Spilling the Beans

Should coffee be classed as a health drink?

Andrea Burgener doesn't buy into the idea of coffee being a cure-all

22 November 2017 - 14:47
Iced coffee is the best way to get a caffeine buzz in summer.
Iced coffee is the best way to get a caffeine buzz in summer.
Image: 123RF/phafanwangthaphan

The later it gets in the year, the more hours per day everyone seems to spend nose to the grindstone. It's the last push before the holiday exhale.

And so, more coffee than usual is required.

Coffee, straight after money, is what makes the world go around. It's so essential to the work day that I can hardly imagine how anyone in the history of humanity got anything at all done before the drink became a daily staple.

That, surely, must be why theories are put forward about aliens building the pyramids: how could humans have done it without coffee? You may think that's facetious, but coffee has been banned in centuries past by governments for its dangerous ability to increase "radical" thinking.

Speeded-up brains are things that few governments have ever liked in their own citizens (unless perhaps you're a citizen in the business of tax collecting).

There's a lot of talk - or print - about coffee being super-fantastic for you in terms of lowering the risk of Alzheimer's, diabetes, certain cancers, and on and on. It's the new cure-all, following hot on the heels of chia seeds and coconut oil.

As the most commonly used mood- and performance-altering drug on the planet, you'd imagine that the research around coffee would be far more extensive and rigorous, but it's still nascent

I wouldn't get too excited though. Like so many positive and negative sweeping statements about food and drink, when you weave your way back to the research, you usually find two things:

  • The actual results were a zillion times less impressive than touted by mainstream media;
  • The Google factor increasingly means that an appealing but unsubstantiated idea gets referred to over and over, morphing from theory to fact.

As the most commonly used mood- and performance-altering drug on the planet, you'd imagine that the research around coffee would be far more extensive and rigorous, but it's still nascent.

Read between the data lines, and the most we can say is the following:

  • Coffee is definitely addictive but simply requires others to tolerate your grumpiness for a week, not a stint in rehab, if you want to stop.
  • Just like everything else, too much coffee probably isn't ideal.
  • Nobody is sure what too much is.
  • There's no proof that a bit of coffee is bad, unless you have a heart condition.
  • Coffee tastes crap on an aeroplane, and worse in France.

In hot weather, my favourite ways with coffee are all in the cool zone.

Easiest of all is making the plainest iced coffee, which involves a long glass, many ice-cubes, a double espresso, and full-cream milk to fill. No sugar.

Even better, simply freeze an Americano or filter coffee, sans milk but definitely sweetened, in a tray, to make granita. Scrape it out with a fork when half-frozen, and top with sweetened whipped cream. A stylish way to combine the dessert and coffee course after summer lunch.


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