If You're Not Ill, Drink Coffee With a Good Conscience

My wife grew up in Massachusetts, and her music teacher must have been a descendant of one of the original Puritan settlers. In chorus, the kids were taught a “coffee song,” which they sang , perhaps with fingers wagging, for the parents on recital night. The lyrics, approximately, were “C-O-F-F-E-E, coffee is not for me, it’s a drink that people wake up with, and it makes them nervous, it is a SIN…”

(Anyone else subjected to that song, incidentally? And no, she didn’t attend Catholic school. Public school preaching the sins of coffee!)

Coffee may make you nervous, but it’s not necessarily bad for you. If anything, a new study suggests that you should be drinking more coffee, not less:

In the new study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found that healthy women who drank upwards of six cups of coffee per day were no more likely than abstainers to develop high blood pressure over the next decade.

On the other hand, women who drank coffee occasionally or in moderation — reporting anywhere from zero to three cups a day — had a higher risk of developing high blood pressure than the heavy coffee drinkers or the abstainers.

Inevitably, a contradictory study will come out next week, but in the meantime, espressos for all!

Of course, if you drink your coffee Dunkin’ Donuts style, with a 1:1:1 ratio of sugar to cream to coffee, you may not be doing yourself any caloric favors. But don’t blame the brew itself. MARK ASHLEY

Healthy coffee lovers, drink up! [CNN]
(Photo: Ahmed Rabea)

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  1. whysteriastar says:

    Or you could just start drinking green tea, which is always good for you in any quantity (short of diluting your blood stream to dangerously thin levels), and contains cancer preventative anti-oxidants.

    Just a thought.

  2. Todd says:

    So coffee doesn’t lead to higher blood pressure. Does coffee lead to liver disease? Does it lead to hyper-tension? Does it lead to kidney cancer? Don’t read too much into the science. Positive or negative.

  3. B says:

    In chorus when I was growing up in New England, we sang “Jeremiah was a bullfrog,” but our teacher cleverly changed the line “He always had a mighty fine wine” to “we always had a mighty fine time”

  4. The Bigger Unit says:

    The lyrics don’t state drinking coffee is a sin…I remember this song clear as day when I was in school (don’t ask me why!)…
    “C-O-F-F-E-E, coffee is not for me. It’s the drink some people wake up with…that it makes you nervous is no MYTH, slaves to the coffee cup, they can’t give coffee up!”

    Coffee is no sin dammit!

    Nothing like putting the fear of god in people to prevent things like…coffee drinking(?)

  5. jesseraub says:

    Other studies that make other claims:

    French press coffee and espresso (or any other brewing method that doesn’t use a paper filter) has cafestol, the natural oil of coffee which makes it delicious, but also might raise cholesterol.

    And then there’s the claim that coffee has waaaaaay more antioxidants than any other beverage out there, including tea.

  6. kerry says:

    That coffee song reminds me of the Mr. Coffee Nerves ads for Postum.
    Did they say how people who drink coffee and tea compare? I switch to tea after my first or second cup of coffee in the morning, and probably consume a total of 30-40 ounces of caffeinated beverage (10-15 coffee, the rest tea) over the course of the day. Do I risk high blood pressure if I don’t become Ms. Coffee Jitters drinking it all day?

  7. Dont Know Me? You Are Me. says:

    You should all read the National Geographic article on caffeine that came out in 2005, January I think. Fascinating! Basically, coffee enabled the Industrial Revolution to the detriment of our health. Manipulating our circadian rhythms with drugs is not a good idea.

    I like Todd’s post, though. One food is not going to kill us or save us. Better to focus on balance and moderation in all things.

  8. chrispa says:

    Actually, in the 17th century when coffee was first introduced in Europe it was a favourite of religious dissenters such as the Puritans and Protestants in general who had hoped they might induce the working classes to switch from beer to coffee.

  9. acambras says:

    Maybe the teacher was Mormon — don’t they eschew caffeine? I imagine Starbucks doesn’t do terribly well in SLC.

    I saw a neat documentary on coffee. There was a little part in there about how the people marketing coffee to U.S. consumers coined the term “coffee break” and used that as a marketing angle.

  10. yoink says:

    Espresso actually has a low caffein content compared to other brewed coffees as the water is pressed through it so quickly; in fact that’s why you’ll wonder how some people can drink so many. Espresso gets all the flavour of the coffee beans with less of the jolt allowing you to control the intake of such niceties as caffein while still getting the most out of your coffee for flavour.

  11. not_seth_brundle says:

    Well, I did attend Catholic school, and after Mass on Sundays everyone would go over to the gym for coffee and donuts.

    Definitely not a Catholic thing.

  12. He says:

    @The Nature Boy: That was the version I learned too. In my first nerd moment I programmed a 486′s PC speaker to play it on infinite repeat w/ QBasic in like 1992.

  13. Mark Ashley says:

    Thanks for the coffee song followups!

    Google tells me that the song is loosely translated from a German children’s song. English here, and German here.

    The German version includes the culturally sensitive phrase “the Turk-drink isn’t for children!” and the medical observation that coffee “weakens your nerves, makes you pale and ill.” But it’s not explicitly a sin. Unless the Mrs.’ schoolteacher changed the words for the class?…

  14. healthdog says:

    I believe every good science-y type article, fable, or passing comment on coffee. Fingers in the ears (la la la) for the rest of you.

  15. oudemia says:

    Interesting that while that was going on in Massachussetts, the good radicals of Rhode Island were busy making coffee the state’s most popular “flavor” and “coffee milk” the official state drink (even if it should be Del’s).

  16. pestie says:

    I grew up in Massachusetts and I’ve never heard the coffee song. Good thing, too, ’cause coffee is the very life-blood of all that is good and pure in the universe. Such blasphemy will not be tolerated.

    I drink a fair amount of coffee (three large mugs a day) and wondered at one point whether quitting would lower my somewhat high blood pressure. I quit for three weeks (the first few days really sucked) and went back to drinking coffee when it had absolutely no effect on my blood pressure whatsoever.

  17. emilayohead says:

    I learned that song in the late 80′s in a Maryland public school, taught by a German music teacher – I never thought I’d hear it again!

    Incidentally, as a Utah Mormon, Starbucks in SLC don’t seem to have a problem – the city is much more diverse than other, smaller cities in Utah. We just got a Starbucks last year, the only one in the Provo/Orem area with a population somewhere around 350,000 including two colleges. You can get anything you want in Utah, we just make you work for it!

  18. AcidReign says:

    …..My folks always used to tell me coffee would “stunt your growth.” I wasn’t allowed it. I was damned envious of my dad, who every morning spooned up about 6 tablespoons of sugar, 4 oz. of half and half, and a bit of coffee on top, while I had a big glass of gritty powdered milk!

  19. juniper says:

    “COFFEE, coffee is not for me
    It’s the drink some people wake up with
    That is makes them nervous is no myth
    Slaves to a coffee cup
    They can’t give coffee up.”

    Those are the lyrics I learned, but I also somehow retained that it is actually a German children’s folk song (no idea what those lyrics are), and it was to be sung in a round.

  20. Nicholai says:

    SIx cups of coffee? A day! Is that physically possible? If I had two I would like, blow up.

  21. doclettvin says:

    I also grew up in Massachusetts and never heard that pitiful ditty.

    As someone who has to manage the pleasures of being a hunter-type (what the less fortunate call ADD), I use coffee in copious quantities. Usually 6 shots or so of espresso during the course of a morning and one or two cups of standard brew in the afternoon. It is entirely possible that I blocked out any such nonsense.

    What I’m really here to chime in on is the comment about the Mormon strictures on stimulants.

    I used to own an herb shop. Part of what I did was blend herbal teas. One of the herbs that was prominent in these was something called Mormon tea, an herb from out west that (so the documentation told me) was used by members of the LDS as a substitute for those horrible stimulating concoctions called coffee and tea.

    Here’s the poetic part … the Latin name of Mormon Tea is Ephedra Nevadensis … that’s ephedra as in ephedrine.

    So to paraphrase Renfield in Dracula, “Coffee? coffee? Who wants to drink coffee when you can get nice buzzy Mormon Tea.”

  22. gardencat says:

    For many years, I have drank two cups of coffee a day religiously . One study says it’s good, another says it’s bad…and I don’t care what they say.

  23. Her Grace says:

    My mom gave me coffee in my sippy cup as a toddler. I wanted it because my parents drank it, and I liked the smell. Turned out, I liked the taste, too, and have had it since. I’m working on my second cup of the day right now (it’s 2pm AEST). If it effects my blood pressure, there’s no way to tell without me quitting it altogether and remeasuring, because I’ve been drinking it daily since I was 13 or 14. I don’t find the caffiene makes a difference to my productivity (or lack thereof) aside from a psychological one; mostly I just like the taste. It takes about 4-5 8oz cups before the caffiene effects me in a noticable way, though I’m more succeptible to the caffiene in tea or soda, atleast partially because of the sugar involved, I think (coffee is white with a little sugar or chocolate milk powder).

  24. SenorKaffee says:

    The root of this song may be the “Kaffee-Kanon” by Carl Gottlieb Hering, a german teacher, musician and componist.

    Many german parents make their children sing his song “Morgen Kinder wird´s was geben” on the day before christmas.

    The wording of the “Kaffee-Kanon” is pretty dated and sounds a little racist now because of that.


    C-A-F-F-E-E: trink nicht so viel Kaffee!
    Nicht für Kinder ist der Türkentrank, schwächt die Nerven, macht dich blaß und krank. Sei du kein Muselmann, der ihn nicht lassen kann.

    C-O-F-F-E-E: don´t drink so much coffee!
    Not for children is the turk´s drink, weakens the nerves, makes you pale and ill. Don´t be a Mussulman, that can´t let it be.

    The translation C-O-F-F-E-E doesn´t really make sense, because it refers to the notes on the gamut.

  25. ConsumptionJunkie says:

    Coffee gives me the jitters. Instead, I reach for a nice cup of yerba mate.

  26. Pelagius says:

    Where in America can you get a coffee like the one depicted here? It’s par for the course in Australia and I miss it dearly!

  27. jesseraub says:

    To Pelagius –

    Find a local coffee shop that actually cares. And hope to god that you’re in a big city. Best coffee shop in the US is Intelligentsia in Chicago. Might be better ones out there, but that’s where I used to get my fix. Also, baristas from Intelligentsia placed 1st, 3rd, and 4th in the US Barista competition last year (or the year before) and the guy who placed first placed 3rd in Internationals. It’s a highly trained shop.

  28. oudemia says:

    Pelagius — Are you in NYC? Or its environs? The closest to proper Italian espresso and cappucino here (in my humble opinion) is Taralluci e Vino on First Ave. and 10th St.

  29. WannaGetMatzoBalled says:

    My brother and I STILL sing this song, learned in music class at a public school in South Jersey. We love that “Slaves to a coffee cup, They can’t give coffee up..” BTW the tune is very carousel up-and-down, very kind of oompaa, so maybe it is German.
    Awesome propoganda for wee folk….

  30. synergy says:

    OR! Cut out the caffeine and get a good night’s sleep!

    /snark

  31. Pelagius says:

    @jesseraub and oudemia: Stuck in DC, unfortunately.

    I have actually been to Intelligentsia and it looked like it had potential, but I was on the go and only grabbed some ‘regular’ coffee there. I’ll have to linger next time I’m in Chi-town.

  32. neveryona says:

    Bach or Mozart, I forget which, had a Coffee Cantata that poked fun at the idea of coffee as seductive and sinful. So this goes back a ways. . . Highly amusing: of course you probably would not have learned THAT in an american school.

  33. designslave says:

    I grew up in Oregon and remember signing this song in music class at public school. We also had an assignment to draw posters depicting the song lyrics. Mine was voted the best :-) Didn’t stop me from drinking coffee though.

  34. apstaats says:

    Looks like it was Bach who wrote the Coffee Cantata. This is pretty amusing.

    http://www.bach.org/bach101/cantatas/cantata211.html

  35. CoffeeAddict says:

    I have been a hardcore drinker of coffee for the past 25 years or more and I have never felt any ill effects from it. Also I never get jittery as some people I have seen who only have it from time to time. I actually have low blood pressure so any raising of it that coffee does would be great I think. Anyways coffee will always run in my veins and i wouldn’t have it any other way :)

  36. duchess85 says:

    Oh my gosh! My music teacher taught this same song to us. I think 5th grade? I used to love the song! I haven’t heard the song since. I grew up in West Texas! Funny..maybe this is why I love coffee to this day! If this was a song to dissuade children, it didn’t work for me!