Why coffee has a hold on us

Coffee is the most popular beverage in the world, but why? Research suggests there are many reasons for this. If we cast aside the obvious one, taste, what is it that makes our brew so sought after.

Ones’ first taste of coffee as a child was probably not a nice experience. This might have changed when sugar was added and you became accustomed to the drink, an acquired taste over the years perhaps. The relationship surely grew when you started enjoying the aroma of freshly ground coffee. Add to this the therapeutic enjoyment of coffee preparation and the pleasure of sharing this with others and you would have experienced a release of dopamine by your brain suggests Professor Gary Wenk of Ohio State University.

Wenks’ studies suggest that the neurotransmitter dopamine produces the euphoria and pleasant feelings that people often associate with their first cup of coffee in the morning. To put this into a comparative perspective, other drugs such as cocaine, amphetamines and ecstasy also act upon dopamine in the brain. So there we go then, caffeine is the most widely consumed psychoactive substances in the world.

Coffee was known as the marijuana of yesteryear, a time when women were in fact banned from many coffee bars. Fortunately for coffee lovers, our favourite brew is better known for its many benefits than its hallucinogenic abilities.

 “I will start working just as soon as my coffee does.” – Unknown

Alan Hawkins is a the chief roaster of Cutman & Hawk Coffees and founder of the East London Coffee Co. www.elcoffee.co.za

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