5 things you didn’t know about coffee

Your morning coffee holds more than a much-needed jolt of caffeine — it’s also full of fascinating history. Author Mark Pendergrast traces the origins of coffee and its many fascinating facts in his book “Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How it Transformed Our World,” fully revised and updated in a new paperback reprint, in bookstores now. Here are just five things he bets you don’t know about your morning cup of joe.

1 Coffee is not native to Brazil, but to Ethiopia. Trade carried the beans throughout the Arab world and eventually across Europe.

2 Coffee provides the largest jolt of the world’s most widely taken psychoactive drug (caffeine).

3 Ethiopian tribes probably used coffee for centuries before someone discovered the virtues of roasting the seeds, grinding them up and infusing them in hot water — which took place sometime in the 15th century. Before that, they probably ground up the seeds and put them in animal fat for quick energy while traveling and made a drink from the dried husks or leaves.

4 Growing coffee was a primary motivation for slavery — the Dutch enslaved natives in the East Indies, the Spanish and French in the Caribbean and the Portuguese in Brazil to grow coffee.

5 Although coffee has been vilified for centuries for its supposedly deleterious effects (such as causing impotence, according to the women of London in 1674), it has received a better and better bill of health in recent years — coffee consumption can apparently help prevent suicide, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, liver cancer, colon cancer, type 2 diabetes and gallstones.


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