Why Do We Like Coffee?

For many of us, the day doesn’t officially start until we’ve had our first cup of coffee. In fact, 82% of Americans enjoy some sort of coffee beverage daily.[1] So what it is about this flavorful, black beverage that has us all obsessed? Love_Coffee

Of particular interest is the fact that this love is not usually a “love at first sight” affair. Most people admit that they did not initially like the taste of coffee and developing a taste for it involved lots of cream and sugar. Even those coffee snobs who only drink “the best kind” of coffee and only take it black, most likely sweetened this bitter drink in their early coffee drinking days. So why do we like coffee if our initial experience is unpleasant?

Much of the reasoning for this boils down to genetics. We are genetically inclined to like sweeter things from a young age. We are wired to dislike bitter and sour things. This could be a survival trait, as many foods that contain sources of energy (i.e. types of sugar) are sweet and many poisons are bitter. So why do we like this bitter elixir when our biological wiring is telling us to run the other way? Part of the answer involves our powerful olfactory sense, or the sense of smell. (Find out more about this amazing sense in our past article: The Olfactory Sense and Men’s Fragrance.) When we drink coffee, the complex aroma contributes to how our brain interprets the taste. Unlike taste, the positive and negative reactions to smell are learned over time and our positive association to the smell of coffee can override our body’s predisposition to dislike the bitter taste. [2]

In addition to smelling so lovely, coffee also produces a chemical reaction in your body to make you feel good. Coffee stimulates the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine, a chemical that produces pleasant feelings. While this process is what gives us that more alert feeling after consumption, there is an inherent problem. Over time we need more and more coffee to achieve the same level of euphoria. Yes, we’re all addicted. Consuming coffee for many years causes this addiction, as your body becomes more efficient at metabolizing the caffeine and your brain makes adjustments to how it perceives the magical drink. This is why coffee consumption increases with age. Surveys show that people in their 20’s consume the least number of coffee drinks per day (1.8), compared to those in their 30’s (2.0), 40’s (2.2), 50’s (2.4) and 60’s (2.4).[3] This is also why we get headaches when we try to eliminate coffee from our routine. We are basically experiencing withdrawal.

The good news is that unlike drugs, coffee in moderation is not that bad for you. In fact, some scientific studies suggest that a cup a day may be good for you. Our advice is to continue down the road of coffee infatuation, but be sure to keep it under 3 cups per day. If your hands are constantly shaking, you know you’ve had too much.

[1] http://zagat.blogspot.com/2015/02/national-coffee-trends-revealed.html
[2]
http://jjgoode.com/articles/epicurious-coffee
[3]
http://zagat.blogspot.com/2015/02/national-coffee-trends-revealed.html

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