Sunday, December 30, 2012

Dreaming of Warm Coffee on a Cold Day--Research Breakthrough from the Netherlands

When Irving Berlin wrote “White Christmas” in 1940, he was tapping into the zeitgeist of the moment---the desire to watch snow fall, temporarily turning the world into a magical paradise, while seeking warmth indoors---from a blazing fire, from human companionship and often from a cup of coffee or tea. Turns out that “White Christmas” is timeless not because it is about Christmas per se, but because it captures something in the human spirit. People like to be cozy and warm. Everyone wants to feel loved, and there is something about snow that brings out the child in (almost) everyone.

As snow has been falling across the nation this week, and in New York City today, pursuit of coffee has continued at a happily frenzied pace. I myself had exactly 3 coffee/espresso drinks today, starting with a skim latte at NewsBar Café on University Place (it had a nice spicy aftertaste), followed by a skim caramel brulee latte at Starbucks (hold the whipped cream), and finally capped off with a cup of under-$2 black coffee (perfectly plain and perfectly serviceable) at the Washington Square Diner.

I was driven not only by habit to drink coffee (this blog is about drinking coffee every day, after all), but also because I was slightly chilled most of the day (the radiator heat has been a bit inconsistent), I was a bit tired (this is a very busy time of year for everyone), and because I love consuming caffeine in the company of other people.

A group of researchers from the Netherlands were recently quoted in the New York Times discussing their research, which shows that when people feel excluded their body temperatures drop. One way to reverse this feeling of ostracism is to hold a warm drink (they cited coffee specifically and used Starbucks as an example of how people try to feel better). Their data shows that not only does holding a cup of warm coffee make people feel better and raise their body temperatures, but it also makes them more social.  

So while many people will be holding glasses of wine, champagne and sparkling cider as we count down to the new year, I will make sure to make coffee, tea and hot chocolate available---so that everyone will feel happy, warm and loved. Happy New Year!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Hurricane Sandy Update: Cups full of coffee and hearts full of empathy

In the midst of the terrifying chaos brought on by Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey and New York---property destruction, psychological trauma, seemingly relentless hardship brought on by power outages, gas shortages and death---the emergence of basic human kindness is the one thing that can be counted on.

At the center of many of the acts of kindness has been the offer of warmth, both in the form of refuge from the cold and a hot cup of coffee. Over and over that offer is made---on facebook, via email, and in person. Volunteers drive to stricken areas around the Rockaways, Staten Island and the Jersey shore with large vats of hot coffee and hearts full of sympathy.

When coffee is offered person to person, the underlying sincerity in that gesture belies the immensity of that act. What is being said is the following: “Come into my home and share space and resources with us. Use my water and our toilets. Shower and use clean towels. Sleep on our sheets, rest in our beds and close the door for privacy and dignity. Use our power to stay warm, charge your phones and read the newspaper.” And finally: “Drink our coffee. Use our sweeteners and dairy and non-dairy add-ons. Find comfort even as I stretch my boundaries a bit to share what I have with you.”

I am so amazed and grateful at how many of these offers were directed our way, as our house in Montclair was without power for 8 days. At the beginning, we turned to our candles, flashlights and fire logs—but the food started to go and the small inconveniences---such as our cars being locked in the electronic garage---mounted until that forced us to leave with our toddler and 9-year-old in tow.

So we left for a generously offered apartment in Brooklyn Heights. When we arrived, I found coffee. I immediately felt at home at Starbucks on Montague, especially enjoying the communal feel of working and drinking coffee at a long farmhouse-like table.  I enjoyed the dark cherry wood paneling, brick interior walls, brown mugs and the various depictions of Brooklyn and its main memes—the view of the skyline and the bridge. I also had a huge supply of Via with me that I made in the mornings before I put the baby in her stroller and headed out.

While enjoying power after not having it for what turned out to be a relatively short period of time---especially compared to some others---I thought back to that first day without power. The first day, I went to Starbucks here in Montclair. Knowing that it would be crowded, I brought my own foldout chair---one of the chairs that we used this summer to witness fireworks, and to see outdoor movies in Manhattan. I arrived and found a seat with a group of people I didn’t know, and I found power to charge my computer and phone. Everyone was nice and friendly, including the baristas, who spent the entire day dealing with a line that was out the door. The warmth of the coffee and sweetness of the pastries offered was a sheer joy to us. We have been humbled and laid low by Sandy and now Athena. It’s been a tremendous challenge---but the offer of coffee has been tremendously uplifting.

And by the way, have you heard about the “lox Sherpa” of Russ & Daughters on Houston Street? Now that’s a hero. During the height of the storm crisis, he commuted every day from Jackson Heights, helped get the generator started to keep the refrigerator going, and moved all of the lox onto ice and into crates. He also hauled food and water up 24 flights of steps to a sick coworker. Previously, this 39-year-old was a professional Sherpa helping mountain climbers summit Mt. Everest. You know what keeps him so strong, healthy and clear? When asked about his preference, he admits to preferring coffee to tea, saying, “In this city, you have to start your day with coffee.” Read more about Mr. Sherpa here:

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Big News From Green Mountain Coffee---in Philadelphia and Beyond

Big news from Green Mountain Coffee, widely recognized for their incredible beans and blends and their role as the #1 fair trade coffee purveyor in the world. They are in the process of introducing their new blends for the Keurig, including the Focus Blend, a medium roast coffee that is supplemented with 50 mg of L-Theanine per 8-ounce serving. In fact, I had a chance to try it today at the 2012 Food and Nutrition Conference, which is being held in Philadelphia. 

Green Mountain proudly proclaims the ingredients of its success---first integrity and unassailable business practices---and then the perfect admixture of high-mountain growing spots, warm soil and gentle tropical rains. And then of course there is that technically informed approach to roasting and brewing so that each cup of Green Mountain coffee achieves the perfect flavor, body and acidity.

But it turns out there is one more element---market research. That’s right; the hard-working folks at Green Mountain Coffee used focus groups to come up with the Focus blend. “We were literally sitting in people’s kitchens saying, ‘what do you want in your coffee?’” says Kristen Mercure, an associate in Green Mountain’s Specialty Coffee Business Unit.

So what did they learn? According to Kristen, people were saying that not only do they drink coffee as part of being healthy and energized, but they also take supplements. Mark Corey, PhD, Food Development Scientist, at Green Mountain, notes that you can pack a lot of healthy stuff into one K-cup, including not only 80 to 120 mg of caffeine, but also L-Theanine----an amino acid compound found in green tea, with documented positive effects on both cognition and mood.

 My experience drinking a K-cup of the Focus blend was one of subtle uplift. There was a surprisingly nice interplay between the caffeine and the additional L-Theanine---and I enjoyed it very much. In fact, since I was working, I found the coffee very energizing and effective as well.

Later that evening, I had a glass of wine with dinner. A nice glass of merlot. But as my colleagues had more alcohol, I decided to move toward coffee. I found the coffee brewed by the bar in the lobby of our hotel surprisingly fresh, well brewed and delivered with remarkable kindness and good humor. 

Once again, coffee is common currency around the region, the country and the world. It’s not always about the type of coffee you’re drinking, though a good cup of coffee is always a goal. More often, it’s about the intention behind the coffee, its effectiveness in helping you stay upbeat and energized….and the company you keep.

Happy fall!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Finding Balance With Coffee and French Fries, Finding Joy Outside of your Comfort Zone ---and Goodbye to Arthur Sulzberger

You know when you wake up at 9:47 thinking it’s 7 am, it was a late night. That means that drinking coffee becomes a late-morning experience, rather than an early-morning, the birds-are-chirping and I’m chipper experience.

Today’s coffee feels a little different because of last night’s pub food.  While the idea of drinking coffee all day long is normal, the idea of eating fries for me is a once-in-a-while experience. Last night I ate fries, drank half a pint of cider and danced to rock and roll at a bar in Middlesex. It was very interesting and lots of fun. There was no coffee---and no skim milk. So it was a paradigm shift, but the band, Road to Ruin----was amazing. Seriously, it was impossible not to dance. Until the wee hours.

Back to the pub food….We’re basically talking chicken wings, soda, and french fries, except in my quest to be healthy and eat clean, I ordered tilapia—which was literally doused in butter. Overall, the food was cooked well and the service was impeccable. And by midnight, when I had been dancing with my friends all night in my black Yoanna Baraschi dress and my structured Ugg knee highs, who cared that I ate a few fries anyway? Once in a while, you have to let go.

The good news is that assuming you are living an overall healthy lifestyle and you have an occasional night out at a pub, drinking coffee can help tip the balance in your favor.  In a 14-year study of more than 400,000 coffee drinkers, published in the New England Journal of Medicine  in May 2012, men who drank 2 to 6 cups of coffee were 10% less likely to die during the study period, and women were 15% less likely to die, assuming that they also drank between two to six cups of coffee. Researchers implicated the 1,000 plus compounds found in coffee as the life-enhancers, though scientists still cannot clearly say exactly which components convey which benefits.

When I finally sat down with my first cup of coffee today (Starbucks Anniversary Blend brewed in a Gevalia), I read with great interest about Arthur Ochs Sulzberger (1926-2012), who died yesterday.  He not only expanded the NYT during his tenure---which included periods of noteworthy financial distress, but he also stood up to bullies who wanted to curtail coverage of Vietnam and widely supported journalistic freedom and excellence. Under his 30 year “reign” the paper won 31 Pullitzer prizes. Today, I drink coffee in his honor.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Drinking Coffee—An Epicurean Pleasure and a Source of Chronic Pain Relief…and my Response to the New Weeping Woman at MOMA

While dining at the 2nd Floor Café at MOMA today, I took an Epicurean delight in my chickpea/fennel salad, replete with beets and a side of focaccia, paired with a delicately brewed skim latte. Contrary to popular belief, Epicurus (b. 341 bc) was not a glutton. There were ugly rumors that Epicurus had to vomit twice a day because he ate so much, and that he would go into sexual frenzies during which time, he would write lewd letters. Not true at all.  In fact, he espoused happiness based on simple pleasures. According to Alain de Botton, writing in “Consolations of Philosophy,” Epicurus’s perception of happiness was based on several basic things: freedom from pain, friendship, freedom, and thought---meaning the possibility of thinking things through, analyzing them and discussing with others. Epicurus cultivated a group of friends, who along with him, preferred water to wine; who enjoyed long walks, and conversation. He once said, “Luxurious foods and drinks in no way produce freedom from harm and a healthy condition in the flesh.

 In many ways, drinking coffee fulfills the Epicurean ideal. It is a straightforward, natural, health-inducing agent that gives rise to energy and good conversation. But, now there’s new information that suggests that coffee fulfills another Epicurean ideal: It relieves pain.  In a study published in January 2012 in BMC Research Notes, 48 subjects, including 22 with chronic neck and shoulder pain, were evaluated to see how coffee consumption would affect their experience of pain during computer-based office work. Forty percent (19 people) drank coffee about an hour before the study, which lasted 90 minutes.

Coffee drinkers experienced significantly less pain than non-coffee drinkers. For example, when it came to pain intensity in the neck and shoulders, coffee-drinkers experience a pain level of 41 (on a scale of 1 to 100), compared with 55 for non-coffee-drinkers.

I was alone at MOMA on this day, because I felt I desperately needed the solitude. I had spent the morning walking around---about 75 blocks altogether---and decided to drop in for the sole purpose of viewing Picasso’s “Weeping Woman” print---a new acquisition.  Though she is clearly a feminine being, her grotesquely enlarged fingers, rotting teeth and misshapen eyes bulging in their sockets give the weeping woman a monstrous appearance.  Looking at this picture, it did not seem to me that Picasso was conveying an ugly woman, rather he was showing us an emotionally distraught woman.  Presumably this was the case, and the “ugliness” of the woman in question was indeed a function of distorted emotions.

Sometimes life is very challenging, and though coffee is not always a cure-all, indeed a cup of coffee can ease psychological distress---and as we have discovered, physical distress as well.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Is Gene Conklin Drinking Coffee in Heaven?

In March 2012, my friend Gene Conklin died in his mid-40’s of cancer. His cancer was a direct result of 9-11 exposure at the site of the World Trade Center, where he and his girlfriend were spending the morning. He was part of the World Trade Center Health Registry. When Gene and I were in college together in Middlebury, Vermont, we spent lots of days and nights drinking coffee---lots and lots of coffee. We were hyped up on learning new things and being politically left wing. In fact, I often called him “Comrade Conklin” and he called me “Comrade Gray.” We were surrounded by lots of agitprop posters—a type of random kitschy artifact that I glommed onto as a Russian major. We listened to folk rock, hip hop, trip house and bits of Bach here and there.

Time passed and we got older.  We were both indelibly affected by 9-11. He more so than I, we would later discover. For me, 9-11 made me aware of my own mortality and that of my then-boyfriend, now husband, whose office was right smack-dab in the middle of the financial district. We decided to start a family and grow up, finally.

Gene’s experience was different, as he explained to me more nine years later in a facebook message, which I am sharing with you now:
9-11-01 = Exposure to the toxic cloud of carcinogenic debris from the WTC (standing about 2 blocks away)
10-13-01 = first sign of cancer noticed by me as I am leaving from a "going-away party" but which I misinterpreted as a muscle pull
10-14-01 = moved with my then gf from Brooklyn Heights, NYC to Pittsfield, MA in the Berkshires. Upon arrival, I worked renovating an office space as an independent contractor for a few months and started to become incredibly fatigued each day.
01-09-02 = diagnosed with testicular cancer which was spreading to my lymph nodes and beyond at the time. I speculate that I breathed in a massive amount of asbestos fibers on 9-11-01 as well, which explains my loss of lung capacity, but this has never been confirmed or denied. (It requires a special kind of x-ray examiner to determine this sort of damage) I have a great deal of knowledge about asbestosis and mesothelioma cancers because the law firm I worked for in NYC was the foremost litigator of these claims in the entire USA.
01-09-02 to 05-01-02 --- underwent a rigorous chemotherapy regimen
06-01-02 --- moved to North Adams, MA, just up the road 20 miles from Pittsfield, MA
06-01-02 until the present time - various health maladies but no recurrence of cancer yet.
Prior to 9-11 I had never had any serious health problems. I am a currently enrolled member of NYC sponsored, The World Trade Center Health Registry.

Gene was a political pundit—a true revolutionary---whose political commentary and analysis was worthy of publication in the New Yorker or any other high quality publication. He understood statistics, history and the sociology of politics. He reviled injustice, racism and hypocrisy. He was a singer/songwriter and a top-notch writer. His lack of ongoing commentary is a screaming absence on facebook---as many of his friends and family will attest.

Gene and I were slated to see each other after a 20-year break in April 2010 in North Adams, Massachusetts, in the Berkshires---the place where he ended up spending the last years of his life---and a place that my family has been vacationing for many years, and where my grandmother spent many happy summers as a child. We were surprised by yet another aspect of our shared history. We were planning on having coffee. However, I received a note from him on facebook with the title, “Worst Timing Ever!” He could not make it, he explained, because he had become very ill again. He had been cancer free for 8 years and was not feeling well at all. In fact, he had been rehospitalized.  

The thing that I should have done is brought the coffee to him in the hospital, and I believe that he would have allowed it if I just pushed hard enough.  Being there would have mattered---a fact brought home to me by a recent review of Christopher Hitchens’ “Mortality.” Hitchens, a stalwart and pugnaciously brilliant nonbeliever, wrote: “Another element of my memoir-the stupendous importance of love, friendship and solidarity—has been made immensely more vivid to me by my recent experience. I can’t hope to convey the full effect of the embraces and avowals, but I can perhaps offer a crumb of counsel. If there is anybody known to you who might benefit from a letter or visit, do not on any account postpone the writing or making of it.”

I wish I had read these words a long time ago. I would have found Gene and come running—coffee in hand---to see him at least one more time. Rest in peace, Gene Conklin.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Drinking Coffee and Admiring the Palm Trees in San Francisco

The very first caffeinated beverage I drunk in San Francisco was a latte at SFO. It was not exceptional. In fact, I don’t even remember the name of the café. However, outside of SFO, San Francisco boasts a robust and unique coffee-drinking culture.  It totally makes sense that there are often two to three cafes on any given block. People need energy to ride bikes, walk up and down hills, and keep up such amazing gardens and streetscapes.  (Palm trees are everywhere in San Francisco, and they are NOT native. They are all planted from seeds—the Mexican Fan palms, the Canary Island Date palms and all the others. They grow in public areas, around institutions, in wealthy neighborhoods and in very modest areas, as well. The climate, it turns out, is well suited for all types of palm trees, eucalyptus and scrub oaks...)

August is a perfect time to drink coffee in San Francisco, because it is fairly cool.  During my family’s 2-week visit, every day around 3:30, as the fog started to roll in and the temperature dropped, I craved hot coffee with skim milk.  Sometimes, I went for a latte, or even chai or a green tea-based drink.

Castro---where we stayed----is chock-a-block with cafes. Initially, I went to Peet’s on Market Street. There's lot of seating---and the coffee is serviceable enough , but it’s the longstanding history of Peet’s in the Bay Area that attracted me. In 1966, when Alfred Peet opened Peet’s in Berkeley, it set the tone for gourmet coffee for the west coast---and eventually beyond. I also discovered during my stay that the coffee I consumed in the cafes at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Deyoung (surprising) was Peet’s. So I got used to it and was thankful for the consistency.

Speaking of consistency, I went to several Starbucks in San Francisco. In Union Square---what I consider the midtown area of San Francisco—where one can shop at Nordstrom and easily take the bus to Chinatown---there were long farmhouse tables and lines that moved quickly. It was no-frill Starbucks.  In contrast, Starbucks on 18th Street in Castro was sheer morning joy for me. The baristas were so professional, upbeat, and handsome---and it was such a pleasure to see so many happy male couples (and some lesbian couples too) reading their newspapers and simply being together drinking coffee. I loved the vibe. Starbucks at Fisherman’s Wharf was a nice respite from the over-the-top tourism that that area offers. My latte was large and nonfat and perfectly brewed---and it was really good. The day we went to Fisherman’s Wharf, I was so tired that I could have gone for a extra-large-venti (if such a thing existed)….but by the time I consumed my latte, I had enough energy to enjoy Aquarium on the Bay and even tried several times to make eye contact with the leopard shark that kept swimming by.

One of my most intense coffee-drinking experiences was at the Fillmore Street Café—not because the coffee was exceptional, though it was good and they had skim milk---but because of the vibrant jazz history of this district and the fact that Yoshi’s ----a Japanese restaurant/storied jazz club is just across the street. Also the pastries are very good, especially the poppy seed bread, and the mural of jazz and reggae musicians made me feel warm, comfortable and welcome. I could feel a little bit of Bob Marley in that place.

Castro Café was another neighborhood favorite, just several blocks from our apartment. They made a very good latte---super-smooth. A couple of neighborhoods over, I fell in love with Lava Java, a coffeehouse right on the edge of Haight Ashbury only a few short blocks from Golden Gate Park. Lava Java is a coffee house in the truest sense. They have sandwiches! And those sandwiches, with their ciabatta bread and lean chicken breast and turkey meat---and yes, their bacon (yummy, yummy bacon) are very good. Annie, the owners, adds onions, lettuce and tomatoes. She says the coffee is good and I believe her, but the best drinks in my opinion are her green tea lattes and green tea smoothies. She imports the potent green tea that she uses from her native Taiwan. She is definitely a charming and very hip San Franciscan, but she is not thrilled about what she perceives as the downside of her location. Pointing to her front window, she shows us graffiti that won’t come off. “We close at six,” she says. “It gets a little crazy at night. Lots of homeless people, doing nothing. Not even drinking coffee here,” she explains. Still, Lava Java has been around 10 years and warmly greets those who work at San Francisco State Hospital just down the street, starting at 6 am every morning.

And then there is Philz Coffee, a San Francisco-based specialty coffee company that makes hand-poured, customized coffee. They don’t do espresso drinks, but they do offer dozens of blends of coffee…How can I describe their coffee (I had a cup of Tesora)? You know when you smell coffee, and it smells so good and so aromatic and then when you taste it, it is different? Well, Philz Coffee is like drinking the smell that makes you anticipate the coffee in the first place.

Good coffee is pure joy, as is “summer” in San Francisco.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Today's Magic Numbers: 15 Percent and 4 Cups

The thing that I like about the way the New York Times handles coverage of the link between coffee and good health is that (#1) it does not shy away from revealing the controversy regarding certain outcomes and (#2) it does a good job of explaining study design and the complexities of data analysis without going on too long about it.

Today's coverage of the link between coffee-drinking and colon cancer is a perfect example. Well blogger, Anadad O'Connor reports that there has been controversy with some studies previously suggesting that coffee could increase the risk of various types of cancer. Then, of course, researchers started to parse the data more aggressively teasing out "confounding" lifestyle factors like smoking for example. Smoking can certainly put a damper on the positive health effects of anything....

However, the deciding study has come from the National Cancer Institute. In this study of more than 500,000 people, the consensus was that drinking 4 cups of coffee a day (or more) decreases the risk of colon cancer by 15%.

Researchers once again suggest that most likely it's the 1,000-plus constituent components of coffee that have this positive health effect---with a big 'thank you very much' owed to the many different types of antixoidants and chlorogenic acids that reside in this beautiful little beloved bean.

So, "thank you," to everyone who grows, picks, and brews coffee. We owe our good health to you!

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Caffeine-Dementia Link: More Good News About Coffee

Have you ever had the experience of waking up foggy, drinking a cup of coffee---and literally feeling your brain and your nerve endings wake up and become alert to the world? I’m almost certain that most, if not all, coffee-drinkers are familiar with this sensation. The good news is that coffee not only makes you “smarter” but it also protects the brain from developing dementia.

I love coffee. Summer is an excellent time to drink coffee, including iced coffee drinks, as well as reliable hot mugs of coffee. The important thing is that the benefits remain, regardless of the season. Recently scientists explored yet another benefit of coffee. It turns out that caffeine consumption reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. 

In a study of adults over age 65 with mild cognitive impairment---generally considered a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease---those with higher caffeine blood levels avoided developing Alzheimer’s or at least had delayed progression. Note that these results are based on 2 to 4 years of follow up. 

According to the lead investigator, Dr. Chuanhai Cao, a neuroscientist at the University of South Florida, “The results from this study, along with our earlier studies in Alzheimer’s mice are very consistent in indicating that moderate daily caffeine/coffee intake through adulthood should appreciably protect against Alzheimer’s disease in later life. “

That is truly groundbreaking news! The truth really does lie in the data. No one with mild cognitive impairment who went on to develop Alzheimer’s had initial blood caffeine levels above a critical level of 1,200 ng/mL---equivalent to drinking several cups of a coffee a few hours before having a blood sample taken. However, 100% of patients with mild cognitive impairment at the beginning of the study who had caffeine blood plasma levels about the critical level DID NOT develop Alzheimer’s disease.
The takeaway: Coffee consumption---even moderate consumption---decreases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease appreciably. That’s another reason to appreciate coffee---and all of its health benefits…Happy summer!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Born to be Alive

Today my family, along with many others, participated in a biking event in which we rode anywhere from 8 miles to 12 miles. The day was beautiful, the sun was bright and the event was well planned. I started my day with gluten-free, protein-enriched, organic steel-cut oatmeal and 4 cups of coffee, because FOUR is a magic number. (I’ll explain in a minute.) After that breakfast and a little early-morning folk-rock-soul-hip hop, I felt ready to take on the day. 

One of the most compelling parts of being alive is a feeling of vitality. Modern dance icon, Martha Graham, often spoke of vitality. She said, “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action---and because there is only one of you in all time, your expression is unique.”

 Though physical vitality is certainly desirable, vitality goes way beyond the physical. Indeed even in the face of physical challenges, vitality can be metaphysical. In general, vitality manifests itself as hunger for living—determination, persistence, concentrated energy, and at times, carefree unrestrained happiness.

 Vitality means enjoying the subtle sensations of a natural landscape or the more immediate stimulation of cities.  Perhaps vitality for you means listening to the Brandenburg Concertos while sitting outside under a bright sun. Perhaps you feel vital while considering a painting by Salvador Dali or a chaise lounge designed by Mies Van der Rohe. It could be that Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Erik Satie make you feel vital and alive. Sometimes quietly cozying up with a novel evokes a sense of vitality. Or maybe your sense of vitality is heightened while driving through a town replete with Victorian architecture and charming storefronts. 

For most people, vitality is enhanced by the act of drinking coffee. A new landmark study published in the New England Journal of Medicine online on May 16, 2012, takes the coffee-vitality connection one step further. Data from a well-designed observational study shows that coffee drinking in and of itself makes you live longer.

The Evidence We’ve All Been Waiting For

In a 13-year study of more than 400,000 men and women between the ages of 50 and 71, men who drank 4 to 5 cups of coffee per day were 12% less likely to die during the study period. Women who drank the same amount of coffee were 16% less likely to die.

The biggest mortality benefits were seen in the reduction in the incidence of death from heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, and diabetes. Note that men who drank just 2 to 3 cups of coffee a day were 25% less likely to die of diabetes and 16% less likely to disease to die from a stroke. Women who drank 2 to 3 cups a day were 15% less likely to die of heart disease and 21% less likely to die of respiratory disease.

The evidence has been mounting for some time. Still, a large study in the New England Journal of Medicine showing a mortality benefit is a breakthrough. Just reading the study quickened my pulse, confirming definitively and irrefutably that what I’ve known all along is absolutely true: Coffee is good for you and one way to enjoy lifelong vitality.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Coffee and the Art of Everyday Living

In spring everything wakes up. Life is more buoyant and seems easier. Morning coffee takes on a new sense of pleasure. Birds chirp while coffee gurgles in the background as it brews, the children are still sleeping and you can hear the sweet silence of the house and remnants of the newspaper lie waiting for further exploration before being discarded. In the case of our town--Montclair--people are also mulling over something big during morning coffee: the election, which is being covered by the New York Times. This election will elect a new mayor, a council person from each ward and two at-large council people. It takes at least two cups of coffee (at least for me) to parse the three major tickets and the idea of business development to increase ratables versus the idea of evolving the tax code creatively to protect schools and the streetscapes while not unduly burdening taxpayers. Hard to figure it out, but easy to care a great deal in a place where civic pride is not a small matter.

Spring is also the time for a slew of cultural and artistic events. Last week, I had the pleasure of attending a fashion show given by students at Montclair State University. The students artfully created fashion ranging from everyday off-the-rack dresses and business-casual outfits to haute couture. There were beautiful girls in beautiful dresses, but when one young woman walked out in a head scarf with a tan-skin-colored chiffon blouse and a high-waisted, floor-length Missoniesque skirt, everyone in the room stopped breathing for a millisecond. She was literally that beautiful---and very mysterious. I loved her dignity and her sense of herself as an everyday fashionista. Were the situation different---I would have sought her out to get a quote and learn more…but we were there as guests. 

The schwag was really nice too, especially the iPad case and the Marie Chavez bracelets that my daughter and I have not stopped wearing since we got them. We also had the opportunity to hear the band “Sibvon Rose” perform. They were amazing. There was a lot of creative energy swirling around on that cool spring evening--and a lot of hot coffee being brewed and consumed.

There was a sense of creative adventure everywhere. We had walked to this event from our house and I was struck by all of the random sculptures that I often ignore walking through campus. But one stuck with me.  Students had assembled an ephemeral sculpture out of Starbucks cardboard cup holders. They were assembled on top of a crate flat, built up and out and bent randomly into various configurations. There were flecks of dirt everywhere. I looked at this work of art and thought of all of the hands that had held cups full of (mainly ) coffee and all of the hands that had assembled that sculpture. Another example of coffee driving creativity, unity and art for the sake of art. 

Enjoy your morning coffee and your afternoon coffee and, if possible, enjoy every single day of spring 2012! Also, please remember to VOTE!!!