13 Ways of Looking at a Cup of Coffee



As a black, sandy, sugary sludge at the end of a meal, or under conversation. From Armenia to Bosnia and beyond, this daily ritual encapsulates a story entwined with trade, empire and culture.


Before the famous shoulder-dancing begins, you may be treated to a coffee ceremony in Ethiopia, coffee’s homeland. The antithesis of a takeaway iced latte for the morning commute to work, the ceremony involves beans being toasted on a small charcoal stove, their intensifying aroma mixing with sticks of burning incense, then they are ground by pestle and mortar, slowly simmered with water in a clay pot and poured from a height into tiny cups for each person.


A highly biologically active alkaloid, caffeine encourages the breakdown of fats during lipolysis by inhibiting phosphodiesterase activity. Cosmetic companies use caffeine formulations in anti-cellulite creams. In other words: struggling to get that beach body? Try coffee.


The Asian palm civet, or toddy cat, cannot fully break down the hard bean inside the raw coffee berries they eat, so they pass through these animals largely intact. The excrement left by palm civets is harvested, cleaned, roasted and sold. These Indonesian kopi luwak beans are probably the most expensive coffee in the world – a single cup brewed from them can cost about €70.


Research studies have connected drinking coffee with higher levels of LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol. This is due to diterpenes, particularly cafestol, that are present in coffee beans – even decaffeinated ones.

A study from Harvard University, published in 2008 after two decades observing over 130,000 participants, though, found no relationship between how much coffee somebody drinks and an increase in the risk of death from cardiovascular disease, the biggest worry when it comes to bad cholesterol.


The lush, jagged, misty hills around Chikmagalur, in India’s southern Karnataka state, are popular for rejuvenation retreats. They’re also good for growing coffee. This is where Baba Budan, whose shrine is nearby, planted the seven raw coffee seeds he had smuggled out of the Yemeni city of Al Mokha in the 16th century. Before this time, coffee production was a tightly controlled Arabian monopoly. Only dried and roasted (and therefore infertile) beans were traded outside the Middle-east.


Black coffee. Coffee black. Mocha, Java, Joe.

Adjective or noun. Colour, place or name

I don’t know which came first.


I remember the stationery pot on my grandfather’s antique roll-top desk. It was an old coffee tin with a picture of a Scottish soldier enjoying a coffee, brought to him by his servant. It was always overflowing with pens and pencils and – for whatever reason – pairs of scissors. We cleaned out the house when my grandfather died. The desk was fiercely fought over. But I don’t know where that old coffee tin went.

The manufacturers of Camp Coffee – the world’s first instant coffee in 1876 – have since changed the image, after years of complaints, to have the Scottish soldier and his Indian Sikh companion now sitting side by side rather than as master and servant. The brown liquid is made of water, caffeine-free coffee essence and chicory.


After a doctor extracts a sample of cerebrospinal fluid, also known as a lumbar puncture, patients often get a heavy headache. Painkillers don’t do much to stop the headache, but doctors may recommend drinking several cups of coffee and lying horizontal. Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor in humans, reducing blood flow and increasing the pressure of cerebrospinal fluid, helping you recover to normal quicker.


It’s hard to pull off impressive latte art if you steam your milk above 40°C.

Surveys have shown that customers best enjoy milky coffees with an average temperature between 65-70°C.

It seems cool cafes certainly are ‘cool’.


Tea leaves are higher in caffeine than coffee beans. But the process of making coffee compared to tea means much more caffeine ends up in the average cup of coffee than in a cup of tea. An espresso machine also brews a coffee with about twice the amount of caffeine per drop as a stovetop percolator.


Coffee exports from Brazil make up about 40% of beans on the global market, and the country produces a ridiculous 2.5 billion kilograms of coffee per year.

In 2016, Nestlé admitted that they couldn’t be sure the coffee they sourced from Brazil did not include beans produced using slave labour. They confirmed, though, that they did purchase coffee from two plantations that have since been put on the Brazilian government’s ‘blacklist’ – places suspected of trafficking humans into squalid forced labour conditions.


Harry, I’m going to let you in on a little secret: every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don’t plan it; don’t wait for it; just let it happen. It could be a new shirt in a men’s store, a catnap in your office chair, or two cups of good, hot, black, coffee.’

Special Agent Dale Cooper, from David Lynch’s Twin Peaks


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