Coffee on the Brain

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Photo by Kricket/FlickrCC


There were several pieces of news about coffee and health in this Boston Globe piece, which made delightful airplane reading, and even caught the attention of our own Jerry Baldwin.

The article is a roundup of the generally reassuring news about coffee and health that appear every few years, with the same regularity that studies linking coffee to some health scare, generally about irregular heartbeat or cholesterol or even cancer, appear. As Walter Willett, who always manages to talk in English, commented after I'd gone through the abstracts and actually read many of nearly 325 studies of caffeine and health for my Joy of Coffee, "You know how every artist has to paint a bowl of fruit? Well, coffee is every nutritional researcher's bowl of fruit."

One caveat: when the writer, Judy Foreman, cautions against drinking non-filtered coffee, she includes French press coffee, because it's steeped. I believe that the studies linking coffee and cholesterol she mentions were done with Scandanavian boiled coffee, which like the boiled tea my plane and train-mate mentioned, is simply boiled, campfire-style, and simply poured out of the top of the pot or maybe through a strainer (or in camp, a sock, with luck a clean one). Jerry's and my beloved French press does have a metal filter, or nylon in most current iterations, and I think merits an exemption. At least I hope it does.

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Corby Kummer's work in The Atlantic has established him as one of the most widely read, authoritative, and creative food writers in the United States. The San Francisco Examiner pronounced him "a dean among food writers in America." More

Corby Kummer's work in The Atlantic has established him as one of the most widely read, authoritative, and creative food writers in the United States. The San Francisco Examiner pronounced him "a dean among food writers in America." Julia Child once said, "I think he's a very good food writer. He really does his homework. As a reporter and a writer he takes his work very seriously." Kummer's 1990 Atlantic series about coffee was heralded by foodies and the general public alike. The response to his recommendations about coffees and coffee-makers was typical--suppliers scrambled to meet the demand. As Giorgio Deluca, co-founder of New York's epicurean grocery Dean & Deluca, says: "I can tell when Corby's pieces hit; the phone doesn't stop ringing." His book, The Joy of Coffee, based on his Atlantic series, was heralded by The New York Times as "the most definitive and engagingly written book on the subject to date." In nominating his work for a National Magazine Award (for which he became a finalist), the editors wrote: "Kummer treats food as if its preparation were something of a life sport: an activity to be pursued regularly and healthfully by knowledgeable people who demand quality." Kummer's book The Pleasures of Slow Food celebrates local artisans who raise and prepare the foods of their regions with the love and expertise that come only with generations of practice. Kummer was restaurant critic of New York Magazine in 1995 and 1996 and since 1997 has served as restaurant critic for Boston Magazine. He is also a frequent food commentator on television and radio. He was educated at Yale, immediately after which he came to The Atlantic. He is the recipient of five James Beard Journalism Awards, including the MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award.

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