Monday, 21 November 2016

Sip on this: Hot drinks make everything better. (Science says so!)

 

There’s a lot resting on the shoulders of a hot drink. We use them to feel better, to warm us, to cool us, to create intimacy between us and someone we care about. We use them to fill us up when we’re hungry and to slow us down when we need a break from life. So is there anything to it? The answer is yes—and there have been quite a few studies to prove it.

Let’s start with what hot drinks do for us, and then we’ll get into how hot drinks can even change the perception others have of you. (Seriously.) When’s the last time you had a cold? Did you put a kettle on to treat yourself to a hot cup of something? Or did you opt for the faster, decidedly less picturesque shove-it-in-the-microwave solution to heat up a beverage? Well according to a study in 2008 at Cardiff University, hot drinks absolutely do have a placebo effect. Participants in the study reported “immediate and sustained” relief from coughing, runny nose, sneezing and more—even though there was no scientific evidence any of those things had improved. Then, there are the physiological effects of a hot drink.

Science behind hot drinksSweet flavors stimulate receptors in our mouths. It’s a lot of nerves-to-brain stem science that amounts to the fact that sweet flavors release a morphine-like compound in the brain that makes us feel good. And these reactions are enhanced by heat. So what’s this mean for you? A sweet, hot drink could make you feel just a pinch better when it comes to your next cold.

Even if you’re not sick, though, a hot drink can make you feel better. It can warm you when you’ve been sitting at a desk for too long, or cool you off when you just can’t get cold. Yep, you read that right. It can cool you off. Here’s some more science for you, straight from the University of Ottawa’s Thermal Ergonomics Laboratory. When hot liquid hits the thermosensors in your throat and stomach, the body turns up your sweating. If you’re wearing clothes that allow your sweat to evaporate, you’ll end up cooler than when you started sipping.

So we know what to drink when we’re sick, cold or hot, but what about drinking something to make people like us? Hot drinks are your answer. They make us seem friendlier. It’s true. The University of Colorado-Boulder published a study in the journal Science that found when holding a hot drink (as opposed to iced), we are viewed as more welcoming by others. Planning to meet someone for a drink? Maybe a hot beverage is your answer.

We like to think of all of this as hot drink magic, but it certainly is interesting to see the science behind it—even if some of it is a placebo effect. If it works that’s all that matters, so head on over to our store and pick up your favorite mixes for the colder months of the year.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Wake up and smell the coffee. Because science says so.

Coffee

Whether you’re crushing cups before a big college exam or just trying to get through the day at work, coffee has long been our best friend in its many forms. Specialty or hot and black, we reach for coffee more than any other drink out there. The smell alone can invigorate us before we have our first sip. So what’s that all about? Well, here’s some smell science for you.

Coffee is made up of many different molecules. Depending on what’s done to the bean during roasting, they can all add up to work magic on the olfactory bulb. That’s a fancy way of saying a part of your brain that recognizes odors as being good or bad. You see, all those molecules released into the air by coffee travel through your nose to register as floral or earthy, as bitter or smooth. Caffeine, for instance, smells bitter, and that scent can instantly trigger your brain to make you feel more awake and alert.

 

Here’s a few others:

Furfurylthiol: A fancy name for a molecule that is believed to be the source of that coffee smell we know and love.

Hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF): Offers a caramel-like sweet smell that makes people want to sip (us included).

Acetaldehyde: A flavoring additive that creates buttery notes.

Trigonelline: A cousin to caffeine, it breaks down during roasting to give coffee that roasted aroma.

Citric acid: It works with phenols to cause the bitterness of coffee as well as the dark coloration.

 

So what does it mean for us as coffee lovers? There’s an entire science wrapped up in that little bean. From the moment it’s harvested, it’s packed with the things it needs to smell (and taste!) amazing when it’s finished being roasted. Roasting coffee is an art form unto itself that enhances certain molecules and compounds to create the beloved undertones you love so much, not just in the aroma of your coffee but in the flavors, too.

Next time you brew your favorite cup, you’ll know why it smells so amazing.

Ready to really dive in and understand the chemistry of coffee? Head on over here, but be assured, coffee doesn’t have to be complicated. Just enjoy it.