More than just a drink in the morning, there is almost a coffee bean culture that's pervasive in Canada. A curious thing for a country that has no viable options for growing their own beans - everything must be imported from countries closer to the equator. Thankfully with an increasingly global culture, we are able to source the green beans (raw materials) from all over the world, and roast them here.
The fact that it is green beans is an important point to make - green coffee beans can stay "fresh" for months when properly preserved. The coffee growing countries have perfected their ability to crack open, wash and dry out their beans for maximum longevity, allowing it to be exported all across the globe. Roasted coffee on the other hand, has a shelf life of only a couple weeks, and roasted AND ground coffee even less than that. Once ground, the high surface area of the beans exposed to oxygen causes a rapid deterioration of the coffee's flavour and other natural chemicals (chlorogenic acid and caffeine for example), which can make the coffee taste stale and flat. Anyone in Canadian coffee culture who has compared a freshly roasted and ground coffee to one that they purchased from a store (which could be months old) can attest to the difference it makes to enjoy the coffee fresh. But why is coffee so pervasive in our Canadian culture?
Some have credited our consumption as Canadians due to the environmental factors - the cold weather for 6 months of the year - and that may have some truth to it. The caffeine in coffee is a stimulant, which helps to warm our bodies during cold winter months, as well as wake us up in the morning when the sun isn't out yet at 7:30am on our way to work. The sun plays another key role - without out, our bodies cease producing Vitamin D, which has been linked with health and overall happiness. The lack of sunlight due to shorter days and overcast skies leads to a Vitamin D deficiency, which studies have claimed may lead to what is known as "winter depression". While artificial tanning is possible to correct this imbalance during the winter months, the safer (and much more convenient) solution is to simply have a cup of coffee.
Caffeine does have it's addictive qualities, which anyone who tries to cut-back can attest to. Those winter months of drinking extra coffee tend to carry over into the spring, summer and fall when we may not necessarily need the caffeine for an energy boost, but drink it more out of habit. This habit isn't just a wake-me-up at home one however, it's a social and cultural lubricant. Meeting a friend at an independent cafe or national-chain coffee shop helps us to connect with old friends and catch up with those we haven't seen in weeks or months. It gives us a break during the day to unwind and enjoy a stimulating conversation, breaking away from the hum-drum of daily routine that involves work and paying bills. The increased dopamine that results from drinking coffee opens us up to conversation and new ideas with not only friends, but strangers as well, when we might not otherwise have the energy or attention span to factor them into our day.
Whateever the reason, there's no denying that coffee in all of it's glorious forms is a part of our cultured existence as Canadians. Whether you enjoy black coffee, flavoured coffee, espressos, macchiatos, lattes or cappuccinos, there's enough variety to satisfy everyone's tastes.