Coffee: Why Do We Like It?

Growing up in a home where a 10-cup pot of coffee was brewed twice a day by a mother who can't go more than eight hours without a java fix, I was conditioned to love the smell of coffee. I didn't develop a taste for it until college (hey, everyone else was doing it), and even now I think it's the Pavlovian response to the smell and the cream, not the caffeine, that keeps me coming back for more.

Apparently not everyone likes the smell. When faced with a mug of steaming coffee, my grandparents' cat performs that weird litterbox ritual, scraping his hind legs toward the mug as if attempting to bury the foul-smelling liquid. I'm assuming the cat is trying to tell us it smells like crap.

All reasons why I found this Daily Dish item on why we like coffee so interesting. Overcoming the initial bitterness, the author writes, has a lot to do with smell. "[W]hen black coffee enters your mouth, you perceive bitterness with your tongue, but you also perceive a complex coffee odor with your nose as the java molecules are pumped from your mouth into your nasal cavity (appetizing, huh?). Positive and negative responses to smells are learned, not visceral. And with coffee, it seems, these preferences override our preprogrammed distaste for bitterness," the article states, citing an explanation from Linda Bartoshuk, a Yale professor who researches the sense of taste. "[S]he believes that people like coffee because its smell becomes associated with its accompanying rush of caffeine and pleasures of cream and sugar."

What's your first coffee memory? And if you consider yourself an addict, how did you get there?

For the previous Metrocurean discussion on the city's best coffee, check out the comments on this post.