265 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139 csf@cambridgesciencefestival.org

One More Cup of Coffee


by Katie Oleksak

Coffee, one of life’s finest staples. It controls me, annoys me, and causes me to be late to obligations and short of cash but I love it. Living in Dunkin’ Donuts nation and socially acceptable coffee shop culture, I wonder whether the 6 o’clock news stories of coffee’s antioxidant and anti-aging affects are simply appeasing us so that we do not feel bad about our bean-wielding lives? Possibly. But in any case, on Sunday I received much more than I bargained for in “One More Cup of Coffee,” a two-hour interactive session at the Cambridge Science Festival, rich with science, samples and coffee freaks like myself.

I arrived at the MIT Museum just in time to hear Harvard researcher Daniel Chasman describe some exciting science behind the physiology of coffee on the brain. A crowd of all ages had gathered and was plenty attentive although it was not even allowed at the sample tables yet. If there was any doubt that feeding your daily habit causes short-term or long-term effects on your body, Chasman’s talk, rich in biology and medicine, would have removed it. Although research continues on the health benefits of coffee drinking, habitual drinking—duh, I didn’t think there was another way—does lower the risk of type 2 diabetes and increase metabolism. This even goes for decaf! Additionally, some major genes that play a role in behavior and psychological patterns are influenced by coffee, in a good way!

Sanjiv Chopra, a liver specialist Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, assured the crowd that the research on coffee shows that benefits outweighs the bad, and the best things you can do for yourself to increase longevity are to exercise, get plenty of Vitamin D, meditate, eat nuts and, you guessed it, drink coffee. He further elaborated on coffee’s antioxidant effects and its ability to decrease risk for heart attack, atrial fibrillation, Parkinson’s disease, cognitive decline, suicide and certain cancers. Java is the most consumed beverage in the world for a reason.

Sandy Pentland, a professor at MIT, followed up with interesting facts about how the coffee break increases socialization, trust and trouble-shooting among co-workers, therefore increasing productivity. The smell of coffee alone in the break room can initiate this process. So much for the water cooler, head to the coffee pot! Also, he suggested, coffee itself can increase rapid eye movement sleep and decrease incidence of mental illness.

Samples always draw a crowd and this event did no less, as local baristas and brewers from Aeronaut Brewery, Barismo, Darwin’s Ltd. and Flour Bakery shared their secrets about cold and hot drip roasts. I’d give a special bonus for the talk from the co-founders at Aeronaut about their collaboration with Barismo on a coffee milk stout—a coffee-infused beer!

The speakers were smart, well-informed and engaging. Sampling was allowed for 5-10 minutes between speakers, and it didn’t hurt that Flour Bakery was giving out chewy double-chocolate walnut espresso cookies to go along with their French roast.

In my experience, Cambridge is rich with open-minded, intelligent, coffee-loving folk. Sitting through “One More Cup of Coffee”, I felt lucky to live here. For those of us held hostage by the bean, don’t feel guilty or alone. Simply help yourself to one more cup of coffee!

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