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Remember when the weirdest news about coffee was the origin of kopi luwak? This has been a banner year for strange and interesting news and stories about coffee. Check out these top 10 weird coffee stories of the year.
Elephant Dung Coffee
A few years back, the popular movie “The Bucket List” let the pop culture world in on a little known weird fact about coffee: that kopi luwak, a highly prized, extremely expensive coffee, was made with beans that had been harvested from the poop of civets. Since then, variations of kopi luwak pop up every few years as a fad coffee. Last year it was elephant poop coffee. In late 2012 and continuing into the early months of 2013, Black Ivory Coffee from Thailand — made from coffee beans that had been eaten and “processed” by elephants — held the title of most expensive coffee in the world. The regular price of the coffee is $1,100 per kilogram, and it sells at some luxury hotels for about $50 US per cup.And, unlike kopi luwak, which has become somewhat controversial of late because of the inhumane treatment of many of the civets who produce the coffee, the Black Ivory Coffee Company is produced by rescue elephants living in an elephant refuge, where they are treated very well. But if you think picking coffee beans out of elephant dung is as weird as it gets, you haven’t been paying attention the wild and wonderful world of coffee over the past year. Here are just a few of the other coffee-related stories that have hit the headlines in the past year.
Hot Buttered Coffee
It’s a trend that’s been sweeping across the country. Butter in coffee isn’t a completely new thing. It’s actually a popular addition to the cup in some African and Southeast Asian countries. Over the past couple of years, though, hot buttered coffee has enjoyed a new round of popularity as Bulletproof Coffee, which uses “high-octane” coffee beans and unsalted, grass-fed butter, developed and marketed by Dave Asprey, founder of the Bulletproof Executive, who swears by its health benefits. As far as flavor goes, some pretty well-respected names in the specialty coffee industry aren’t terribly impressed.
UC Davis to Offer Major in Coffee
Last year, the University of California Davis campus offered a class in engineering that focused on building a coffee brewer to turn out excellent coffee every time. This year, the university has upped the stakes with the opening of a new Coffee Center, which will be partnering with players in the specialty coffee industry to research just about every aspect of coffee. Once the Coffee Center at UC Davis acquires funding, the university hopes to offer a B.S. major in Coffee Science.
Bees Like Coffee, Too
So, you love coffee, but did you know that insects apparently like it, too? Scientists at Newcastle University, UK, discovered that honey bees are more likely to remember the locations of plants if their nectar contains caffeine. A researcher at the University of Haifa in Israel theorizes that caffeine in coffee — and other plants — may be an evolutionary development to addict bees to its nectar, thus ensuring that the bees would return to the same plants to pollinate them again and again.
Coffee Can Make You Happy
Obviously, you feel good when you drink a great cup of coffee, and it turns out that there could be a very good scientific reason for that. A study done by Honglei Chen, PhD of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, suggests that the antioxidants in coffee may help protect you from depression. The study found that people who drink 4 or more cups of coffee a day are about 10% less likely to be depressed — and even 2 or 3 cups of coffee a day can help stave off depression. A similar study at Harvard School of Public Health found that people who drink between 2 and 4 cups of coffee a day are 50% less likely to commit suicide.
You Don’t Have to Drink Coffee to Benefit from It
Turns out you don’t actually have to drink coffee to get some of its benefits. A researcher at Seoul National University exposed some exhausted lab rats to the aroma of coffee. They found that the rats who got to smell coffee — but not drink it — expressed proteins that help protect nerve cells from stress-related damage. Those same changes are the ones that make people more alert when they drink coffee. So, the next time you need a pick-me-up, all you really need to do is take a good whiff of the air at your local coffee shop.
Cafe Sopresso May Have a Scientific Basis
The suspended coffee movement made news around the world in 2013, with stories of people buying coffee for random, anonymous strangers cropping up in Europe, Canada, the U.S. and Australia. Turns out that this nifty trend of paying for a suspended coffee — a coffee to be made later for a random someone who can’t afford his own coffee — may have a basis in the science of generosity, which suggests that spending money on someone else makes people happier than spending money on themselves. Whatever the reason behind it, it seems that the whole suspended coffee movement is contagious, with more and more coffee shops allowing customers to buy coffee for strangers every day.
Best Viral Video of the Year – Telekinetic Coffee Shop
In October, a NYC coffee shop set up a prank that became one of the hottest viral videos of the year. Created by the producers of the 2013 remake of “Carrie,” the video showed the reactions of customers when a young woman freaks out over spilled coffee and sends tables, chairs, books — and a stuntman — flying across the room. The official marketing video racked up more than 3 million views in just a few days and was one of the most-shared videos on Facebook for days. Our favorite reaction? The woman at 1:48 who gasps, then ducks and quietly scoots away, presumably out of the coffee shop.
Hot Coffee Lawsuit Redux
The story of the McDonalds coffee lawsuit has been a cautionary tale about jury excess in awards for decades, but this year offered a new chapter. The original hot coffee lawsuit centered around Stella Liebeck, a woman who was severely burned when a cup of McDonalds coffee spilled in her lap. During the trial, it turned out that McDonalds policy was to serve coffee at scalding temperatures, despite a lot of evidence that those temperatures were dangerously extreme. Last year, a 72-year-old woman from California filed another suit against Mickey D’s, charging that the coffee she was served at the drive-up window spilled into her lap, causing second-degree burns, and that she still feels pain from the burns more than a year later. In this case, the issue is not so much the temperature of the coffee, but a lid that was not put on tightly enough.
Coffee Foils Robbery
And finally, in one of our favorite coffee stories of the year, a clerk at a Connecticut Dunkin Donuts showed remarkable presence of mind when a robber tried to hold up her store. The would-be criminal tried to climb in through the drive-through window after ordering a coffee and trying to pay for it with a $100 bill. The clerk grabbed the first weapon at hand — the cup of coffee she had just poured for the customer-turned-robber – and followed it up with a full pot. At that point, the would-be robber ducked back into his truck and sped off, and the clerk calmly closed the drive-through windows and called the police. The whole incident took about 20 seconds, but we suspect it felt like a lifetime to the quick-thinking Dunkins employee.