Effects Of Coffee On Your Body And What It Is Doing To The Planet
WellBeing|Issue 194
Coffee is a massively popular drink, second only to water. In this article we take a deeper look at coffee, the many ways you can have it, the effects it has on your body and what it is doing to the planet.
Terry Robson

Coffee is truly the drink of our times. As Australians steadily drink less alcohol (Roy Morgan reports that in 2006 73.5 per cent of Australians were regular drinkers, but that figure dropped to 66.3 per cent in 2020) we are embracing coffee in ever-increasing numbers. A few years ago, coffee overtook tea in Australia as the most consumed daily beverage after water. Amble through the doors of virtually any food outlet and you will be promised “barista-made” bounty, even if in some establishments the “barista” is just pushing a button. On the sidelines of sporting fields, at eisteddfods and just about any public event a takeaway coffee cup is an almost essential fashion item. Thankfully, “keep cups” are becoming more and more common as people try to combine their love of coffee with love of the planet.

There is no debate, coffee is popular. This beverage not only drives our food consumption habits; coffee forms a hub for our socialising, shapes our urban design and is a linchpin of global trade. In terms of value, coffee as a world commodity is second only to oil. However you look at it, coffee is certainly on trend, but is coffee’s popularity a good thing? To help make up your mind about it, let’s get Socratic about coffee. Socrates was the guy who supposedly said that the unexamined life is not worth living, so we will follow his lead and truly examine coffee, from tree to lips and beyond.

What are we talking about?

Coffee trees are commercially grown in Africa, Indonesia, Vietnam and South and Central America. Small plantations are also operating successfully in Australia. If you want to blow your mind, take a sip of the stats on coffee.

Across the world we drink around 2.25 billion cups of coffee every day. In 2020 that translated to 99,780,000,000 kilograms of coffee beans being consumed worldwide. In Australia alone in 2020 117,000,000 kilos of coffee beans were consumed and that was a slight COVID-19-induced drop from the 2019 figures. In 2019, revenue from the Australian coffee market was US$5.97 billion.

With those mind-boggling statistics surrounding it, and the multilayered aura of socialising, contemplation and stimulation that it carries, coffee is certainly a romantic beverage. To strip away the veil, at its most unromantic level, coffee is made by infusing the dried and roasted beans of the Coffea arabica or the Coffea robusta trees. Yet in that word “infusing” there are a myriad of wrinkles and devotional experiences. How you prepare your coffee is central the coffee experience.

Espresso coffee

Espresso is made by forcing small amounts of hot water or steam through finely ground coffee beans. Although it contains more caffeine per volume than brewed coffee, it contains less per serve.

One shot of espresso (30–50ml) contains 30–60mg of caffeine. If you were to have a cup (250ml) of espresso you might have up to 300mg of caffeine but the reality is, we just don’t drink it that way.

Brewed coffee

This is made by pouring hot or boiling water over ground beans, maybe via a drip filter or a plunger. One cup (250ml) of brewed coffee contains 70–140mg of caffeine.

Instant coffee

Instant coffee is made by spraying liquid coffee concentrate as a fine mist into extremely hot, dry air. With the water removed the coffee is broken into small crystals that you spoon out of your jar and just add water. It is a far more complex process than it sounds, so do not try it at home. This is made by coffee that has been brewed then freeze dried or spray dried. One cup (250ml) of instant coffee contains 30–90mg of caffeine.

Coffee purists do look down on instant coffee, but a lot of coffee quality comes down to the beans that are used. Instant coffees have tended to use Coffea robusta beans which contain more caffeine, are more bitter and lack the fruity sweetness of Coffea arabica beans. Arabica beans are mostly grown in South America and tend to be more expensive than robusta.

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Coffee is a massively popular drink, second only to water. In this article we take a deeper look at coffee, the many ways you can have it, the effects it has on your body and what it is doing to the planet.

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WellBeing
Issue 194
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