17 Surprising Coffee Facts That Will Perk Up Your Day
Updated: Apr 1
Coffee was first introduced in the 15th century, and is one of the most popular beverages, with millions of coffee drinkers worldwide. Americans are the world’s leading coffee consumers. They consume 450 million cups of coffee per day, or more than 150 billion cups a year.
Coffee is not just a drink; in the past, people gathered in houses to share a cup of coffee and exchange information. Starbucks and other coffee chains have dominated the market, because they provide customers with a complete experience around coffee.
The black brew is made from ripe berries which are picked from the coffee plant, processed, and dried. Once dry, these 'beans' are roasted and ground to be brewed into the coffee drink we all know and love. Over the centuries, coffee has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry and has become part of our lifestyle and even cultural phenomena.
However, how many coffee facts do you know about your beloved beverage? Check out the list below to learn more and share what you learned or which fun facts you knew already!
1. It Wasn’t Always Called 'Coffee’
People surmise the word “coffee” entered the English language sometime in the 16th century. Apparently, it was borrowed from the Italian word “caffe,” which comes from the Dutch word “koffie,” taken from the Ottoman Turkish “kahve,” which stemmed from Arabic “qahwah.”
2. Coffee Beans are Actually Cherry Seeds
Coffee comes from a flowering bush-like plant that grows cherries. Once ripened, they’re picked, processed, and dried. Each cherry contains two or three seeds, which the average person would recognize as coffee “beans.” The plant’s fruit isn’t very pulpy, but it is edible. Taste depends on the growing area, climate, and other factors, but the consensus is that they’re sweet like honey.
3. One Origin Story is Very Humorous
Legend has it that an Ethiopian herdsman named Kaldi discovered the coffee plant circa 850 A.D. As the tale goes, his goats became crazy energetic after nibbling on the small, red fruit of a bush. Kaldi tried them out himself and gleefully brought them to an Islamic monk. The monk however disapproved and threw them into a fire, prompting the familiar smell of delicious coffee. Everyone panicked and raked the beans to save them from the flames, then ground them, dissolved them in hot water, and voila! The world’s first cup of coffee was born. Although the story is entertaining, experts warn it’s probably made up and there are too many other accounts to confirm which one is true.
4. Brewed Coffee Has More Caffeine Than Espresso Per Serving
People ordering espresso might think they’re getting more bang in espresso because it’s a more concentrated form of coffee. However, according to the USDA, there is only 64 milligrams of caffeine in one serving (1 fluid ounce). Coffee has 95 milligrams of caffeine in one serving (8 fluid ounces).
5. The Lighter the Roast, the More Caffeine
As a rule of thumb, the lighter the bean, the more caffeine it has. So, a light roast is most likely to wake you up in the a.m. — or carry you through a lull in the afternoon — followed by a medium roast, and lastly a dark roast. As far as the type of coffee, reach for cold brew over iced or drip coffee on particularly groggy mornings. Why?, it has the most caffeine.
6. You Can Overdose On It
A life-threatening caffeine overdose is extremely rare, but it is possible. According to a medical review from 2018, most deaths are accidental, and the culprit is over-the-counter medication, not beverages. The FDA suggests drinking at most 400 milligrams of caffeine per day to stay safe. That’s an estimated four 8-ounce cups of brewed coffee. More could lead to migraines, increased heart rate, muscle tremors, nausea, and dysphoria. More serious side effects, including seizures and hallucinations, are likely to happen with the consumption of 1,200 milligrams of caffeine or more.
7. These High-Profile People Had Crazy Coffee Habits
Writer François-Marie Arouet, better known as Voltaire, reportedly drank 40 to 50 cups of a chocolate-coffee mixture each day. Although this is much more than the suggested daily intake, the world-famous thinker lived a lengthy life and died when he was 83 years old. Similarly, it’s alleged that former U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt drank a gallon of coffee per day and died at age 60 after a blood clot traveled from his leg to his lungs. Though it’s unknown just how many cups he had daily, Beethoven would count exactly 60 beans to each serving — no more, no less.
8. Bach Wrote a Song About Coffee
Circa 1735, Johann Sebastian Bach penned “Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht,” also known as the “Coffee Cantata.” In the song, a father-daughter duo argues about how she drinks too much coffee and that’s why she doesn’t have a lover. Alas, if she gave it up, she would “become so upset that I would be like a dried-up piece of roast goat.” Yikes. When her father gives her an ultimatum, she lies to please him. While he’s out finding her a husband, she secretly tells potential suitors they must let her drink coffee if they want to marry her.
9. Coffee sent Brazil to the Olympics
Brazil couldn’t afford to send its 69 athletes to Los Angeles for the Summer Olympics in 1932. So they put them on a ship with 50,000 sacks of coffee and sold the beans at different ports along the way. Good thing Brazil has been the world’s largest coffee producer for more than 150 years, so they had beans to spare.
10. It Inspired the World’s First Webcam
In 1991, researchers at the University of Cambridge in England set up a camera feeding a live picture of a coffee machine in the “Trojan Room” so employees could see whether or not the pot was full. If they could see ahead of time that it was empty, it would save them a trip and inevitable disappointment. A couple years later, the camera was connected to the internet and soon became an international sensation. People watched from all corners of the world until it was turned off for good in 2001.
11. Fun-Suckers Tried to Ban it a Number of Times
The first recorded crackdown on coffee happened in Mecca circa 1511 because the governor thought it encouraged people to hang out and brainstorm ways to de-throne him. In 1524, the order was overturned, and people could drink coffee once more. One legend claims that Italian clergymen tried to make coffee illegal around 1600 because they thought its side effects were “satanic,” Pope Clement VIII loved the drink, so he declared that coffee should be baptized instead of banned.
Occasional bans occurred in parts of the Ottoman Empire, and in 1633 Sultan Murad IV made drinking coffee in public in the capital punishable by death. Coffee was banned in Sweden many times due to health-related speculations, and it was almost banned in Prussia because the king wanted people to drink more beer instead.
12. We Spend a Lot of Money Buying Coffee
The average American spends about $1,100 on coffee each year, according to a 2016 study by investment app Acorn. An estimated 34 percent spent more money on coffee than investments. (Wait, coffee isn’t an investment?) In 2019, The Daily Meal found that American consumers spend $4.63 on coffee every weekday, which amounts to $1,208.43 per year without coffee on the weekends.
13. New York City Has the Most Coffee Shops in the U.S. Per Capita
According to a 2018 study by Wallet Hub, New York City has the most coffee shops, coffee houses and cafés per capita. (Maybe it’s no coincidence that the Big Apple takes first for most doughnut shops per capita, too.) Runners up include San Francisco, California; Portland, Oregon; Seattle, Washington; and Las Vegas, Nevada.
14. Coffee is Grown in Just Two States
Most coffee comes from high-altitude soil in Latin America and Africa. The only two states able to grow coffee commercially are Hawaii and California. The crop also grows in Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory.
15. Brazil is the World’s Largest Coffee Producer
Brazil has held the title of the world’s largest coffee producer for over 150 years. Data shows that the country produces a third of the globe’s coffee. Vietnam produces about half as much, followed by Columbia and Indonesia.
16. A Brief History of Coffee in Jamaica
King Louis of France sent three coffee plants to the French colony of Martinique. Five years later in 1728 Sir Nicholas Lawes, Governor of Jamaica, received a gift of one coffee plant from Martinique. From that one plant the Jamaican coffee industry had its start.
The Haitian Revolution brought coffee-growing Haitians to Jamaica. Once emancipation took place however, many slaves left the coffee plantations to grow food, and coffee production became a much smaller peasant crop. The industry decline came to a head when Canada, in 1943 refused to buy Jamaican coffee due to its poor quality. Government then stepped in to rehabilitate the coffee industry and the Coffee Industry Board was born, now called the Jamaica Agricultural Commodities Regulatory Authority, Coffee Division.
Thanks to this highly regulated board, the Jamaican coffee industry has flourished and Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee is treasured world-wide.
17. Why Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee is the Best
Jamaica is well down on the list of coffee producers, producing approximately 13 to 14 million pounds per year. It has a well-deserved reputation as one of the best Arabica coffees in the world.
The Jamaican coffee industry has strict geographical boundaries, which define the coffee classified as Jamaica Blue Mountain. It is certified by rigid inspection by the Jamaica Agricultural Commodities Regulatory Authority, Coffee Division that certifies cultivating, production and exportation.
Now that you’re all brushed up on your coffee knowledge, we have to ask: Did you know these 20 foods and drinks have caffeine?
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Jacqueline Cameron is a writer with decades of writing experience running the gamut from blogging to reporting. She lives in Kingston, Jamaica and is the chief writer for the Jamaica So Nice Blog. She is a trained engineer and musician and loves to see people transformed through her work.