Soy Mocha please

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The first time I really had coffee was in my first year at University. Ughh, disgusting

However, for the sake of socialising, I needed to impress my new friends at the time and wanted to show I could be just as classy. I saw it as a way to break the ice when forming a new relationship with someone. Like you see on the movies “Oh I had coffee with so and so the other day”- officially coffee buddies.

Now, coming from South Auckland, pie dates were much more popular than coffee ones. We did not have coffee shops down the street, only a bunch of dairies on every corner, so this coffee business was new to me.

I followed my friends lead as she ordered a soy mocha for herself, and from that day on, I have always ordered soy mocha. It allowed me to indulge in a bit of chocolate love whilst sophisticating my way around the bitterness of the caffeine. 6 years experience, I think I am  an expert at drinking coffee.

So, is coffee an acquired taste? What do we get from it? Besides bad breath and maybe some good chat (hopefully not dependent on the coffee).

I feel its almost a tool we use to distract from the awkward silences one has during conversations. It also acts as a secondary topic of conversation Wow, this coffee could do with a little more milk Until something new comes to mind. Fortunately, I haven’t had many of those awkward encounters, as I like to believe I choose great coffee buddies (so cheers to all my coffee dates out there).

So, why would anyone like to indulge in this bitter concoction. Is it an acquired taste? Well from personal experience, once I had a few coffees throughout my first year, I began to enjoy it a little more, but again it could be that the context in which I had the coffee was enjoyable. However, I still agree with the acquired taste theory.

It is widely known that coffee is a great source of energy, especially at 8.30am and 3.30pm. I think people rely on it so much to get them through their days. I know of people who work in demanding jobs who need to have the caffeine fix every single day, and I’m sure many of you can relate to this. I had my 3.30pm fix today, and yes the same old soy mochaccino.

What do us coffee drinkers get out of it?

Well bad breath for sure, it is essential you carry mints or breath fresheners with you to eliminate the taste and smell that lingers on your tongue. A nice wee article I found online (see 1 below) spoke about the benefits of coffee, and a major one looked at the relationship between coffee and Type II diabetes, apparently studies have shown a strong correlation between the two. That coffee drinkers compared to non-coffee drinkers are less-likely to have Type II diabetes. The article even went to the extreme to say it reduced the likelihood of developing Parkinsons Disease and Dementia- but I haven’t checked out the evidence to support this- so I’m not too sure how strong this statement is.

It’s interesting for people to believe they become more productive after a cup of coffee. Their brains work better, they work more efficient. Again, as a self-proclaimed neuroscientist, I wanted to look into this a bit more.

So when you wake up in the morning, your neurons in your hard working brain are firing away electrical signals as they do. As a result of this, they produce adenosine and this is sensed by your nervous system via Adenosine receptors. Adenosine has been associated with inducing sleep, and this ladies and gentlemen is probably why you find it hard to wake up in the morning. Whenever, someone tells me they are a morning person, I look to them and say “You lie! You had coffee this morning”- No such thing as a morning person.

So back to your morning routine, you decide to make yourself a cup of coffee to wake up a little. When the caffeine enters your system, it acts as an Adenosine-impersonator as this website likes to call it (2). What this means is that caffeine competes with the adenosine for the same receptor and blocks it from making you “fall asleep”. So it has the opposite effect on your brain and induces activeness and awakeness.

I like to see it as Caffeine and Adenosine are twin brothers and are competing for the same girl (receptor) at a party (morning). Adenosine is a little boring and the girl falls asleep, the party dies BUT when Caffeine enters the room, the girl is interested and she wants to get to know Adenosine’s brother. They hit it off because Caffeine probably plays rugby or is quarter back if we want to go American (intentional stereotype) and the girl is having the time of her life, while the party picks up and everyone is having a good time.

So when caffeine binds to these adenosine receptors in your brain, they induce dopamine activity (this is probably why it has been associated with Parkinson’s Disease), thus you become more awake and in a way brain activity increases! but hey I’m pretty sure you already knew that!

When you take caffeine hits on a regular basis, your body and mind build up this tolerance, and I’m sure many of you again could relate to this, however, no one really knows how exactly you build this tolerance for caffeine, and you probably notice you could have more caffeine than the first time you had it get the same effects.

I am over the bitter taste of coffee, probably because I drown the stuff in sugar and it works wonders for me in the morning. However, I could do with a pie date now and then. Mince pie, steak and cheese, chick cranberry and brie Mmmm. Don’t get me started

Happy socialising everyone!

(1) http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/coffee-new-health-food

(2) http://lifehacker.com/5585217/what-caffeine-actually-does-to-your-brain

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