Coffee beans roasting at a coffee roaster in California

A Toast to Coffee this National Coffee Day

Photo Credit: Gary Appelsies, MS

Did you know that September 29 is National Coffee Day?

Thomas Jefferson once said “Coffee—the favorite drink of the civilized world.” But coffee has been around for generations before he started drinking it! While no one can confirm exactly how or when coffee was discovered, there is no shortage of stories about where this beloved beverage came from. According to the National Coffee Association, coffee can trace its heritage back centuries to the ancient coffee forests on the Ethiopian plateau. There, legend says a goat herder named Kaldi first discovered the potential of these beloved beans.

Thank goats for coffee!

Kaldi noticed that after his goats would eat the berries from a certain tree, they became so energetic that they didn’t want to sleep at night. He reported his findings to the leader of the local monastery who in turn made a drink with the berries, and found that it kept him alert through the long hours of evening prayer. This leader then shared his discovery with the other monks at the monastery, and knowledge of the energizing berries began to spread across the globe!

Today, coffee is a staple in many cultures and societies around the world. For some, drinking coffee is a daily ritual—and for others, merely a social habit. But much like wine, coffees grown in different regions have different flavor profiles and notes. The degree of richness and flavor comes down to the roasting process. Some like a darker roast, some like a lighter one. All in all, coffee is universal in its ability to perk us up and put a smile on our faces.

I had some long conversations with many friends on the subject of coffee as I was considering its place in our lives. One of my friends summed it up perfectly. “It’s the fuel that ignites the mind and body without fail…. a daily rite of passage to celebrate the awakening of a brand new day.” This really seemed to be a common theme among everyone. Whether you drink caffeinated or decaffeinated, it’s the ritual of the morning, the aroma, and the taste that awakens the senses and sets many of us off on the right foot.

Another friend put it very simply: “Coffee defines your day!” And many agree. If you’re a coffee diehard, it’s often about what blend to drink that day. Some days you might want a strong cup of Joe, and other days you might prefer a mild smooth brew, and how we each brew our coffee is very much part of the ritual. Some folks prefer a French press, some a pour-over, some a drip from their coffee maker, and others one of those single-serve containers that brew a perfect cup. Interestingly, not one person I spoke to about their coffee habit could wait until they were able to get to a local coffee house or the office before their first cup of the day.

Chef Gary the Barista?

How do I drink my coffee? Well if I had my druthers, it would be a French press out on my back patio each morning as the sun comes up. The perfect quiet still of the day when all is peaceful and right with the world. However, my wife usually prepares our coffee the night before and we have a timer set on the coffee maker to begin before we even get up. It’s like an alarm clock for us. That wonderful aroma wafting through the house helps us to get out of bed and start our day.

So, is National Coffee Day really something we need to celebrate? Well, for me: yes! We need to celebrate National Coffee Day, not because of the coffee itself, but to celebrate and appreciate the farmers and growers of all the coffee regions throughout the world who put that coffee in our cups. These are the heroes, the champions, the ones who help us wake up every day and put that first smile on our face.

On average, a new coffee tree takes 3–4 years before it begins to produce a fruit called "cherries" (not to be confused with the ones you put on an ice cream sundae). The process to pick coffee cherries is quite laborious as coffee is picked by hand in most coffee-growing regions throughout the world. In most countries, there is also only one harvest per year. Once the coffee cherries are harvested, they go through processing, drying, and milling before the raw “green” beans are shipped to roasters throughout the world before making it to your cup.

Are there any health benefits to drinking coffee?

According to the Mayo Clinic, some newer studies have found a possible association between coffee and decreased mortality. Coffee may also offer some protection against:

  • Parkinson's disease;
  • Type 2 Diabetes;
  • liver disease, including liver cancer;
  • heart attack;
  • and stroke.

But coffee can still have some potential risks, mostly due to its high caffeine content. For example, it can temporarily raise blood pressure. Women who are pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or breastfeeding need to be cautious about caffeine. A high intake of boiled, unfiltered coffee has also been associated with a mild increase in cholesterol levels. If you have side effects from coffee such as heartburn, nervousness, or insomnia, you may want to consider cutting back or discussing with your doctor. But here’s the bottom line: your coffee habit is probably just fine and may even have some health benefits!

This National Coffee Day, enjoy your coffee no matter how you brew it, how you drink it, and who you drink it with. Raise your cup with me and toast to all the farmers and growers who put it there!

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