuesday arrive at the other end on Monday even though it’s a distance of less than three miles has made accurate time and date-keeping almost impossible. The jitteriness and sleeplessness caused by caffeine consumption have resulted in coffee and, in fact, all caffeinated beverages, being banned from the island. In 2003 a sailor was caught smuggling canned Kona coffee from the neighboring island of Yap and executed.
- I had a college roommate who ate dried instant coffee.
No, really, dude drove me absolutely up the wall when we were studying for midterms. He would lick his finger, stick it in the jar, and then put the dry coffee crystals directly in his mouth.
Instant coffee also contains no real coffee but is made from dried squid ink and a hormone extracted from racehorses. That’s a bonus thing you didn’t know about coffee. You’re welcome.
- Coffee nearly caused a historic church to split.
In 1947 the Brandeburgian Church nearly split in a schism over whether it was acceptable to add milk or cream to coffee during the post-service fellowship period. The problem was eventually resolved by the invention of non-dairy creamer although to this day there are lingering tensions caused by artificial sweeteners.
- Coffee has a rich history in classical music.
J.S. Bach composed the Kaffeekantate, a cantata that literally sings the praises of coffee. The work inspired many other composers, including Mozart, who composed an entire opera, Der Zauber-Wasserdampf. This has led to a legend that Mozart’s death was a murder ordered by a Berlin café guild.
- Drinking more than seven cups of coffee a day will not make you a lot of fun to be around.
Not you, anyway. I’m on my ninth cup now and I’m an absolute riot!
- The first frozen coffee beverage was invented by the ancient Romans.
The emperor Nero was known to be very fond of a coffee gratin created by freezing trays of brewed coffee and honey, scraping the mixture with a fork, and refreezing it. Sometimes milk was added. In 2011 Nero’s descendants successfully sued a well-known coffee chain for copyright violation. The result is the ridiculously high price of a Frappuccino.
- Coffee plants can live more than three million years and grow on the Moon.
You don’t think Americans went there just to beat the Soviets, do you? And the next time you enjoy a cup of café Americano remember how Buzz Aldrin got his nickname. That’s another bonus coffee fact. You’re welcome.
I’m surprised you didn’t include this in today’s post, Chris:
10 (or 11, depending on how you’re counting). Ann Koplow never drinks coffee.
I forgive you, because the rest is so well researched. Thanks and you’re welcome.
It’s good to know that you never drink coffee. I hope the rest was informative and will perhaps be useful to you at some point. It’s my philosophy that there’s no such thing as useless information.
Here’s another bonus fact: My coffee doesn’t seem to be working. It’s only 8:10 and I’ve already encountered three separate people who need to be stabbed. Coffee typically makes me much less stabby. Guess I’ll have another cup.
If the second cup doesn’t make you any less stabby, or if you’re still feeling stabby, try five or six more. I once drank an entire liter of Jolt Cola because something something teenager D&D something. The result was my hands were shaking so badly I couldn’t hold a knife, much less stab someone.
Little known fact, nine cups of coffee and 108 hours of continuous coffee research turns you into a pathological liar.
And I not only did all that research myself I got a degree for it. Yeah, yeah, I–I got a Nobel Prize! Yeah, that’s what I did.
I am still choosing not to believe much of the nastiness you just said about my favourite thing in the world. #3 and the squid ink comments for example. Bollucks! I did, very much appreciate the Buzz comment though so I’ll stick around (even though I can’t keep up with this daily writing you are doing… I’m trying and failing sadly.)
Instant coffee is one of your favorite things in the world? I thought you used your special treasured Baby to make real coffee.
Funny timing. Just yesterday I decided I simply must have a coffee french press. I had a really expensive one that I used once, but it was gross. I just found out I had been doing it wrong. I searched the house and asked the Hubby and he confirmed what I thought. When we got married, we had held it up and said “Nah, this doesn’t need to go to our new house”. We gave it to Goodwill. I like to think of some homeless dude using my expensive french press. I will go buy another one this weekend.
Now you’ve got me picturing a homeless guy in front of To Beans Or Not To Beans holding your French press and saying, “Hey buddy, can ya spare a half pound of Sumatran dark roast?”
Yeah, remember when coffee was something you just bought at the grocery store without thinking about where it was grown or how it was roasted and you just stuck it in the countertop percolator? It was a simpler, less flavorful time when the makers of instant coffee could get away with secretly replacing the coffee served in fine restaurants with dishwater.
The new french press arrived today (I always want to say “arove”). I have been beating myself up all day because I have noticed a typo in every single thing I typed today. I looked at the box and on the side it says “Use COURSE ground coffee” and that made me happy.
I’m guessing that COURSE was not a typo. Either it came from a foreign country and was assembled by 5 years olds (which I realize is not funny, but we all know it happens), or whoever is responsible for signing off on the box before letting it leave the warehouse is not quite up to the task and needs to be either fired or shot. Possibly both.
You have once again wasted some pure comedic gold on your loyal readers instead of submitting it for publication. I’m putting this one in your top 5 (maybe even top 3). I think I should take you up on your offer to hire me as your literary agent. I have no experience whatsoever, but you wouldn’t be paying me anyway so it doesn’t matter. Seriously, as I was reading this I was laughing hysterically while silmultaneously screaming inwardly “Noooooo! Christopher! This one belongs in the OTHER pile! And now it’s too late!” And I haven’t had even one sip of coffee yet this morning.
Is it weird that I want you to run these things by me first, but still am itching to beat you with a hardbound dictionary?
P.S. I had you pegged as an “an historic” rather than an “a historic” kind of guy, but it’s nice to be surprised every once in a while.
Here’s hoping my famous last words won’t be “There’s more where that came from”. And while I appreciate the offer to act as my agent I have to ask if you regularly hobnob with New York editors, because I think that’s the only way to avoid the slush pile. Also there is some good stuff, I hope, that I am holding back while I look for a wider market, and I hope that by continuing to share good stuff here I’ll attract some attention. Everybody has to pay their dues, you know.
P.S. I’m too southern to be “an historic” type except on those rare occasions when I channel Charles Emerson
Well, yes, the fact that I do not hobnob regularly with New York editors does pose a bit of a problem, so I’m very glad to hear that you are holding some stuff back. Do you belong to any writers’ groups? I had a good friend in San Francisco who was a published author and she was in a writers’ group with Amy Tan. She got to have Amy Tan critique her own writing and would do the same for Amy. Admittedly, living in the same city as a famous author probably contributed hugely to my friend’s stroke of luck. But it’s not like my friend was famous—she did have a few published novels under her belt and even though she would sometimes ask me to look at her work because she admired my taste in writing, I cannot for the life of me remember the names of any of her books. In other words, I think it’s conceivable that you could get hooked up in a writers’ group with others who are at least published, and that this would be a more efficient way to pay your dues. I’m still going to speak up when I read something of yours that I think could been published, though. I plan to just continue enjoying your work for free until the day inevitably arrives that you ditch us.
I feel the need to clarify that this writers group thing was happening over 20 years ago, before I’d even met my husband or had children, and still had the time to hobnob with some eccentric people 30 years my senior in San Francisco. Kelly (my writer friend) would actually sometimes get annoyed with Amy because she occasionally arrived to the group via helicopter if she’d been out of town on a book tour (at the time she was pretty famous and recognizable and was experiencing some security issues). The helicopter thing was pretty disruptive to the Zen of the group.
Also, I seem to be in the midst of something between a panic attack and a full blown episode of mania right now for reasons I won’t bore you with. It’s on the wane now and I hope I’ll start settling down soon. Sorry I stalked you yesterday on twitter regarding Major Tom. I’m actually quite embarrassed now. But I’m pretty sure I’m sane enough now to stand my suggestion that you join a writers group.
P.S. I did eventually realize yesterday that 1980 – 1969 equals 11, not 20. I am currently disconnecting my own circuits, so I shouldn’t be bothering you anymore for a while.