Healthy Drinks

Coffee Isn’t Consumed as a Morning ‘Pick-Me-Up’ by Many of the Longest-Living People on the Planet, BTW

Photo: Stocksy/ Studio Firma
In the United States, a typical morning is often synonymous with drinking a warm cup of coffee as a pick-me-up to kick off the day. But while drinking coffee is a non-negotiable morning routine for many Americans, that's not the case in many other parts of the world—including for many of the folks that reside in the Blue Zones.

Indeed, National Geographic journalist and longevity expert Dan Buettner has identified five regions in the world where folks live the longest, which he has deemed the Blue Zones (Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece; Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; and Loma Linda, California). While coffee is consumed in many of these parts of the planet, the habits surrounding when and how it's sipped vary greatly...and for some, it's not consumed at all.

A closer look at the Blue Zones coffee habits

Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica

Costa Rica—which is home to the Blue Zone, Nicoya—is one of the largest coffee-producing countries in the world. Thus, it’s no surprise to hear that Costa Ricans tend to drink greater quantities of the beverage on average. However, “[Coffee in Costa Rica] is consumed almost like any other beverage, and not so much like a pick-me-up,” Buettner previously shared with Well+Good.

However, while many Costa Ricans do often sip on coffee all day, Buettner notes that the drink is mostly diluted or weaker than your usual brew. “In Nicoya, coffee is sort of a national beverage, and it is consumed throughout the day. However, their coffee tends to be very weak compared to, say, Starbucks,” he says. Costa Ricans use a range of coffee-making equipment to prepare their daily java, but some like to use a chorreador, a non-electronic coffee maker with a wooden base with a small, suspended receptacle that holds a cotton cloth filter or bag secured with a metal ring and filled with coffee.

"It’s a great way to make a super flavorful cup of coffee that’s the perfect balance of acidic, sweet, and the natural bean’s flavor profile without single-use materials like paper coffee filters," Monserrat Prado Flores, a Costa Rican coffee producer at the fourth-generation, family-owned, and woman-led company Ditsö Café, previously shared with Well+Good. According to Flores, while coffee is often brewed for morning breakfast, it’s also common in Costa Rica to brew another cup after lunch to help digest a heavy meal. And later in the afternoon, a cup is often paired with a snack to provide another little boost of energy, she says. (File under: heavenly.)

Ikaria, Greece

In Ikaria, Greece, coffee hasn’t always been the go-to drink of choice. “The traditional hot beverages in Ikaria are actually herbal teas like sage, oregano, and rosemary,” Buettner says. However, he notes that coffee culture is starting to catch on. “More and more, the people on the island are adopting coffee habits.”

“Most of what they drink in Ikaria is a Turkish-style coffee, which is finely ground. It's often served in tiny cups and is very strong,” Buettner says. This boiled coffee has a deliciously rich and foamy consistency and a unique preparation method that allows the whole bean to be consumed rather than filtered out.

Similar to the coffee culture of Costa Rica, Ikarians tend to sip Turkish coffee throughout the day and in social settings, rather than just for an immediate zap of energy. “Folks who indulge in this habit sip their coffee slowly with family and friends, at the table, or in social cafe settings, rather than downing a mug for energy in the early hours of the day," Buettner previously shared with Well+Good. (It's worth noting that maintaining strong relationships is also a pillar of life in Blue Zones regions—and that the longevity-boosting benefits of social connection have been proven many times.)

Sardinia, Italy

In Sardinia, many folks love to visit their local coffee shop for their favorite drink—and rather than using a drip machine to make it, delicious espresso-based drinks are the name of the game. “Sardinia mostly has Italy’s coffee habits. If you go out for a coffee, you’re going to see cappuccino or espresso. It’s not consumed as much in the house,” Buettner says. Sardinians often gather at a local coffee shop and slowly drink their coffee together after a meal or as a pick-me-up later in the day, too.

Okinawa, Japan

Finding devout coffee drinkers in Okinawa is rarer. Instead, Okinawans most frequently reach for tea—in fact, according to Buettner, they drink it all day long. In this Blue Zone region, he says that people often fill up a 20-ounce jar of tea leaves and sip on it as they go about their normal activities.

Green tea is the most popular variety in Okinawa. In addition to its delicious flavor, this beverage is packed with polyphenols and antioxidants that can help boost cognitive function and bolster the immune system.

Loma Linda, California

Unlike the other four Blue Zones, this region is largely Seventh-day Adventist, which means caffeine—from both coffee and tea—is avoided due to religious reasons.

Here are a few of the benefits of drinking coffee, according to an RD:

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