Along with sugar and cocoa, coffee beans are among the most traded commodities worldwide. It is estimated that more than 2 billion cups of coffee are served globally each day. But not all coffee is created equal! We'll show you how, and why you should avoid the Starbucks and Folgers, and reach for a jar of The Cannidote CBD coffee instead! Being a cannabis company, we think it's also important to be passionate about health and nutrition. The focus of this post will be on the primary herb: coffee, not the secondary herb that is cannabis.
A Brief History
As with many ancient foods, the exact time and date of the domestication (if any) of the coffee bean is unknown - though most scholars agree that the plant originated in the forests of the Ethiopian plateau (eastern Africa). However, once it reached the Silk Road and crossed both the Red and Mediterranean Seas - into the Arabian and Italian peninsulas respectively - it began it's journey across the globe. The commercial cultivation and trade of coffee began in the Arabian peninsula (Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, Kuwait, UAE, etc).
Similar to today, coffee was not only consumed in the home, but also enjoyed as a social activity in cafes across Asia and then Europe. Great minds would meet there to share in their caffeine buzz, to trade ideas and stories, or simply to play a game of chess; all while typically enjoying some form of live performance. From the qahveh khaneh in Iran, to the English coffee house, these establishments quickly became known as places of higher learning. In the Middle East, they were dubbed as "Schools of the Wise" and in Europe, "Penny Universities".
Today, caffeine is the most widely consumed central-nervous-system (CNS) stimulant on the planet. As with tea, the majority of research suggests that responsible consumption can provide a host of health benefits. Coffee in particular is rich in certain antioxidants like polyphenols, chlorogenic acid, and flavinoids. It also contains magnesium, potassium, and some B vitamins.
It improves cognitive function and memory. It boosts physical performance by stimulating the production of adrenaline, which in turn improves alertness and response time. It may even help protect from serious ailments such as Parkinson's, heart disease, and some forms of cancer. But the incredibly high global demand for these tropical fruit has created a host of unforeseen health concerns. And as with any "good" thing, too much of it can be "bad".
Coffee appears to affect the local release of dopamine (the motivating hormone). The CNS does not seem to develop a tolerance to these effects, so while not technically addictive, a dependence and withdrawal symptoms are certainly to be expected. Caffeine has a long half-life - on average 5-6 hours. This means that 5 or 6 hours after consuming caffeine, half of it is still in your system. For this reason, it is highly recommended to refrain from consuming caffeine after 2-4pm, as it negatively impacts your sleep quality (yes, even if you can fall asleep right away). Having too much in your system can cause angst, confusion, over-stimulation, and may even prevent you from absorbing vitamins and minerals. Or worse - cause you to lose them via dehydration!
To compound matters, the coffee culture has come a long way from where it began. In its early use, the coffee bean wasn't processed and roasted. Instead, the leaves and raw berries were used in infusions (tea) or chewed on directly. Today, "specialty coffees" dominate the market, which feature not only an incredible amount of sugar, but typically the highly processed or synthetic versions of it. They also typically contain some of the poorest quality milk as well as artificial flavorings, colorings, and preservatives. Some companies have really stretched the definition of what a "coffee" beverage is, while eliminating all nutritional value.
And finally, - The quality of coffee used is related to the chemical composition of the beans - which is affected by the chemical composition of the soil they are grown in, as well as the quality of the post-harvest processing (drying, storage, roasting, and grinding). Bad coffee is bad for you, and scientists rarely attempt to differentiate types of coffee when they analyze it. Studies on coffee rarely control for processing methods or the source of the beans. Because the coffee plant is a tropical one, it is susceptible to typical moisture related complications, mold (fungus) being a big one!
Mold toxins - Mycotoxins
"Mycotoxins" are toxins created by yeasts and other fungi. These compounds cause all sorts of health implications when consumed in excess, or even in smaller amounts when the immune system is compromised. Complications can include symptoms such as cardiovascular and nervous system diseases, decreased fertility, cancer, and kidney damage. Sadly, some studies have shown that more than 90 percent of coffee beans tested were positive for mycotoxins!
Many different types of mycotoxins exist, and some types of coffee have more mycotoxins than others. The ones most relevant to coffee are aflatoxin B1 and ochratoxin A. It is worth mentioning that caffeine is a natural insecticide and anti-fungal defense mechanism for the plant - it deters mold and other organisms from growing on it, even while in storage. When you remove the caffeine, your coffee beans are defenseless. Just watch how quickly spent coffee grounds will grow mold.
Mycotoxins are also present in other common foods, such as corn, grains, and peanuts, but coffee is easily one of the largest sources of mycotoxins in the food supply. And given our regular consumption of coffee, even if only trace amounts of these toxins exist; those amounts quickly add up in the body if we aren't able to properly detoxify them.
Be a Coffee Snob!
There are a number of things you as the consumer can do to ensure yourself the healthiest cup of Joe. They all involve transparency and/or quality control. Start by looking for smaller farms. The smaller the farm, the easier it is to maintain quality. Quality almost always trumps quantity, especially when it involves your health. It will also be easier for you to visit a smaller operation via farm tour, photos, website, videos, etc. Be sure to look for "micro-lot" varieties of coffee at your local grocer or cafe.
On the same note, if you can find a roasting company who works in small-batches, you are taking another small step to keep your brain and body clean and clear. Small-batch roasts are typically done in person, rather than by machine, resulting in a higher quality product.
Unfortunately, not all organic coffee is created equally. Native to Africa, the coffee plant has been transplanted all along the equator. To keep up with demand, many farms across the globe may receive organic certification, but clear-cut complex ecosystems in order to mono-crop coffee. This is a practice we do not support - whether it be coffee, corn, or even cannabis. Diverse ecosystems support abundance and health. Coffee Jar only makes purchases from farms that engage in ethical Organic Certification. They also roast all of their beans by hand, in small batches.
Cannabis and Coffee?...
At the time of this writing, there isn't an incredible amount of literature in regards to CBD's effects when coupled with coffee and/or caffeine. But early research, along with anecdotal evidence has shown positive findings. In reality, the answer is very dose dependent.
When taken in small amounts, CBD can act like a stimulant. Increasing focus in a similar way to the caffeine. When taken in larger doses, CBD acts more like a depressant. However, given the strength of the caffeine we get from coffee, it would be difficult to take enough CBD to counteract the coffee. It should be our goal then, to find the perfect balance.
CBD seems to counteract the anxiety and jitters caused by caffeine. It adds a calm focus to the fight or flight enhancements imparted by the molecule. This is particularly helpful for those who are sensitive to caffeine and are looking for ways to tone down their morning pick-me-up. CBD also displays anti-nausea properties, which helps alleviate the symptoms sometimes associated with consuming acidic foods, like coffee.
Each individual is different. The dose that works for one, may not be the best for another. With a little trial and error, you should quickly find the dose that allows each compound to complement one another. Have fun. And drink responsibly!
The sources cited are primarily intended for the casual reader. Each source however, has been carefully chosen to include scientific sources linked within. Living with today's industry funded, pseudo-scientific journals, we encourage you to "research the research".