Stephen G. Saupe - Biology Department, College of St. Benedict/St. John's University, Collegeville, MN 56321; (320) 363-2782;

Gink & Go at the Coffee Shop

SettingGo is in the campus coffee shop sipping a cup of tea and studying biology.  Gink comes in, orders a cup of coffee and sits down.

Gink:   Hey dude, whatcha doing?
Go:   I’m reviewing the notes I took in Saupe’s class today when he talked about the stimulating beverages.
Gink:   Believe me, there was nothing stimulating about that class!
Go:   I thought it was fascinating that all of our commercially-important beverages are biodynamic.
Gink:   Bi-o-dynamite! Just like Napoleon Dynamite.
Go:   No – Biodynamic!  It means that they exert some sort of influence in the body.
Gink:   Lighten up.  I know what it means.  The beverages can be stimulants or depressants or hallucinogenic or poisonous or whatever.  I guess our ancestors are just like me; they needed some sort of physiological jolt, too.
Go:   And caffeine can provide it.  It’s classified as a stimulant.
Gink:   Which means it increases heart rate, blood pressure and respiration.
Go:   Right – in other words, it stimulates the central nervous system
Gink:   No wonder it keeps me awake.  It also reduces my appetite and seems to relieve some of my aches and pains.
Go:   Yes, and caffeine has also been shown to enhance athletic performance and maybe even reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease.
Gink:   A wonder drug indeed.  I’d better get another cup.
Go:   Whoa now.  Don’t forget the negative effects of caffeine.  Remember that Saupe said it can cause insomnia, irritability and a rapid heart rate.  I liked his story about the time he thought he was having a heart attack only to have his cardiologist tell him he was drinking too much coffee.
Gink:   Who cares about Saupe.  Certainly pregnant moms should avoid drinking coffee because it can cause birth defects.
Go:   My cup of green tea has some additional benefits.  People who drink large amounts have lower rates of cancer.
Gink:   And I heard that black tea can even lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels.
Go:   Black tea boosts the immune system.
Gink:   But, have you ever looked at the teeth of a very heavy tea drinkers?  They’re yellowish.  Almost black.  It’s gross.
Go:   That’s due to the tannins in the tea.  And it's also the reason why lakes in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness are brown.   Unfortunately the tannins in tea are associated with some forms of  cancer.
Gink:   But why do plants make tannins in their leaves?
Go:   Probably to deter animals from eating them.  But it’s good that they do – cause we can use them for tanning leather.
Gink:   Do you think I really care?  Let me drink this dark roast in peace. I ordered it because I needed an extra dose of caffeine to keep away listening to Saupe.
Go:   Don’t you remember?  Roasting doesn’t affect the caffeine content, just the flavor.
Gink:   You mean that you can make a light or dark roasted coffee from the same beans but you just heat them for different lengths of time?
Go:   Right.  Dark roasted coffees are darker in color because the sugars in the beans caramelize and the beans are oilier as oil cells break and release their contents including caffeol which is the chemical that gives coffee its flavor.
Gink:   And espresso is the darkest roast?
Go:   Nope it refers to the way that the coffee is produced.  Rather than make an infusion like drip coffee or my tea, the ground coffee is extracted with hot steam to prepare an intensely flavored drink.
Gink:   Enough already.  You’re getting like Saupe.  If you keep it up I’ll need another cup just to stay awake talking to you, too.

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Last updated: November 09, 2005   
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