Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Truth

About coffee.

And it's not pretty. Worse than that, it's disgusting. DISGUSTING.

I missed this 2009 interview on NPR but read about it on the blog, Food Renegade and decided to do some research.


You can follow the NPR link above and read the entire interview. I just took out the part that was meaningful to me. The coffee part. You can just read the bolded/italicized parts that follow to get the main point.

"Dr. EMLEN: …that is sort of - okay. It's peripheral to what we've been talking about but when I was an undergraduate, I was hugely influenced by a professor of mine, a biologist and entomologist named George Ichor(ph), one of the greatest entomologists I ever met. And I remember driving across the country with him when I was a college undergraduate. He was an advisor to me. I was doing research out at a place called The Rocky Mountain Lab in Colorado. And we had to keep going way out our way - this was in the late '80s, this is before there was a Starbucks on every corner and you can get really good coffee.

And he was fiercely addicted to caffeine - to coffee. And we'd have to drive way off the interstate to go find good coffee in that day. I mean, we'd go 45 minutes off our route to go find a place that had whole bean fresh ground coffee. And I remember giving him a really hard time because we were wasting a lot of travel time trying to feed his addiction because he need a coffee every couple of hours. And he finally explained to me he had to drink only sort of whole bean fresh ground coffee. And it was because of cockroaches. There's a point to this story which is that he found out the hard way from teaching entomology year after year after year, handling cockroaches - people used cockroaches as the lab rat for entomology labs - he got really badly allergic to them. So, he couldn't even touch cockroaches without getting an allergic reaction. And because of that he couldn't drink pre-ground coffee. And it turned out when he looked into it that pre-ground, you know, your big bulk coffee that you buy in a tin, is all processed from these huge stock piles of coffee. These piles of coffee, they get infested with cockroaches and there's really nothing they can do to filter that out. So, it all gets ground up in the coffee…


Dr. EMLEN: …and he was actually allergic to pre-ground coffee because of that sort of spin off from having handled them teaching entomology for all those years.

GROSS: Oh I don't know what to say, thank you for that marvelous insight.

Dr. EMLEN: You may not want to put that on the air.
(Soundbite of laughter)

Dr. EMLEN: For better or worse.
GROSS: Oh, that's really upsetting.

Dr. EMLEN: That is a true story. That according to this professor and how he related to me and we wasted many, many hours trying to find basically fresh ground whole bean coffee so that he didn't have to have an allergic reaction to the pre-ground.

GROSS: Is there any other evidence besides this one person that there's…
Dr. EMLEN: Oh, there is.

GROSS: Yeah.

Dr. EMLEN: This isn't my forte but I looked into it a little bit because I tell that story in my entomology classes. Technically speaking, if I'm not mistaken, the FDA regulates the percent by dry weight of food stuffs like this that can be ground insect parts and make sure that it doesn't end up being too much of the total.

GROSS: Thank you.

Dr. EMLEN: And it's small, it's a trace amount. Chocolate incidentally is the other one that - if you think of these huge piles of beans, of cocoa beans, all piled up that then gets ground up in to something we all love and eat."

So, yeah. Ground up cockroaches. How's that for disgusting? 

Lucky for those of us who HATE (and I do mean HATE) cockroaches and are repulsed by the mere thought of consuming insects of any kind for any reason, there is a way to enjoy coffee without cockroaches. 

Just buy whole bean coffee and grind it yourself. And maybe stay out of coffee shops.

Whew! I feel like I just dodged a bullet.

Do you enjoy a morning cup of coffee? 


  1. You seriously just freaked me out.

  2. Hey, we get bugs in cheese and we eat ground up up cow, so I guess it shouldn't gross us out too bad to get a little protein in our coffee.

    BTW, I grind our beans. The only pre-ground coffee I have is what I call our 'apocalypse coffee,' the type we resort to when the economy has completely tanked and we can no longer afford our coffee beans. I'd hate to have to resort to chickory like the Confederate soldiers did.

  3. I was completely fine with this, seeing as how I don't drink coffee. Then you threw in that unnecessary bit about chocolate and got me all heebie jeebied. Thanks a lot.

  4. Beings the article is from 2009, do you think they might have cleaned up their act a little? I don't usually drink coffee unless it's from starbucks and if I ever buy some (which I just did the other day for the first time in years) it's from Starbucks and it's whole bean that I grind up here at home.

    Now on the other hand, my hubby drinks the ground folgers every day ! I wonder if I should tell him? Ummm Yes, I think I will. I think I will do a little bit more investigation beings that article is that old! I hope and pray they've done something about it by now! Yikes!

  5. Nicole- It seriously freaked me out too. And then I realized that I grind my beans. Whew! LOL

    Judy- Leave it to you to put things in perspective for me! Could you move here and do that for me every day? :)

    coop- The chocolate thing I'm just putting out of my head. Cause I don't want anything getting between me and that delight. LOL

    Sandy- I looked and looked but didn't find anything about it not being an issue anymore. I grind my beans too. Go ahead and tell him---in my experience, it doesn't seem to bother the men. LOL

  6. Ah, did you have to share? lol I mean I know I eat all kinds of wrong things but telling me there is some squashed up bits of cockroaches in my coffee, ugh, there is just something about cockroaches that,well, you know. I should have skipped this one lol

    Lucy from Lucy's Reality

  7. Lucy- I hate those darn things. They are THE bug of the low-country and I hate them. HATE. THEM. When I read that, I nearly choked. LOL

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  9. Shuddering here at the very thought of it. I've never seen a cockroach (it's too cold here for them!) but I do buy ground coffee for work, ugh, may never drink coffee again.
    chocolate couldn't surely be the same, nooooo!


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