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As MIT students, who’s a better friend than coffee? When the aroma of freshly brewed coffee from Bosworth’s Cafe in Lobby 7 stimulates my olfactory neurons, I often get the urge to know more about coffee’s origin. Here are 16 fun facts about coffee:
1) As the legend goes, European shepherds first noticed the effects of coffee when their goats became hyperactive (aka started dancing) after eating coffee beans.
2) Originally, African tribes used to eat coffee berries (Yes, they are actual berries containing two coffee beans) with fats. Think about it — fats with coffee beans — basically an energy bomb.
3) Coffee is the second most-sold commodity on Earth. Guess which one is the first? (Hint: Ever liked greasy food? Or wondered why the Middle East is so rich?)
4) George Washington invented “instant coffee.” Read the next sentence before doubting me. A Belgian man living in Guatemala by the name of George Washington invented it in 1906.
5) How caffeine works: You get drowsy when adenosine (a nitrogen base attached to a five-carbon sugar) binds to adenosine receptors in your brain. When caffeine gets in your system, it competes with adenosine to bind to the receptors, frequently binding before the adenosine. The pituitary gland recognizes the extra adenosine in bloodstream and senses an imbalance. In response, it produces adrenaline (the hormone for the fight-or-flight response) and bumps up the amount of dopamine (the “happiness chemical”), giving you a “caffeine-high.”
6) Both the American Revolution and the French Revolution were born in coffeehouses. The American Revolution grew from roots planted in the Green Dragon Public House in the Lloyd’s District of London. In July 1789, Camille Desmoulins, a French journalist and politician, jumped onto a table at the Palais Royal Café and motivated the mob to rebel against the French aristocracy. Two days later, the Bastille fell, marking the upswing of the French Revolution. It makes sense that king of England in 1675, Charles II, forbade his subjects to congregate at any place where coffee was sold.
7) At the end of sixteenth century, Istanbul alone had around 500 cafés. Turkish bridegrooms were once required to make a promise during their wedding ceremonies to always provide their new wives with coffee. If they failed to do so, it was grounds for divorce.
8) A shout-out for the espresso lovers out there! A shot of espresso has just as much caffeine as a normal cup of coffee. Also, the word “espresso” comes from the Latin word for press. It is named so because the beverage is brewed by forcing a small amount of boiling water under pressure through finely ground coffee.
9) The first American coffee trader was from Boston. By the name of Dorothy Jones, she was granted the license to sell coffee in 1670.
10) Beethoven was so particular about his coffee that he always counted 60 beans each cup when he prepared his brew.
11) Though Hawaii is the only coffee-producing state in the U.S., Americans are the No. 1 consumer in the global coffee market. But Norway is No. 1 in amount of coffee consumed per person.
12) Brazil released coffee-scented postage stamps in 2001. The scent was supposed to last for three to five days. For a country that has tried to use coffee for other things, like plastic production, stamps seem quite normal.
13) Scientists have discovered more than 800 aromatic — in the sense of odors, not chemicals — compounds in coffee.
14) A coffee tree lives for 60 to 70 years and can grow 30 feet tall. But they are pruned to a 10-foot height for the convenience of coffee-berry collectors.
15) Athletes beware! Caffeine is on the International Olympic Committee list of prohibited substances. Athletes who test positive for more than 12 micrograms of caffeine per milliliter of urine may be banned from the Olympic Games. This level may be reached after drinking about five cups of coffee.
16) Decaffeinated coffee sales are at their highest in January of each year, partially due to New Year’s resolutions.