Many of you will be familiar with the popular use of coffee as an ergogenic aid (performance enhancer) during exercise. I spent 5 years as a Barista (specially trained in making and serving coffee) whilst studying for my first degree in Sports Science, so I have a deep appreciation for coffee and what it means to a person. Coffee and it’s caffeine content is just one reason why people consume a cup of the brown stuff.
Caffeine in fitness and sport
Caffeine is considered to be one of the most underrated nutritional components in sports nutrition because of stigma attached to it. Much (if not all) of this stigma is unjustified because caffeine’s pro’s most definitely outweigh their con’s. Caffeine is considered a stimulant meaning it is able to rouse the brain, indirectly energise the body by enhancing the utilisation of carbohydrate, and even reduces the perceived level of exertion an athlete endures when exercising, in other words, caffeine tells your mind that the exercise associated struggle isn’t as bad as you’re thinking…so stop whinging and carry on! So you see, coffee (and its caffeine content) has a key part to play in sport and fitness, but coffee as an entity has MUCH more than that to offer. If done properly, coffee is a luxurious thing, if made in accordance to how history intended…coffee is a thing of beauty!
Culture of Coffee
There aren’t many things that happen these days that don’t involve a good coffee, it is a highly sociable activity which starts dates, unites mates and improves mental states…and it evidently does it all around the world! The Telegraph recently wrote that coffee was apparently introduced to India in the 16th century by Muslim Baba Budan, who reportedly smuggled some beans back to his home after a pilgrimage to Mecca.
The Indian coffee that this rebellious act inspired is traditionally slow brewed using a filter, and served in a metal cup. The strength of this coffee is considerable meaning it is usually consumed with sugar ad milk. Conversely, the Cubans like a café cubano which is a sweet and strong espresso, traditionally brewed with sugar. Coffee is a massive part of Cuban culture and has been an integral part of their lives since the 18th century thanks to French farmers migrating there during the revolution Haiti. The Japanese are known for their cold coffee, particularly the canned variety – you might have noticed that these are also available in British shops too. One of the most popular coffee combos out there is cinnamon and sugar/syrup, so it will come as no surprise that the Mexicans Café de olla is hugely popular among the Mexican people. What makes it more appealing is that the cinnamon has blood sugar regulating properties AND the sugar used in its preparation is an unrefined variety known as piloncillo. Enjoy one of these coffees in a small clay pot for the full effect. The Telegraph describe how the Vietnamese seem to get the coffee thing right, their iced coffee is a wonderful dark roast with the added sweetness of sweetened condensed milk. Delicious!
Now for the birthplace of coffee…Ethiopia! Coffee is of such significance in Ethiopia that the inhabitants coined the expression “Buna dabo naw”, translating as “Coffee is our bread”. During a coffee ceremony, the Ethiopian women will often spend several hours preparing the coffee in a traditional coffee pot known as a jebena. Now that’s some heritage right there! The Australians and Kiwi’s both claim to have invented the ‘flat white’, a type of espresso that has a creamy layer of milk on the surface. The Turks are very particular about their coffee, and even have their own proverb which goes "Coffee should be black as hell, strong as death, and sweet as love". Their coffee is traditionally made in a cevze, with sugar and water to satisfy the proverb, and drank from small elegant cups (similar to the classic espresso cup). They even added coffee to UNESCO’s inventory of “intangible cultural heritage”. No cultural review of coffee would be complete without Italy being mentioned…the Italians have revolutionised the way coffee is drank around the world with the cappuccino becoming one of the most common coffees out there. The most common coffee in Italy is the espresso, a shot of coffee designed to provide a delicious caffeine hit throughout the day. The cappuccino is only really consumed in the morning in Italy. Needless to say us Brits love coffee so much that we pretty much drink all of the above in one way or another.
All’s left to do now is to stick the kettle on…Coffee anyone?
The Telegraph, (2014). Coffee traditions around the world. Retrieved 22nd May, 2014, from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/foodanddrinkpicturegalleries/10752590/Coffee-traditions-around-the-world.html?frame=2875995
Tipton, K, D & Luc van Loon, J. C. (2013). Nutritional coaching strategy to modulate training efficiency. Basel: Karger.