You know whether you like your coffee black or with cream and sugar. But how much do you really know about that delicious brown beverage that has become a part of your morning routine? Pour yourself a cup and find out with these 15 delightful coffee facts.
1. Coffee lovers have a herd of dancing goats to thank.
According to legend, an Ethiopian goat herder named Kaldi noticed that whenever his goats munched on the bright red berries of an unusual tree on his property, they’d become euphoric and energized. So Kaldi did what any curious goat herder would and tried some of the berries himself. It wasn’t long before he was dancing along with his herd, earning himself the moniker of “the happiest herder in happy Arabia.”
2. Coffee was originally chewed, not sipped.
A cup of Joe may be your preferred method of consumption, but coffee has not always been a liquid treat. According to a number of historians, the first African tribes to consume coffee did so by grinding the berries together, adding in some animal fat, and rolling these caffeinated treats into tiny edible balls of energy. It wasn’t until 1000 CE that the beans were turned into a beverage (a special wine, to be exact).
3. Not everyone was a quick coffee convert.
As recently as the 18th century, governments were trying to stamp out coffee because it stimulated both drinkers and radical thinking. In 1746 Sweden took things to an extreme when it banned both coffee and coffee paraphernalia (i.e. cups and saucers).
4. Beer tried to take coffee’s spot at the breakfast table.
Three decades after Sweden locked down ceramics, Prussian officials grew worried that coffee consumption was interfering with citizens’ beer-drinking habits. In 1777, Frederick the Great of Prussia issued a statement encouraging Prussians to drink beer—not coffee—with their breakfast.
5. Instant coffee is nearly 250 years old.
Convenience has long been a concern for coffee drinkers, as evidenced by the fact that instant coffee made its first appearance in England in 1771. The process evolved over the years until the first mass-produced instant coffee was introduced—and patented—in the U.S. in 1910. And it continued to evolve into the 1960s, when freeze-dried coffee (still a popular method) made its debut.
6. Americans don’t drink all that much java.
It may seem like there’s a coffee shop on every corner of every major city in the U.S.—and usually another on the other side of the street—but Americans place 25th when it comes to the amount of coffee we consume.
7. Finland is the world’s coffee king.
The world’s most caffeinated country? Finland! Though the country doesn’t produce any beans of its own, Finnish drinkers still manage to consume almost three times as much coffee as Americans each year. Norway, Iceland, Denmark, and the Netherlands round out the top five (in that order).
8. All the hippest cats drink it.
The record holder for the title “oldest cat ever”—a cat named Crème Puff—lived to be 38 years and three days old. She drank coffee every morning of her life, plus bacon, eggs, and broccoli, too. Before you dismiss that as just an unrelated coincidence, consider this: the cat that Creme Puff beat out for the record—34-year-old Grandpa Rex Allen—had the same owner, and was fed the exact same diet.
9. It could fuel your car someday.
More than 100 million Americans rely on coffee to get their personal motors running each morning. And at some point in the future, it could be the fuel that gets their cars’ motors running, too. Researchers have had great success in converting coffee into biodiesel. Best of all, used grounds work just as well.
10. The coffee break has a hometown.
Stoughton, Wisconsin bills itself as the place where the coffee break originated. Every year the town holds a Coffee Break Festival to celebrate this major contribution to the days of workers everywhere. According to local lore, the area’s coffee-loving Norwegian immigrants created the breaks in the late 19th century.
11. Beethoven was a barista’s nightmare.
Beethoven enjoyed a cup of java, and he was particular about its preparation—he insisted that each cup of coffee was made with exactly 60 beans.
12. Balzac knew how to toss it back.
French writer Honoré de Balzac didn’t have time to be that picky. He allegedly drank upwards of 50 cups of coffee a day.
13. Coffee has been high fashion.
During the Civil War, Union blockades of the South kept the Confederacy in a permanently under-caffeinated state. Confederate troops tried their hand at creating substitutes using chicory and dandelions, but nobody’s taste buds were fooled. Coffee eventually became so prized that Southern jewelers used individual beans as gemstones in their creations.
14. “Mocha” is more than just a fun word to say.
It’s also a port city on the Red Sea in Yemen. Until the 17th century, nearly all of the world’s coffee was produced in the Middle East, and thanks to its ideal location for shipping, Mocha was the world’s top coffee marketplace. Although the expansion of coffee cultivation to European colonies in South America and Asia eventually diminished Mocha’s commercial power, beans exported from Mocha had been so popular in Europe that “mocha” became shorthand for any top-flight coffee.
15. Asian palm civets make great baristas.
Kopi Luwak, the world’s most expensive coffee, earns its pricey distinction thanks to a surprising step in its production: digestion. In Indonesia, a wild animal known as the Asian palm civet (a small critter similar to the weasel) cannot resist the bright red coffee cherries that abound, even though they can’t digest the actual coffee beans. The beans pass through the civets' systems without being fully digested.
Eventually, some brave coffee farmer collected these beans from civets' droppings, thoroughly washed them, and tried brewing a cup. Surprisingly, the interaction with the civets’ digestive juices did something magical to the beans, resulting in a cup of coffee that was intensely flavorful and lacked any trace of bitterness. The process may not sound very appetizing, but the really tough thing to stomach is the price—a single pound of Kopi Luwak can set you back more than $600.
Like a great cup of espresso or a delicious latte, GEICO’s delightful customer service will leave you feeling perky, energized, and happy.