With coffea’s estimated 124 species, most of flavors remain untapped; and perhaps will be forever, with an estimated 60 percent under threat of extinction, largely from climate change, disease, pests and deforestation. What fills our mugs at cafes, the office, and on road trips are from two species: arabica and canephora, known as robusta. Arabica fills specialty cafes, and costs more than robusta, which fuels instant coffees and some espressos.
For all of the pomp swirling around arabica, the fact remains it is an extremely homogeneous little seed. Almost all of the world’s arabica coffee progeny traces itself back a few plants from Ethiopia, coffee’s birthplace, or Yemen.
Does adding milk or sugar cancel out benefits?
Doctors don’t know. One 2015 study found that those adding sugar, cream or milk had the same associated benefit as those who preferred it black. But the coffee industry has exploded since the ’90s when the older adults in the study filled out their dietary history. “It was only about a tablespoon of cream or milk, and a teaspoon of sugar,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Loftfield, with the National Cancer Institute. “This is very different, potentially, than some of these coffee beverages you see on the market today.”
Sweet coffee and tea are the fourth largest source of sugar in the diets of adults, according to the October survey from the U.S.D.A. That includes dessert-like beverages, like Dunkin’ Donuts’ 860-calorie creamy frozen coconut caramel coffee drink, with 17 grams of saturated fat, and 129 grams of total sugars. Experts say some of these drinks bear little relation to the 2-calorie cup of black coffee of the past, worrying health officials.
“When you talk about a drink that has that load of unhealthy fats and that much sugar, can’t possibly be a healthy beverage on balance,” Dr. Jim Krieger, a clinical professor of medicine and health services at the University of Washington. “That amount of sugar alone is astronomical compared to the current recommendations of U.S. Dietary Guidelines of 50 grams of sugar a day.”