16 Quick Coffee Facts for National Coffee Day

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iStock

There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but on National Coffee Day (today!) there is such a thing as a free cup of joe (here are just a few of the places where you can get one). So why not repay the freebie favor by regaling your barista with any one of these fascinating coffee facts.

1. COFFEE WAS ORIGINALLY CHEWED.

Sipping may be your preferred method of java consumption, but coffee has not always been a liquid treat. According to a number of historians, the first African tribes to consume coffee did so by grinding the berries together, adding in some animal fat, and rolling these caffeinated treats into tiny edible energy balls.

2. DRINKING DECAF FUELS THE SODA INDUSTRY.

After coffee beans are decaffeinated, several coffee manufacturers sell the caffeine to soda and pharmaceutical companies.

3. INSTANT COFFEE HAS BEEN AROUND FOR NEARLY 250 YEARS.

A cup full of instant coffee
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Instant coffee has been around for a while, making its first appearance in England in 1771. But it would take another 139 years for the first mass-produced instant coffee to be introduced (and patented) in the U.S. in 1910.

4. THE AVERAGE AMERICAN SPENDS MORE THAN $1000 ON COFFEE EACH YEAR.

You’d think that spending an average of $1092 on coffee each year would be enough to make America the world’s most caffeinated nation. You would be wrong.

5. FINLAND IS THE WORLD’S COFFEE CAPITAL.

Though Finland does not produce any beans of its own, its citizens drink a lot of the brown stuff—the most of any country in the world.

6. BEETHOVEN WAS A BARISTA’S WORST NIGHTMARE.

An illustration of Beethoven
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Beethoven enjoyed a cup of coffee, and was extremely particular about its preparation; he insisted that each cup he consumed be made with exactly 60 beans.

7. COFFEE BEANS SENT BRAZILIAN ATHLETES TO THE OLYMPICS.

In 1932, Brazil couldn't afford to send its athletes to the Olympics in Los Angeles. So they loaded their ship with coffee and sold it along the way.

8. THERE HAVE BEEN SEVERAL ATTEMPTS TO BAN THE BEVERAGE ENTIRELY.

As recently as the 18th century, governments were trying to eradicate coffee. Among the many reasons for outlawing the beverage were its tendency to stimulate “radical thinking.” In 1746 Sweden took things to an extreme when it banned both coffee and coffee paraphernalia (i.e. cups and saucers).

9. DRINKING COFFEE COULD EXTEND YOUR CAT’S LIFE.

A cat poses with a cup of coffee
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Maybe it’s a coincidence, but the Guinness World Record holder for “Oldest Cat Ever”—a 38-year-old kitty named Creme Puff—drank coffee every morning of her furry little life (plus enjoying bacon, eggs, and broccoli). Before you dismiss that outright, consider this: The cat that Creme Puff beat out for the record (a 34-year-old cat, appropriately named Grandpa Rex Allen) had the same owner, and was fed the exact same diet.

10. 17TH-CENTURY WOMEN THOUGHT IT WAS TURNING THEIR MEN INTO “USELESS CORPSES.”

In 1674, the Women's Petition Against Coffee claimed the beverage was turning British men into "useless corpses" and proposed a ban on it for anyone under the age of 60.

11. CHOCK FULL O'NUTS COFFEE CONTAINS NO NUTS.

It's named for a chain of nut stores the founder converted into coffee shops.

12. THE WORLD’S MOST EXPENSIVE COFFEE COMES FROM ANIMAL POOP.

Kopi Luwak coffee
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Kopi Luwak, the world’s most expensive coffee, earns its pricey distinction thanks to a surprising step in its production: digestion. In Indonesia, a wild animal known as the Asian palm civet (a small critter similar to the weasel) cannot resist the bright red coffee cherries that abound, even though they can’t digest the actual coffee beans. The beans pass through the civets' systems without being fully digested. At which point, some brave coffee farmer collects the beans from the civets’ droppings, (hopefully) thoroughly washes them, and sells them for up to $600 per pound.

13. THE FIRST WEBCAM WATCHED A COFFEE POT.

Though it was hardly what one might described as “action-packed,” it allowed researchers at Cambridge to monitor the coffee situation in the Trojan Room without ever leaving their desks. After the webcam portion of the Trojan Room coffee pot experiment was pulled, the pot itself—a non-working Krups ProAroma pot that would normally retail for about $50—was put up for auction on eBay, where it sold for just under $5000.

14. IT WOULD TAKE 70 CUPS OF COFFEE TO KILL A 150-POUND PERSON.

Too much of anything can be a bad thing—yes, even your favorite customized coffee beverage. A video from AsapSCIENCE determined that it would take 70 cups of coffee to kill a roughly 150-pound person.

15. THERE’S A STARBUCKS AT CIA HEADQUARTERS.

Empty Starbucks paper cups
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Some officers at the Central Intelligence Agency call it “Stealthy Starbucks,” but employees at the Langley, Virginia location definitely aren’t your typical Starbucks employees. For one, they must undergo extensive background checks and they cannot leave their post without a CIA escort. On the positive side: They don’t have to write down or shout out their customers’ names!

16. COFFEE COULD ONE DAY FUEL YOUR CAR.

Researchers have had great success in converting coffee into biodiesel. Best of all, used grounds work just as well.

5 Controversial Facts About Melvil Dewey and the Dewey Decimal System

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iStock/TerryJ

Melvil Dewey, the inventor of the Dewey Decimal System, was born on December 10, 1851. Among other things, Dewey was a self-proclaimed reformer, so when working for the Amherst College library in the 1870s, he began to reclassify the facility’s books and how they were organized.

Though the system has gone through plenty of changes over the years, it’s still in wide use all over the world today and forever changed how libraries categorize their books. It has also caused a handful of controversies. In honor of Dewey Decimal Day, we dug into the organizational system—and its creator’s—dark side.

1. Melvil Dewey co-founded the American Library Association, but was forced out because of offensive behavior.

Melvil Dewey was an extremely problematic figure, even in his time. Though he co-founded the American Library Association (ALA), his often-offensive behavior—particularly toward women—didn’t make him a lot of friends.

In Irrepressible Reformer: A Biography of Melvil Dewey, author Wayne A. Wiegand described Dewey’s “persistent inability to control himself around women” as his “old nemesis.” In 1905, Dewey and several fellow ALA members took a cruise to Alaska following a successful ALA conference, with the purpose of discussing the organization’s future. Four women who were part of the trip ended up publicly accusing Dewey of sexual harassment—a rarity for the time. Within a year, Dewey was forced to step down from his involvement with the organization he helped to create.

2. Dewey required applicants to his School of Library Economy to submit photos.


A History of the Adirondacks, by Alfred Lee Donaldson (1921) // Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

In 1887, Dewey founded the School of Library Economy at Columbia College, where 90 percent of his students were female. It was long rumored that in addition to basic information like name, age, and educational background, Dewey required that prospective female students also submit their bust sizes. While this rumor was eventually proven to be false, Dewey did ask women to submit photos, often noting that “You cannot polish a pumpkin.”

3. A Howard University librarian reorganized Dewey's original system because of its racial bias.

Dewey’s personal biases spilled over into his creation, too, and it has taken sincere effort and work to right those wrongs. In the 1930s, Howard University librarian Dorothy Porter helped create a new system to undo the racist way Dewey’s system treated black writers. As Smithsonian reported:

All of the libraries that Porter consulted for guidance relied on the Dewey Decimal Classification. “Now in [that] system, they had one number—326—that meant slavery, and they had one other number—325, as I recall it—that meant colonization,” she explained in her oral history. In many “white libraries,” she continued, “every book, whether it was a book of poems by James Weldon Johnson, who everyone knew was a black poet, went under 325. And that was stupid to me.”

In addition to charges of racism, the DDS has also been accused of being homophobic. Early editions of the system classified books on or regarding LGBT issues under Abnormal Psychology, Perversion, Derangement, as a Social Problem, or even as Medical Disorders.

4. Its 'religion' section is skewed heavily toward Christianity.

The DDS section on religion starts at 200, and no other religion besides Christianity is covered until 290. Given that there are more than 4000 religions in the world, saving a mere 10 numbers for their classification doesn’t leave a lot of room for thorough coverage or exploration. Though some changes have been made as new editions of the system have been introduced, the process of restructuring the entire 200s is a project that has yet to be undertaken.

5. Critics of the system would prefer libraries take the Barnes & Noble approach.

The Dewey Decimal System is the most used library classification system, with the Chicago Tribune estimating that more than 200,000 libraries in 135 countries use it. But it’s far from a perfect system. As such, many libraries are experimenting with other organizational techniques, and many are dropping the DDS altogether.

The main complaint that public libraries have is that the Dewey Decimal System does not make reading exciting, and that there are other ways of categorizing and organizing books that are more like that of general bookstores. By doing away with the numbers (which are hard to remember for general library patrons), some libraries are classifying books simply by category and organizing by author—a system they've begun referring to as "Dewey-lite."

6 Fast Facts About Nelly Sachs

Central Press/Getty Images
Central Press/Getty Images

Today, on the 127th anniversary of her birth, a Google Doodle has been created in memory of writer Nelly Sachs, who died of colon cancer in 1970 at the age of 78. The German-Swedish poet and playwright wrote movingly about the horrors of the Holocaust, which she narrowly escaped by fleeing her home and starting a new life in a foreign land. Here are six things to know about Sachs.

1. She was born in Germany.

Sachs was born in Berlin on December 10, 1891. As the daughter of a wealthy manufacturer, she grew up in the city's affluent Tiergarten section. She studied dance and literature as a child, and also started writing romantic poems at age 17.

2. She almost ended up in a concentration camp.

Sachs's father died in 1930, but she and her mother Margarete stayed in Berlin. In 1940, the Gestapo interrogated the two women and tore apart their apartment. They were told they had a week to report to a concentration camp, so they decided to flee the country. Swedish novelist Selma Lagerlöf, with whom Nelly had corresponded for years, saved their lives by convincing the Swedish royal family to help the two women escape to Sweden.

3. She worked as a translator.

Once Nelly and her mother reached Stockholm, Sachs began learning Swedish and ultimately took up work as a translator. She translated poetry from Swedish to German and vice versa.

4. She was nearly 60 when she published her first book of poetry.

Sachs’s first volume of poetry, In den Wohnungen des Todes (In the Habitations of Death), was published in 1947. In this anthology as well as later poems, she used religious imagery to evoke the suffering of her time and the Jewish people.

5. She won the German Book Trade's Peace Prize.

In 1965, Sachs won the Peace Prize from the German Book Trade. She shared a message of forgiveness when she accepted the award from her compatriots. “In spite of all the horrors of the past, I believe in you,” she said.

6. She won the Nobel Prize for Literature on her 75th birthday.

Sachs and Israeli writer Shmuel Yosef Agnon were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1966. According to The Nobel Prize’s website, Sachs was recognized "for her outstanding lyrical and dramatic writing, which interprets Israel's destiny with touching strength.”

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