Coffee is the world’s most popular drink (other than water).
As you probably know, coffee is brewed from ground roasted coffee beans.
Some of you may be wondering if coffee beans belong in the “legume” family, as other types of beans do.
What is a coffee bean considered?
Coffee trees are grown in various places worldwide, but Brazil produces 45% of the world’s coffee.
The United States is the world’s leading importer of coffee.
According to the National Coffee Association, 70% of Americans drank at least a cup of coffee per week, with 62% drinking coffee as a daily habit.
But if you’re hoping that coffee beans are “beans” in the same sense that the nutritious kidney bean is, you may be disappointed to find out that beans are not legumes.
They are actually the pits inside the fruits (also called cherries) that grow on Coffea trees.
Once these coffee cherries are ripe, the fruit is usually hand-picked from the trees.
There are then two different possible methods that may be used to process the fruit — either the “wet” or “washed” process, in which the flesh from the cherries is removed and the pits are soaked in water, or the “dry processing” method, in which the fruit is dried in the sunlight for 2-3 weeks.
What are legumes?
Since coffee “beans” grow on trees in the Coffea family and legumes belong in the Fabaceae family, it’s clear that coffee beans are not legumes and they should be thought of as entirely different foods.
Health-promoting effects of coffee drinking
In spite of the fact that coffee beans are not, in fact, legumes, they have quite a few health-promoting qualities when roasted, ground, and brewed as a beverage.
First, as almost everyone knows, coffee contains caffeine.
The amount of caffeine in coffee varies depending on the type of bean, method of grinding, and method of brewing.
Caffeine has multiple benefits for human health.
It is a stimulant and a nootropic with both physical and mental benefits, and is commonly consumed as a pre-workout beverage to enhance strength and energy during exercise. It also has the potential to reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, cirrhosis, and liver cancer.
Another benefit of coffee is less well-known. Coffee contains a polyphenol called chlorogenic acid (CGA), which is one of the most-consumed polyphenolic compounds in the diet of Americans, due to their prolific coffee consumption habits.
CGA has multiple protective effects in the human body — it is potentially neuroprotective, cardiovascular protective, liver protective, and kidney protective.
CGA also has anti-cancer properties and aids in glucose regulation.
When discussing health-promoting properties of foods and beverages, it’s important to keep in mind that the whole is almost always greater than the sum of its parts.
If you extract caffeine or CGA from coffee beans and take it as a supplement, it most likely won’t have the same broadly beneficial effects as it would if you imbibed it as a freshly brewed cup of coffee.
Drawbacks of consuming coffee
The caffeine in coffee stimulates energy and alertness by acting on the adenosine receptors in the brain.
This effect is most pronounced in people who consume caffeine irregularly; once people start a habit of coffee consumption, the effects become less and less noticeable.
Moreover, consuming more coffee or caffeine will not overcome the tolerance — only taking a break and allowing the adenosine receptors to “reset” will cause a reduction in tolerance.
Once you take a break and your caffeine tolerance is reduced, you will experience the performance-enhancing effects of coffee once again when you resume consumption.
People primarily drink coffee for the energy boost that it provides, but relying on coffee to power you through your day may have some drawbacks.
Coffee acts on the adrenal system and provides a stimulatory effect, but the effects may be reduced over time.
Relying on coffee to get you through your day may cause you to ignore signs of stress and burnout — signs that you actually need to allow your body to rest and recover rather than drink yet another cup of coffee.
For some people, the caffeine in coffee may cause jitters, anxiety, or reduced quality of sleep.
Whether or not you experience these negative effects likely depends on your genetic predisposition.
If you do have negative side effects from consuming caffeine, but still want the other health-promoting benefits of coffee (like CGA), you can try decaffeinated coffee instead.
Can you drink coffee with a nut allergy?
Does nut-flavored coffee have nuts?
Some types of nut-flavored coffees get their nutty flavor from a flavored syrup that does not actually contain nuts.
Other types of nut-flavored coffee use real nuts (i.e., almonds, hazelnuts, or walnuts) during the roasting process.
If you have a nut allergy, a general recommendation is to contact the company that makes your favorite type of coffee to ensure two things: 1) that there are no actual nuts used as an ingredient in the ground coffee, and 2) that there are no nuts handled in the processing facilities where your coffee is produced.
Do manufacturers put nuts in coffee?
According to coffeenutty.com, there are seven different flavor profiles of nutty coffee that reflect the distinct flavors of different types of nuts:
- Almond: toasted buttery flavor, sometimes mixed with vanilla
- Chestnut: sometimes light, sometimes dark and smoky
- Hazelnut: creamy, lightly sweet
- Macadamia: creamy, lightly sweet, buttery, sometimes paired with coconut
- Walnut: strong, robust, sometimes on the bitter side
- Pecan: buttery, lightly sweet
- Cashew: creamy, lightly sweet
One example of a company that uses real nuts in the production of its coffee is New Mexico Piñon Coffee Company.
This company pairs real piñon nuts — the fruit from a Pinus edulis pine which fed Pueblo Indians for centuries — with Arabica coffee beans.
The coffee beans and nuts are ground together, then brewed to make a rich, smooth coffee.
Other companies in New Mexico offer piñon coffee as well, but most use flavoring rather than the actual nuts.