Coffee Drinkers Rejoice!

March 13, 2011 — Leave a comment

I’ve just read some excellent news. A study published last week in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association confirmed what I have long known, but it is always pleasant to have the weight of scientific research behind one’s pronouncements.

Coffee in moderation (these studies always add that word) is good for you, if you happen to be a woman. Dr. Susanna Larsson of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden says so. And she should know. She is the lead researcher and author of both the study and article. It was determined that women who drank at least one cup of coffee everyday had up to 25% less chance of a stroke. There were a lot more numbers bandied about in the report but I have all the information I need to bolster my long held opinion.

Coffee has been part of my life for a very long time. One of the pleasures of my last two years at boarding school was the privilege of access to the dormitory kitchen, and making my own coffee. I remember stirring instant coffee and sugar and a dollop of milk together until the mixture was a creamy confection, in the mistaken belief that when I added the rest of the milk and stirred like crazy I would have a cappuccino. My cousin Jennifer taught me this life skill.

Coffee continued to be dominant when my first job, in Papua New Guinea, was for a company that traded in the commodity. That was when I learnt early my Arabica from my Robusta. An important crop for a newly emergent nation, coffee was first introduced to PNG before World War II when it was much mistrusted by the older villagers; suspicious the shiny green leaves of the new plant would kill their pigs, much prized as a sign of prosperity. So much so that even in the 70’s it was not uncommon to see a woman suckling a piglet alongside an infant. Now coffee is the second most important agricultural crop – palm oil being the first – but the wonderful thing about coffee production in PNG is that it is almost entirely grown in small hillside gardens and not on massive plantations owned by international corporations. That itself makes the green gold that the cherries produce an even more important crop.

It gives me pleasure to think every cup of coffee I drink at Catalinas, my local coffee shop in Houston, is helping some villager somewhere in either South America or PNG. The thought somehow makes the taste even more delicious.

Drinking coffee is an omnipresent past time: you can drink it on your own and not be accused of being a closet drinker; no-one looks twice at a woman alone in a coffee shop; and sharing secrets, heartbreaks, joyous news or just plain gossip is always better over a coffee. It is the opening gambit in many new relationships, and I have made friendships all around the world over a cup of coffee, whether drunk Turkish-style, with a dram or foaming milk.

I fly to Washington DC next week for the Families in Global Transition annual conference, where I will reconnect with old friends and meet new ones. A lot of coffee will be drunk in between the sessions discussing issues that affect those on the nomadic trail; from choosing schools in Scandinavia to TCKs in Thailand to helping the accompanying spouse prosper in Peru, in essence the whole gamut of concerns that confront the expatriate, whether Houston or Hanoi based.

It is indeed comforting to know that the coffee consumed at the FIGT conference is in fact likely to lessen the chance of a stroke, at least for the women attending – the jury is still out on the men. But whoever drinks it, the power of a cup of java helping people connect, or reconnect, cannot be overestimated.

Or of course we could drink wine, in moderation of course!

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