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Butterworth & Son’s Izzy Glen looks at the varying effects of coffee

Although we know how coffee makes us feel emotionally (amazing), do we know much about how it really affects our body? Caffeine is well absorbed by the body and the short-term effects are usually experienced between five to 30 minutes after having it. This can include breathing and heart rate, with increased physical/mental energy. . . depending on the individual this can last up to 12 hours (probably depends on how many espresso shots you’re having before midday).

Some of the negative side effects of too much caffeine include anxiety, insomnia, fatigue and addiction. However, there are also reported long-term positives for drinking coffee. Research in 2013 seemed to indicate that coffee may help prevent strokes and lower our risk of Parkinson’s Disease. Caffeine is a natural stimulant and is the most commonly used ingredient in the world – these days almost 80 per cent of the population consumes a caffeinated product each day.

It’s said that caffeine’s main effect is on the brain – it functions by blocking the effects of adenosine which is what relaxes us (making us tired). Caffeine may also increase our adrenaline levels, which gives us a feeling of alertness. The bottom line is, coffee isn’t as unhealthy as once thought, in moderation, of course.

Cup of coffee artwork by Tom Howes (54929098)
Cup of coffee artwork by Tom Howes (54929098)

But how can coffee help the place we call home, planet earth? I am sure most of us have dumped the cold remains of a coffee into soil or a plant pot nearby and then perhaps wondered if it was the wrong thing to do! Coffee grounds contain a decent amount of the essential nutrient nitrogen, as well as some potassium and phosphorus, plus other micronutrients. The quantity and proportions of these nutrients varies, but coffee grounds may be able to be used as a slow-release fertiliser.

However, once you dive into Google’s massive amount of articles about coffee and gardening, there are conflicting reports. Too acidic – not acidic enough. Great for your compost – terrible for your compost. One study looked at the effects of coffee on the resident worms and it was found to be quite effective in increasing the death rate. Those poor little guys! It would appear that coffee grounds are not so great for earthworms after all and you need these for the health of your soil. As if murder wasn’t bad enough, it appears coffee has antibacterial properties, too. So, instead of helping the thriving microbiota of your compost, tossing those coffee grounds in could actually kill off helpful microbes.

Science tells us caffeine was first a mutation in plants which was accidentally copied and passed on. Caffeine gave plants (think tea plants, cocoa and coffee trees) an edge over competing plants growing nearby. How? The caffeine in these plants’ fallen leaves would ‘poison’ the soil so that other plants nearby couldn’t grow.

Coffee farming artwork by Tom Howes (54929101)
Coffee farming artwork by Tom Howes (54929101)

Still want to put those coffee grounds on your prize tomatoes?

Butterworth & Son coffee roasters and tea smiths are based on Moreton Hall, Bury St Edmunds

Owner Rob Butterworth’s job takes him around the world visiting coffee farms to source great coffees

Visit www.butterworthandson.co.uk

Artwork by Tom Howes, follow him on instagram @nodosaurus