Americans love coffee. The average American drinks around 2.1 cups of coffee a day, which means 767 drinks (6,132 ounces) of coffee every year! Are you one of those coffee drinkers and have you ever wondered why you’re drinking so much?
The genetics of coffee drinking
Obviously, coffee tastes great and we think so too, or else you wouldn’t be reading this blog! But coffee drinking behavior depends more on taste alone, it partially is written in your genes. So far, 8 genes have been discovered that influence how an individual reacts to caffeine, dictating their caffeine sensitivity.
The same research shows a correlation between heavy coffee drinkers and individuals that process caffeine quickly. In other words: if you are not very sensitive to coffee, you are more likely to be someone who drinks a lot of caffeine.
Conversely, if you are sensitive to coffee, drinking more than one cup will make you feel unwell. As a consequence, you’ll start drinking less coffee.
It seems that about 1.3 percent of coffee drinking behaviour can be linked to these 8 genes, which does not sound like very much (though this is comparable to other habitual behavior including smoking and alcohol consumption). It is also likely that scientists will discover more genes linked to caffeine consumption in the future.
The culture of coffee drinking
Your coffee drinking behaviour likely depends on where you live. Some countries are culturally more linked to drinking other hot beverages, such as tea in the U.K., while other countries have a coffee-drinking stereotype - think France or Italy.
In fact, the country that consumes the most coffee per capita is Finland, according to Euromonitor International. The top 5 coffee consumers in the world per capita (by dry weight before brewing) are:
1. Finland: 21.2 pounds
2. Norway: 15.9 pounds
3. Netherlands: 14.8 pounds
4. Slovenia: 13.4 pounds
5. Austria: 12.1 pounds
The first non-European country in the list is Brazil with 10.6 pounds per capita, Canada ranks 19th with 1.5 and the US comes 22nd with 6.8 pounds - considerably lower than the top consumers. It seems that European countries are high consumers, especially in the north where it is cold and lots of warm beverages are needed?
The availability of coffee understandably dictates coffee consumption. Did you think Seattle was the hub for coffee? Actually, according to a 2018 study, New York is the best city for coffee lovers with the highest concentration of coffee shops and cafes. That said, Portland, Oregon has the highest number of coffee manufacturers per capita.
Nature or Nurture
If you’re looking for someone to blame for your low-key coffee addiction (aka dependence on coffee), you mostly have yourself to blame. Though you can always start reducing your caffeine intake in just a week.
That said, your consumption behaviour is influenced by a combination of several factors, including how quickly you process caffeine and how you respond to it (which is partially genetically determined), but also demographic and environmental factors such as availability to coffee and whether you grew up in a coffee-drinking household and country.
So you can blame your parents a little bit, if you want.
Written by Valerie Bentivegna