The Coffee Leaks: Coffee Secrets, Lies and Controversies

No beverage on earth has been as celebrated and as cursed as good old coffee. Prior to its rise as the beverage most popular on the planet next only to water, coffee has been through a lot. It has been persecuted like a saint, subjected to trial like a heretic, oppressed like the common masses, and was even subjected to witch-hunts. Today, hot controversies and coffee issues remain. Indeed, celebrity status cannot be achieved without the intrigue. This is very true for coffee!

Read about coffee’s travails before achieving legitimacy and acceptance, and the continuing issues brewing around it today. Be thankful for coffee’s extraordinary perseverance, otherwise, life would have been dull and delinquent without this precious black brew. Start your drip, get a grip and be ready for the ultimate jolt from these coffee leaks you might not know about.


The origin of coffee is the subject of many debates not only among scholars but between religious, political and men of science in the times of yore. Since it has been declared impossible to authenticate claims on who discovered and drank coffee first, chroniclers make do with fascinating coffee fables. Get your fill and save some for awesome conversation pieces. In the words of Barney Stinson – legendary!

The Yeah Men of Yemen

In 1258 A.D., a dervish (preacher or monk) named Sheik Omar from Mocha, Yemen (touted as the birthplace of coffee) by chance discovered coffee in Arabia. Sheik Omar was some sort of a cure man in his days, and when he was in Arabia, the beautiful daughter of the king got sick and was brought to him. Did we mention he was naughty too?

After curing Princess, he carried her off, and of course the king went wacky and vanished him and his cohorts in the forest to starve to death. They fed on the bitter berries growing around them which they learned to soak with water and boil in a saucepan. Legend did not say where they got a saucepan in the forest, but to continue, the resulting concoction gave them a kind of second lease on life, banishing their hunger and fatigue.

The disgraced sheik returned home to Mocha where he administered coffee to his patients and “cured” them miraculously. He became an instant celebrity and had a monastery built for him and his buddies.  And that’s not all – get this – Omar himself was made a saint!

The Abbot of Abyssinia

Perhaps the most circulated coffee legend, the discovery of coffee was ascribed to an Arabian herdsman in Abyssinia or upper Egypt. This guy complained to the abbot of a monastery that the goats in his care became unusually frolicsome after gorging on the berries growing in their grounds.

The abbot was a sort of a science guy too and proceeded to verify the berries’ effect on himself by drinking it too. The result was, he therefore concluded that the herdsman was telling the truth – the abbot acted like one of the exhilarated goats. He ordered the berries to be boiled and his monks to drink them to keep them awake during night-time prayers.


Since its “discovery” in Yemen and Arabian lands, and subsequent rediscovery and spread in neighboring territories including Europe, coffee has been subjected to series of ridiculous persecutions. These are actions prohibiting, limiting, banning or heavily taxing coffee so that its use may be controlled by the government, the church or businessmen.

Preacher’s Enemy

The foremost argument for the first coffee persecution was its effect on worship and prayers, the people frequenting coffee houses rather than temples and churches, and were asking questions about state and church leaders rather than placidly obeying them.

This was the obvious case in Mecca, where the people’s fondness for coffee gave rise to public kaveh kanes, or the first coffee houses.  Religious people had coffee houses closed which they deemed scandalous because it promoted the devil’s drink (black or strong red coffee), with coffee drinkers having a blast dancing, singing, chatting, playing chess and drinking the black brew from sun up to sun down.

Nobility’s Enemy

Coffee prominently figures in class struggles, even in ancient times. In both Arabian and European coffee persecutions, the accessibility of coffee to the lower class was a threat to the royals, the nobles and the aristocrats, who believed that the joys of life should not descend upon the poor.

By limiting the supply of coffee, taxing it to high heavens and giving licenses only to a few select rich to open coffee houses, it gave much profits to shrewd businessmen, indulged the rich with their java and mocha while ensuring that the poor remained in their deprived state with no means to rebel or induce protests.

Doctor’s Enemy

Coffee persecutions were also strongly influenced by ancient and medieval physicians, who were scared that the ever popular coffee and its “beneficial” effects might affect their lucrative trade, since coffee’s obvious ability to revive, invigorate and cure “ills’ were already widespread.

In old Egypt, a physician’s pronouncement on the ills of coffee-drinking gave rise to so-called coffee slanders, which were vicious lies about coffee. These include coffee’s emaciating, blood-thinning and mind-altering “effects,” and that it causes depression, headache and sterility. The women were also warned that they have to choose between childbearing or enjoying their coffee. Evidently, they chose both.


Seattle-based blogger Ryoko Iwata, a certified true-blue coffee fan, gives her fresh take on some hot issues surrounding coffee-drinking today

Seattle-based blogger Ryoko Iwata, a certified true-blue coffee fan, gives her fresh take on some hot issues surrounding coffee-drinking today

When it comes to enjoying the cup of life today, there are a few issues that the coffee experts and the coffee lovers (perhaps the greater part of the coffee-crazy population) may not agree with.

While coffee experts are the connoisseurs who develop or follow some standards in coffee preparation and drinking, certified coffee lovers like Ryoko Iwata prefers it their way, enjoying the freedom of personal preference and flexible coffee-drinking options, just like the multitude of coffee lovers around the world.

Ryoko writes about her love for coffee in her blogsite She also has a good number of followers on her blog’s Twitter and Facebook pages, where she further spreads her fascinating ideas and interesting finds that concern all things coffee.

This fun and perky Japanese lady is based in Seattle, where she is surrounded by the best coffee houses in the U.S, enriching her coffee-tasting adventures. Coffee beans from the Lighthouse Roasters in Seattle is her favorite, and she likes dark roast blend with a hint of chocolate.

When I travel outside of Seattle, I always research the best coffee shop in the destination and try to visit them to taste their coffee. Going to good coffee shops while traveling has become one of my favorite activities.” Despite the success of her blog, Ryoko remains what one may call a true-blue simple coffee fan, admitting that she likes and makes her own cup of coffee.

So how does coffee experts and simple coffee lovers like Ryoko view some common coffee controversies today? Here goes.

Masking Bitterness

For most coffee experts, when your espresso tastes great (naturally bitter, that is), you don’t need to dilute it or cover the bitterness with massive milk and sugar. The secret is in the espresso-making process – steam the cream well and use brown, preferably organic sugar.

Ryoko candidly shared to us that she  doesn’t enjoy a shot of pure espresso. “I don’t drink shot of espresso, but with milk I can enjoy it. I think as long as you enjoy the taste of coffee with whatever way you like it, that’s the most important.

Coffee drinkers are also divided between drinking the original and purer form of coffee and adding flavors and sweeteners to mask bitterness.

Coffee drinkers are also divided between drinking the original and purer
form of coffee and adding flavors and sweeteners to mask bitterness.

Adding Flavors

Coffee is already a rich flavor on its own. But it’s amazing how many different “flavor enhancers” people add to a basic black brew, like cinnamon, cloves, hazelnut, and even ginger, like the ones to be found in Hong Kong. And the best thing about this is it still carries well.

Coffee experts recognize that many countries have their signature coffee add-ons that have become part of the people’s coffee-drinking culture. It’s one of coffee’s magic, and yet, there are those who just want to keep things straight and simple.

Ryoko also agrees on just enjoying coffee as a matter of personal taste – and style. “I don’t drink flavored coffee, I don’t put stuff on my coffee. I don’t like to add things to it,” to which she added, “I don’t call those sweet smoothie type of drink coffee though.

Coffee Substitutes

For the staunch and solid coffee lovers today,  the mere mention of the phrase coffee substitute can send shivers of disgust right down the spine. The purist, those who revered coffee’s core essence – black and bitter concoction that hold great physical, mental and even spiritual influence over man, can be very strict about how coffee should be made, served and enjoyed.

Can there be a real substitute for coffee? There are those who think that a good, carefully roasted and brewed coffee produces a unique beverage whose beneficial effects cannot be equalled by even the best-tasting tea or chocolate. Others say drinking tea or chocolate does not make any difference at all, coffee drinking habits being a matter of personal taste. As such, coffee substitutes can be a hot seat for debate for the passionate ones.

The “healthier” green tea and the “richer” chocolate drink are two of the most popular coffee substitutes today

The “healthier” green tea and the “richer” chocolate drink are
two of the most popular coffee substitutes today

Coffee substitute today is led by green tea, touted for its “healthier” effects compared to coffee (less calories!). Popular among celebrities and “dieters” like Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Lopez, green tea has also become a welcome addition to coffee house blends for its high demand.

Ryoko, being Japanese, naturally loves tea as well, so it’s not surprising that she roots for green tea too, as a great coffee substitute. If she were to make a personalized coffee-tea variant, she reveals, “I would like to make green tea latte. I like green tea!

Cocoa or chocolate drink is another known coffee alternative, with some people preferring it over coffee for its richer, bolder and not so bitter taste.

Another side of the coffee substitute is the controversial lesser caffeine or decaffeinated coffee, which have reduced or no caffeine content at all. Decaf has  even become a joke among coffee connoisseurs, likening it to drinking brown water.

Coffee as cash drainer

A coffeeshop lifestyle has been touted as among the biggest cash drainers today especially among young people who must have their tall ventis on hand whenever they go out. Cutting down on Starbucks and saving from $2 to $5 a day are among the first savings rules some personal finance advisors like Suze Orman often tell people even if they are earning good.

This brings us to the issue of coffee being a cash drainer. While the savings gurus are definitely right about checking one’s coffee lifestyle that may go overboard, it is also a fact that good money management will allow a coffee lover to enjoy the perks of a nice coffee experience.

Making your own brew at home is one of the best ways to enjoy coffee without breaking your budget for costly coffeeshop ventis

Making your own brew at home is one of the best ways to enjoy
coffee without breaking your budget for costly coffeeshop ventis

There are a number of good yet low-priced coffee products, from beans to grounds as well as ready blends, granules and coffee powders.  Making one’s coffee at home is not only a skill everyone should possess, it also makes for a good bonding time with family and friends, not to mention having a good amount of savings.

What about coffee gadgets like home brewers, espresso machines and similar stuff? Again, it’s all a matter of skill. While sophisticated coffee machines can really help, one can create an equally great-tasting cup out of kitchen basics like a stovetop and a saucepan.

In fact, among other things, Ryoko’s love for coffee stems from tasting the delicious latter that her boyfriend’s dad makes at home. “I’m sure he is a passionate coffee person, but I don’t think his espresso machine is the most expensive one,” she shares, affirming that one need not have the latest high-priced coffee gadgets to enjoy a really satisfying cup.

The stories and controversies surrounding coffee make life with this popular beverage even more enjoyable and fascinating. No matter which ones are true, one fact still stands out:  Coffee remains as one of the chief joys of life.

Nestor Gilbert

By Nestor Gilbert

Nestor Gilbert is a senior B2B and SaaS analyst and a core contributor at FinancesOnline for over 5 years. With his experience in software development and extensive knowledge of SaaS management, he writes mostly about emerging B2B technologies and their impact on the current business landscape. However, he also provides in-depth reviews on a wide range of software solutions to help businesses find suitable options for them. Through his work, he aims to help companies develop a more tech-forward approach to their operations and overcome their SaaS-related challenges.

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