I love learning about new food while I travel and I always hope something will inspire me to write a blog. If I can tie in travel with nutrition and fitness somehow, it’s a double bonus seeing as that’s one of my goals with this whole blog deal. I mean, many people have a food blog, a fitness blog, or a nutrition blog, but there are very few that fuse them all! I’m here in Vietnam and while I’m not going to write about something you may have never seen before, I’m going to give you some new information on something you already know and likely love: coffee!
Are you a coffee lover? Do you enjoy it every morning or maybe even during the day? If so, you are not alone. Coffee is a commodity and many people consume copious amounts the world over. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), over 7 million tons of coffee was consumed in 2010 and numbers continue to increase. Latin America and the Caribbean is the world’s largest coffee producing region, with Brazil in the top spot for coffee exports. Vietnam is just behind them and well known for their robusta, arabica, and moka beans (not to be confused with the mocha drink, made with milk and chocolate ). StatisticBrain.com reported that 54% of Americans aged 18 and over drink an average 9 ounce cup of coffee everyday and there are over 100 million coffee drinkers in the United States but in Vietnam, it must be much more (I don’t have statistics). There are coffee shops everywhere, and by that I don’t mean every corner, but lined up one right next to another. I don’t know how they all stay in business.
While you may often hear it’s not good to consume too much coffee, it does have some benefits. There have been various studies conducted that show coffee consumption reduces the risk for various diseases. Science cannot always say why these phenomena take place, or what specifically in the coffee reduces disease, but it is also not proven that coffee will prevent disease. Keep in mind that studies typically do not show a cause and effect and it is possible that when analyzing data, coffee drinkers have other healthy lifestyle habits that may also help ward off unwanted health issues. On that note, let us have a look at some of the perks of a daily cup of joe.
Coffee consumption may help reduce the risk of developing type two diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Coffee drinkers have a decreased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, dementia, and more specifically, Alzheimer’s disease. There is also evidence that coffee can reduce rates of certain kinds of cancers.
Avoiding disease is a good reason to keep that daily cup or two, or even three cups of Joe. Yes, three. In fact, some studies show benefits when up to five cups of coffee are consumed daily! The caffeine in coffee, however, is not always a good thing. While it does deliver some energy and is a known ergogenic aid (many preworkout supplements contain caffeine), it can also keep us awake at night, especially if we drink too much or too late in the day.
Monitor your intake and sleep habits and ensure you are able to get a good night’s rest. If you feel jittery, you are likely consuming too much caffeine. Another issue with excess coffee consumption is not necessarily the coffee itself, but what is added to that cup. While a cup of brewed coffee does not provide any calories to the diet, milk, cream, sugar, and other additives add up calorie wise. That’s a big thing with Vietnamese coffee because the main thing in it is “milk.” I put milk in quotes because when you ask for it, you automatically get sweetened condensed milk, and a lot of it. If you want regular milk, you have to ask for fresh milk, but you’ll often get it in conjunction with the condensed milk. It’s hard to escape the sweetness. Sometimes I “forget” to ask, secretly, or actually not so secretly. I love sweetened condensed milk, but it’s too much and I’m limiting myself to one typical cup a day, either in the morning, or before I workout. It has seriously become my main source of carbohydrates these days (and it needs to stop). Overall, a little bit of “milk” or artificial sweetener is ok, but moderation is key.
There are many compounds that are attributed to the noted health benefits of coffee, some even yet to be discovered by science. In a summary about Coffee and Health, Harvard Health states that drinking coffee has various health outcomes. Because of the variety of compounds found in coffee, it may have positive effects in some components of our health, but negative effects in others. These benefits are found with both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee, so it isn’t the caffeine that’s responsible.
If you enjoy your morning mug, there is no need to feel you should “quit” coffee. But remember, all things in moderation and certain populations, such as pregnant women and people with high blood pressure should limit their intake. Don’t forget about what you may put into your coffee- cream, sugar, and sweetened condensed milk all add excess calories to the diet that are often overlooked. And if you are one of the rare persons who does not like coffee, don’t worry, you don’t have to start drinking it if you don’t enjoy it!
You may be familiar with arabica, robusta, and moka coffee beans, but what about “weasel” or “civet coffee?” This coffee comes from partially digested beans consumed by civets. It’s the most expensive coffee in the world and according to my tour guide, Bang, a kilogram of natural weasel coffee goes for up to $3,000 a kilogram (2.2 pounds). Civets naturally consume the coffee cherries and they become partially digested. It is said that these digestive mechanisms enhance the flavor of the coffee, but once passed, they must be collected, cleaned, and roasted like other coffee beans. This type of “natural collection” is possible when someone actually seeks out weasel excrement in the wild.
There are farms though, and while I’m not a coffee connoisseur, I did try a cup, mostly to say I’d done it. I tried it without all the bells and whistles. Ok, I tried a spoonful without the “milk,” but it was bitter to me, just like any other black coffee I drink, so I doctored it up with some liquefied sugar and even added some fresh milk because that’s how I like my coffee. Was it good? Sure was, but I wouldn’t buy the beans, even farm produced “weasel coffee” goes for $180 per kilogram in Vietnam, and the variety produced in Indonesia is much more expensive. The ethical component of such coffee is not the point of my blog, suffice it to say I don’t need to purchase such coffee. At least in this regard, I’m not concerned that my habits worsen the lives of at least these animals.
It was neat to see the coffee trees, how they first produce a white, sweet smelling flower where eventually a “cherry” will grow. In Vietnam, all the beans are hand picked when ripe and dried in the sun for two to four weeks. The thick skin is then removed and the beans are roasted, some batches have oils added to them to enhance flavor. Butter, chicken, and even fish oil is used. The coffee here is good, although I’m no expert, it has a deep, rich flavor. It’s served quite strong, through a filter like device placed atop a small cup. Add in some sweetened condensed milk and you’ll have a mug of awesome in the palm of your hands. Get ready to take on the world. But, in moderation, like with all things! ?
P.S. I stayed at the Oscar Hostel in Da Lat. At the time of writing, the hostel was opened two weeks ago. I have to say this was one of my best Hostel stays. Bang, the manager and Linh, his girlfriend and owner have done a great job with making the place welcoming. I arrived at 5 am and Bang picked me up from the bus station. They make breakfast every morning, and one evening, we even had dinner together with some other guests. It was nice being able to speak to a local who knows English well. We shared some stories about life, politics, history, and the Vietnamese outlook on America, which is of interest to me. I did a day long motorbike tour with Bang as well. It’s one of the things to do in Da Lat, and while others had recommended specific companies, at the end of the day, I think they are all similar. Plus, seeing as Bang and Linh did so much for me, I didn’t mind paying them the money for the tour. It was great and again, I learned so much. I loved Da Lat. I’ve been a lot of places but I can honestly say if I wanted to live in Asia, this would be place on the top of my list. If you ever come, check out the hostel: http://oscarhostel.com.