...then it becomes basic!
Sorry guys, but a little PSL humor never really hurt anyone, right? (Jokes on me, I've been going full pumpkin for the past two weeks. Call me basic!)
While Pumpkin Spice Latte season is in full swing, we thought now's as good a time as any to talk about the other star ingredient in everyone's favorite little fall treat - coffee!
Did you know a staggering 64% of American adults drink coffee every day? The average coffee drinker consumes 3.1 cups a day - that's 146 billion cups of coffee a year. Behind water and carbonated soft drinks (a harrowing statistic for us to unpack another time), coffee is the most consumed beverage in the U.S. But what are the benefits? Are all cups of coffee created equal, and what are people adding in or leaving out that can help or hinder its benefits?
Almost all of the coffee we consume can be broken down into two categories: Arabica and Robusta. Robusta grows at low altitudes, the plant has a resilient root system and isn't very susceptible to pests, so production costs stay low. Arabica coffee is grown at higher altitudes, and tends to be a more finicky plant that requires a specific climate and care to grow, therefore the cost to maintain tends to be a bit higher.
Because Robusta is cheaper and easier to grow, it tends to be grown in large quantities as a mono-crop. Typically, large companies take over the natural rainforest in pursuit of profit, proving to be harmful to the environment as it results in soil erosion and nutrient depletion. The flavor of robusta beans leans towards bitter and harsh, and caffeine content is a bit higher. If robusta beans are present in your brew, it's likely been added to arabica beans to increase caffeine content, drive down overall cost, and adjust flavor profiles. You'll find robusta in instant coffees, espresso blends, or other blends because of its low cost and ease of mass production. Arabica beans tend to have a sweeter, lighter and more fruity flavor profile with light acidity. With a slightly higher natural sugar content, and lower caffeine content, a wide range of complexity and tasting notes come through in arabica beans. Typically, arabica beans are lauded as superior to robusta, from a flavor, environmental, and quality and ethical standpoint.
It is a common misconception that the darker the roast, the higher the caffeine content. I know, you've seen those dark, oily beans, typically used in espresso blends, with roasty, almost burnt flavors- and naturally came to the conclusion that this coffee packs a heftier punch. The truth is, the more roasted the bean, the less caffeine! Furthermore, the more roasted the bean, the less natural and subtle flavors are imparted from that specific crop and growing region, and the more that dark, bitter, burnt flavor profile takes over. You will also find lower acidity the more darkly roasted you get. If dark roast is your jam, absolutely no judgment here- just pays to know the details. You know why and how the chain coffee shops always provide a consistent product, where the coffee always tastes the same? Yep, dark roasts. Coffee roasts range from light to dark, with various stops along the way.
You can use any bean and any roast for any brewing method. You can go off script and see how it feels. Maybe try that espresso blend as a regular old cup of drip coffee, see how it goes in a french press, and try that single origin light roast as a shot of espresso. You might be surprised to notice the difference and find your new favorite cup.
How do you take your coffee? Black, one cream 2 sugar? Dry cappuccino? Upside-down half-calf oat milk sugar-free no foam caramel macchiato? Ooof, let's slow down and get back to the basics - black coffee. Two ingredients, coffee and water. We talked about coffee, but did you know the quality of the water used to brew is just as - if not more (depending on who you ask) - important? If you're brewing at home, filtered water will work and taste better (and be better for you!) then tap, or distilled, or reverse osmosis. Shoot for something that has removed contaminants and impurities, but kept the minerals in tact.
Now really, what else is going in your cup of coffee? We're well aware that there are many, many options that can take a 1-10 calorie cup of black coffee to upwards of 500 calories, essentially a full meal, but without any of the valuable nutrients and satiety a full meal provides... This isn't to say you should only drink your coffee black, depending on your health needs and goals a bit of cream and sugar won't hinder your progress - and after all you should fully enjoy your beverage of choice! But, if you find yourself opting for that special sugar and caffeine treat on a regular basis, it might be time to reassess and make a wiser choice. Your wallet, your body and mind will all thank you later.
You've probably heard about the many health benefits provided by coffee. These included but are not limited to:
- drinking coffee was associated with reduced risk for death from various causes, and lower likelihood of death from disease
- reduction in postmenopausal cancer risk
- coffee drinkers are at a lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes
- higher green tea and coffee consumption was inversely associated with a risk of CVD and stroke
- coffee consumption is associated with reduced risk of chronic kidney disease
- coffee consumption is associated with a reduced risk of depression
You've probably also heard about the many ways coffee is bad for your health.
There is some truth to this, and in both cases it depends on your specific and current state of being. People who likely wont reap the benefits from drinking coffee and may choose to limit or avoid consumption include:
- Those with IBS
- Those with overactive bladder
- Those who are pregnant or nursing
- Those with sleep disorders
- Those with high levels of anxiety or are prone to panic attacks
- Those with epilepsy
- Children under 12 years of age
- Those who are sensitive to caffeine
Putting it all together
Get to know your local coffee shops and roasters who are doing it right. Ask local coffee shops serving another coffee roaster's beans how and why they chose that roaster. Avoid big box chains when and where you can. Reduce sugary and artificially sweetened drinks- not just because of empty calories, but because of the negative affects this can have on blood sugar regulation and the adrenals. You don't have to go all or nothing, but you can make more mindful decisions (like one pump of sugar instead of the usual 4? Maybe a smaller size? Maybe a few less times a week?) Take a measurable, actionable step that makes sense for you from where you are currently, and commit for a month! Check back in with yourself and see how you feel.
If you're looking for a bit more accountability as we head into sugary sweet candy season, click the link below to find out how we can help!