By Linda Cornelius
ecogal Author and Designer
Coffee actually isn’t as bad as we used to think, but it certainly has to be kept in line so it’s not drunk in harmful quantities. As in all things, a little goes a long way, too much is not good for your health.
So how does one keep the coffee habit and yet stay healthy?
I’m not a doctor and this is not medical advice, it’s just my way of coping with enjoying coffee without the guilt pangs!
First thing in the morning, while I prepare my coffee I start by drinking a glass of water. Since I don’t really like water (yes, I know, guilty here, I’m not fond of starting the day with cold water when I really want a warm coffee right now) I add some lemon  or apple cider vinegar  to it –- you should try it! It’s a great health booster and even the vinegar (one tablespoon to a full glass) is actually nice and tasty.
All the coffee I brew is organic and Fair Trade. I prefer Fair Trade so I get the feeling of at least not encroaching on the bad living conditions of the poorer countries. I like to think that my habit is also helping them living a better life. And it’s organic so no bad pesticides and chemicals are allowed. At least it’s pure and lean coffee as a starting point.
Another habit I’ve gotten is that only 2 cups per day are allowed strong and caffeinated. So my first cup is a nearly standard portion of coffee, but more on that later. The remaining ones will now be organic decaffeinated and rather watery coffees. This means I actually only put half or less as much coffee grains when brewing. It’s still brown, still coffee, but a rather weak version. That’s because I love sipping a coffee while working away… and I don’t want to exaggerate.
I don’t use sugar in my coffee, but for the ‘strong’ versions I add a quarter of a teaspoon organic honey, it’s just a little bit but goes a long way in sweetening –- and besides: it’s good to get used to less sweets in your life, just get do it gradiently, ever reducing the amounts, so your taste buds get used to real food not drowned in sugars.
Make sure that the coffee isn’t boiling hot, as pure organic honey is heat sensitive and you don’t want to loose it’s health benefits. Since I add some whole lactose-free milk to my coffee and a bit of cold water in the cup, the temperature is just right for the honey.
As you can see, I don’t use cream or other additives at all. Whole milk is fine with me, but I also vary with almond or rice milks, just choose the one you prefer if you like the white stuff in your coffee. Or drink it on the rocks, no additions.
One important thing: I make my coffee the Italian way: I actually have a real Italian moka pot and that’s important: it’s less impacting to have the water rise through the coffee quite fast with this method, a healthier way of preparing it.
I found a reference that explains this at MensHealth :
[…] For antioxidants, the Moka is master. Researchers in Italy examined five different brewing methods and found that coffee percolated in a stove-top Moka pot, an espresso pot, or a Neapolitan-style pot produced coffee with more than double the antioxidant levels of java brewed through a paper filter. Too strong? Add some hot water to espresso to make an americano.
There is actually another great benefit to moka pot coffee: taste.
My coffee is good, but I admit, making really great coffee is a science that my husband is much better at — he is Italian, I guess it goes with the DNA! He serves it in small-size cups the traditional way — it beats mine hands down every time.
I can’t stress enough that quality makes a difference here. Both for water (use at least filtered water for best results) and beans: organic.
The authentic Italian moka pot
There are many moka pot sizes so go with the one that fits your habits best. Since I like big cups, American style, I have a 6-cup size pot and it fits fine. Now, considering I actually drink the equivalent of 6 cups of coffee for my morning serving, you can now better understand why I am really checking how much coffee I fill the pot with! Less is better, and I never fill the coffee chamber up completely, not even for the strong versions.
One more thing you can do – I do it with my second (decaf) cup — is to add some organic bee pollen, approx 1 spoonful. I’ve found it gives me energy, it still sweetens the coffee just a tad, and is healthy. Bee pollen gives coffee a slightly nutty taste I like. Also here: check the temperature, the coffee shouldn’t be boiling hot, to preserve the nutrition benefits of the pollen.
There are other ways to make your coffee interesting: cinnamon and chocolate are best known, and Italian bars will ask you if you want some chocolate on your cappuccino, but other options are: cayenne pepper, just a tiny pinch will perk your coffee up and it’s great for your health to regularly get cayenne in your diet. Turmeric, which is my superfood all-round spice, I put in just about everywhere in my food, from salads to desserts: the taste is not very impinging so it’s really a fit-everywhere spice. Ginger is also an interesting addition. Just experiment and see what you like.
Traditionally, in Italy when you ordered a coffee you would also automatically get a glass of water on the side. Sadly the tradition is now lost, in favor of the quick coffee they drink standing up and in a second, and even sadder is that it’s now accompanied with low quality processed food croissants for breakfast, not healthy at all. But I stick with tradition and also during the day I’ll just get a glass of vinegar or lemon water along with my coffee when I prepare it.
Coffee in Italy is a true little ceremony: when they really want to make you happy they will propose, with an expectant smile “Caffè?” and then the procession goes to the nearest (but best) coffee bar, where we all line up by the counter. As a Dane, I love coffee in bigger cups, more like Americans do, and we sip it more slowly — it’s always fascinating to see just how quickly the ceremony is over and done with, in Italy. They don’t sip coffee. It’s drunk in one or two mouthfuls, strong and scalding hot, and after that you can observe the happy, satisfied smile: “Buono?” they might ask, is it good? Because they are connoisseurs and they know the difference between the various bars and coffees served. Coffee drinking is very social and a choral moment of true pleasure to be enjoyed together. And it’s definitely not something one has in a big styrofoam cup on the desk. Coffee is drunk in proper cups: small, rather thick cups that good bars keep warm so the temperature is optimal when serving.
In this short and funny animation by the famous Bruno Bozzetto, you’ll see more about how Italians behave, among other things with coffee (quick jump to minute 3.36 to see only that part). Enjoy!
What do you do? How do you prefer your coffee? Let me know in the comments!