Starbucks is trying to recover by introducing a new, brewed coffee called Pike Place, and by offering "healthy" protein-boosted smoothies and a new frozen drink.
What went wrong at Starbucks?
Their core business was, frankly, overcharging consumers for coffee, which was very lucrative. But then they expanded into selling CDs, producing movies such as "Akilah and the Bee," which bombed at the box office, and other ventures.
According to the 2008 Coffee statistics report, coffee is the most popular beverage worldwide with over 400 billion cups consumed each year. The U.S. imports more than $4 billion worth of coffee per year, and Americans consume some 400 million cups of coffee per day, as nearly 52 percent of Americans over the age of 18 drink coffee daily.
Fortunately I never acquired the taste for coffee, so the only time I drink it is when I use it as part of my jet lag cure when I arrive in Hawaii. I use it to stay awake till bedtime and then pop a melatonin when I go to bed, and the next day, I have no jet lag.
Anyway, that statistic equates to more than one cup of coffee a day for a person in America. Now I don’t know about you, but most kids under five, like me, do not drink coffee. So the average is probably closer to 2 cups a day for most adults.
I really admire Starbucks for their innovative marketing that has massive numbers of intelligent adults paying double or triple prices for a base commodity. Really brilliant strategy, but with the U.S. economy in the tank, this strategy is clearly failing.
The fact that Americans are dumping their habit of buying overpriced coffee comes as no surprise at this point in time. With the dollar in freefall, increased unemployment, and rising gas and food prices, most people have started to realize the importance of financial restraint, and planning further than their next paycheck.
However, aside from the sad fact that yet another 12,000 Americans will be standing in the unemployment line, reducing your coffee consumption in general is not such a bad thing health wise.
Although coffee is one of the most heavily researched commodities and studies have spanned decades, there is still much controversy surrounding its effects on health. Study after study is performed--often with conflicting results--and it seems there is always a new study out to discount the last one.
For example, one 2004 study found that drinking coffee disrupted short-term word recall. This was promptly followed up by research published the following year, showing that the equivalent of two cups of coffee could improve short-term memory, prioritizing information efficiently, planning new tasks, and dealing with stored information.
So, what’s the real deal on coffee?
Should You Drink Coffee?
It appears that drinking coffee may interfere with your body's ability to keep homocysteine and cholesterol levels in check, most likely by inhibiting the action of the vitamins folate, B12 or B6. Coffee has been previously associated with increased risk of stroke and rheumatoid arthritis. Studies have also shown that caffeine in coffee can raise blood pressure and levels of stress hormones, and if consumed in large quantities it can lead to heart palpitations, jitters and nervousness.
While I do believe that eliminating, or at the very least limiting, coffee should be one of your goals, if you are in the midst of other dietary changes, such as those outlined in my nutrition plan eliminating coffee can be put toward the bottom of the list. You’ll definitely want to eliminate soda and fruit juice from your beverage list first.
There are, however, some important facets of coffee that you should know before you have your next morning cup.
The Dangers of Caffeine During Pregnancy
Pregnant women should NEVER drink coffee. Caffeine is a stimulant drug that easily passes through the placenta to your developing fetus and is also transferred through breast milk.
During pregnancy and in infants, the half-life of caffeine is increased, which means that it will stay in your body, and your infant's body, longer. Moreover, fetuses have no ability to detoxify caffeine.
Research suggests that drinking more than 300 mg of coffee daily, or the equivalent of two to three 8-ounce cups, may increase the risk of miscarriage, birth defects such as cleft palate, and low birth weight. But as I mentioned above, I don't believe that ANY amount coffee is safe when you’re pregnant.
Even with moderate caffeine intake, when the woman experiences no effects, studies have found changes in both the mother's and the fetal heart rate and blood pressure. Preliminary studies also suggest that drinking four cups of coffee or more per day may put the infant at an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Caffeine may also make it more difficult for women to maintain necessary levels of iron and calcium, which are especially important during pregnancy.
Coffee also has the issue of pesticide contamination, which is particularly harmful during pregnancy.
There Probably Are Pesticides in Your Java
Coffee is usually not grown in the United States and we therefore have no control over how many pesticides are sprayed on coffee crops. And coffee is a heavily sprayed crop, so drinking coffee is likely to expose you to a dose of pesticides with each cup.
Pesticides have been associated with a number of health problems such as:
Aside from any pesticide residues that make it into your brew, there’s also the issue of whether buying coffees grown with the help of potentially harmful chemicals contributes to the destruction of the environment and threatens the health of poor coffee farm workers.
If you choose to drink coffee, drinking organic coffee will hopefully reduce or eliminate your exposure to toxic herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers, and would be a more environmentally conscientious choice. The only drawback is that many of the 45 countries where coffee is produced have less control and monitoring for compliance to organic practices.
Avoid Coffee if You Have Certain Health Issues
Since coffee is a stimulant it will only worsen symptoms of insomnia and anxiety, and should definitely be avoided if you’re already suffering from either. People with panic or anxiety disorders may find that they are especially sensitive to caffeine and may find that even a small amount of the stimulant exacerbates their symptoms.
Similarly, the caffeine will linger in your body for hours after you drink it, so it might keep you up at night even if you drink it long before bedtime.
For those with high blood pressure, a general rule is that the more caffeine you drink in a day, the higher your blood pressure will be. So if you are already at the higher end of the scales, drinking coffee will only increase your blood pressure further.
Also Protein Nutritional Types do not do well with caffeine and should only consume coffee or tea in small quantities, and not in the late afternoon or evening, as it will likely keep them up. (However this can be a good thing if you are using coffee as a drug for jet lag).
How to Wean Yourself off Coffee
If you try to stop drinking coffee "cold turkey" you will likely experience symptoms of withdrawal. According to one study, the more caffeine you use, the worse your withdrawal symptoms will be. This is because even small amounts of caffeine, such as one standard cup of coffee a day, can create an addiction. For those who consume it regularly, cutting even the smallest amount of caffeine could result in a range of withdrawal symptoms such as:
- Fatigue or drowsiness
- Depression and irritability
- Lack of concentration
- Flu-like symptoms such as nausea and muscle pain
This can be avoided by cutting down the amount you drink gradually over a period of days, or even weeks. It's also important to drink plenty of water during the process in order to keep your body well hydrated.
If you find that you miss your morning coffee-drinking ritual, replace it with a new tradition that will also boost your health and energy. Vegetable juice makes a great coffee replacement. It will give you the energy boost that you're looking for in the morning without the negative effects of caffeine.
While you're in the process of weaning yourself off coffee, here are some tips to reduce the chance of harmful effects until you can completely eliminate it:
- Use organic coffee. As mentioned above, coffee is a heavily sprayed crop, so drinking organic coffee might reduce or eliminate your exposure to toxic herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers. It will also help the people working in the coffee fields, as they will be exposed to fewer pesticides as well.
- Try "Swiss Water Process" decaf. If you are going to drink decaffeinated coffee, be sure that it uses a non-chemical based method of decaffeination. The "Swiss Water Process" is a patented method and is the best choice. Most of the major brands are chemically decaffeinated, even if it says "naturally decaffeinated" right on the container. If you are unsure of the methods, contact the manufacturer.
- Avoid sugar and milk. These are actually much worse for you than the coffee itself. Don't compound the detrimental health effects by adding milk or sugar to your coffee.
- Only use unbleached filters. If you use a "drip" coffee maker, be sure to use non-bleached filters. The bright white ones, which most people use, are chlorine bleached and some of this chlorine will be extracted from the filter during the brewing process.