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October 3, 2020

Note to readers: During these difficult days for many people Clare and I have been considering what we might do to help those who are in need. We have decided to continue our support to the charitable nonprofit organizations that are serving our community. Each week in this space, I will ask you to consider helping one charity. This week please volunteer or donate, as you are able, to TOTAL Ministries, 976 S Pine St, Spartanburg, SC 29302 – (864) 585-9167.

The outbreak of the coronavirus and the subsequent stay-at-home order have given us more unscheduled time. When we have a leisurely day, Clare and I enjoy the early morning pleasure of sipping a cup of coffee on our back porch. My wife is a coffee connoisseur.

Elaine Anderson Sarratt and other Facebook friends recently invited me to join a group named Mug o’the Morning to You! It is a bunch of folks who share a virtual cup of coffee each morning sipped from a favorite mug. It is a safe way to deal with the isolation and social distancing we all are living with.

I recently discovered an online article featuring surprising facts about coffee.

Coffee is an ancient beverage. First brewed eleven centuries ago, the drink originated in the geographical area of modern-day Ethiopia. It has spread around the globe, becoming one of the most popular elixirs in the world. Because the beverage has such a rich and long-standing history, it’s hardly surprising that we’ve collected a trove of fascinating facts about coffee.  Even the most knowledgeable aficionados are not aware of some of this information.

1. There’s no difference in caffeine content between dark and light coffee roasts.

There is a popular myth that dark roasted coffee is richer in caffeine than light roasted varieties, but experts point out that roasting will not affect the caffeine content of coffee. The difference in caffeine may be more prominent between different kinds than it is between roasts. There are varieties cultivated specifically to maximize caffeine content.

2. The aroma of coffee is often enough to wake us up in the morning.

We associate certain smells with feelings and memories, both good and bad. The fragrance of coffee triggers feelings of wakefulness in humans, a finding confirmed by science. Research has shown that the smell of coffee sends signals of anticipation in the brain that provide stimulation.

3. Coffee beans are not actually beans, they’re cherry seeds!

 Coffee is a cherry-like fruit called either coffee cherries or coffee berries. They are picked from the coffee tree, then dried or washed to get rid of the pulp and exposing the pit. These seeds are then roasted and ground.

4. Cappuccinos are named after Capuchin monks.

The cappuccino is an Italian concoction, prepared by mixing espresso with frothed milk that yields a delicious coffee beverage. The golden color of the drink reminded Italian baristas of the robes of Capuchin friars, a large Franciscan order of monks founded in 16th-century Italy.

5. Much of the world’s coffee comes from Brazil.

The best coffee grows at high altitudes in warm and humid climates with no dramatic changes in temperatures throughout the day. Quality coffee is grown in Brazil, where mountain ranges reach nine thousand feet above sea level. About forty percent of the world’s coffee comes from Brazil.

6. Before it was consumed as a drink, coffee was eaten

Once upon a time, coffee cherries were picked, mixed with animal fat, and consumed as an energizing food by east African tribes. Eventually, they learned that caffeine can be extracted from coffee beans. Africa still has one of the most interesting, diverse, and ancient coffee cultures in the world, as some of our family members discovered when they traveled to Tanzania last summer.

7. Decaf coffee is never completely free of caffeine.

During the decaffeination process, the coffee beans are usually stripped of 94-98% of their caffeine content. Research points out that even decaf has some caffeine – 9.4ml caffeine in 16 oz of decaf coffee, compared to 188 ml of caffeine in the same quantity of average coffee.

8. Adding milk to coffee will keep it warmer for longer.

Simply add a splash of milk or cream to your coffee, and it will cool off 20% slower than a cup of black coffee. It will increase the calorie content of the cup (1 cup of black coffee only has 1 calorie), but it will also make it a lot creamier and warmer.

9. Before coffee became popular, the most common breakfast drink was beer.

Until the 18th century when coffee became increasingly popular, most people drank ale or beer for breakfast, simply because it was the most affordable drink.

10. Coffee drinkers have a longer life expectancy.

According to research from Harvard, those who drink coffee live longer than those who don’t. Moderate consumption, 3-4 cups a day, was associated with a longer life span. Keep in mind, however, that the study was talking about coffee without sugar and other sweeteners

Coffee isn’t for everyone, however. It can cause insomnia, anxiety, and an irregular heartbeat. Specialty coffee drinks can be high in calories.

I read an article entitled “Health Secrets of Coffee,” written several years ago by Dan Fields. If you are an avid coffee drinker, you will be pleased to hear these numerous health benefits.

  • People who drink three cups of coffee a day are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
  • The antioxidant in coffee may help prevent several types of cancer, including colon cancer, liver cancer, kidney cancer, and oral cancers.
  • Coffee lowers the possibility of developing type-2 diabetes. Antioxidants, minerals, and caffeine improve glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity.
  • Coffee drinkers have lower odds of dying from heart disease. The antioxidants in coffee have heart-healthy benefits, including improving blood vessel flow and reducing inflammation.
  • Coffee helps to keep memory sharp. Folks who drink more than three cups of coffee a day experienced fewer declines over time on memory tests than those who drink one cup or less a day.
  • Coffee lowers the risk of Parkinson’s disease. The caffeine may help defend against Parkinson’s by boosting levels of the brain chemical dopamine.
  • Caffeine discourages gallstone formation by triggering gallbladder contractions and increasing the flow of bile.
  • Coffee reduces the risk of kidney stones by increasing urine output.
  • Folks who drink four or more cups of coffee a day have a lower risk of stroke. Antioxidants in coffee may offer protection by improving blood vessel function.

My grandfather, who I called Pappy, enjoyed coffee with every meal. When Pappy traveled, he always carried a jar of instant coffee with him. In every restaurant, he ordered coffee with his meal. When the dark brew was served, Pappy took his own personal jar of instant coffee from his pocket and heaped two teaspoons full into the steaming liquid. 

As Pappy stirred the mixture, the waitress would often ask, “Honey, you don’t like my coffee?”

He responded, “I just don’t want to have to drink all that water to get a real good strong cup of coffee.”

Pappy had another ritual connected with his coffee drinking.  He poured coffee from the cup into the saucer, blew on it a little to cool the drink, and then sipped it noisily from the saucer. My grandmother thought this was not proper etiquette, certainly not in polite society. Pappy didn’t care about proper etiquette. He saucered his coffee at home, or in a restaurant, if Mammy was not with him.

I recall a poem about drinking from the saucer written by John Paul Moore. I am not sure who Mr. Moore was, but this sounds like it could have been written by Pappy.

My Cup Has Overflowed

I’ve never made a fortune, and it’s probably too late now.

But I don’t worry about that much. I’m happy anyhow

And as I go along life’s way,

I’m reaping better than I sowed.

I’m drinking from my saucer,

‘Cause my cup has overflowed.

Haven’t got a lot of riches,

and sometimes the going’s tough

But I’ve got loving ones all around me,

and that makes me rich enough.

I thank God for his blessings,

and the mercies He’s bestowed.

I’m drinking from my saucer,

‘Cause my cup has overflowed.

I remember times when things went wrong,

My faith wore somewhat thin.

But all at once, the dark clouds broke,

and the sun peeped through again.

So Lord, help me not to gripe,

about the tough rows, I have hoed.

I’m drinking from my saucer,

‘Cause my cup has overflowed.

If God gives me strength and courage,

When the way grows steep and rough.

I’ll not ask for other blessings,

I’m already blessed enough.

And may I never be too busy,

to help others bear their loads.

Then I’ll keep drinking from my saucer,

‘Cause my cup has overflowed.

I have many fond memories of enjoying of a cup of coffee. Even as I write these words, Clare has placed a fresh mug of the soothing elixir at my left hand.

Whether sitting in a big oak rocking chair watching the sun rise over the Atlantic, perched on the tailgate of my pickup taking in a sunset over the Blue Ridge, or working at my computer, a mug of coffee doubles the pleasure. 

A pleasant cup of coffee is good for the body and soul. It is one of life’s tender mercies. I have made the prayer of the Psalmist my own. “My cup runneth over.”


Kirk H. Neely is a freelance writer, a teacher, a pastoral counselor, and a retired pastor. His new book and first novel, December Light 1916, is available at all bookstores and online booksellers.He can be reached at

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