RAW IN CUENCAThe elixir that helps you reach your happiness potential
by Susan Schenk
It seems like yesterday. The close friend of a friend of mine was dying of AIDS and he related to me the agony of being on his deathbed.
“At that point, I think I would just call for Dr. Kevorkian,” I remarked.
“No, you’d be so surprised!” Russ replied. “You just appreciate life so much more at that point. Every morning cup of coffee becomes an elixir!”
Yes, it’s that amazing morning cup of coffee that makes it all worthwhile to get up and start a new day. People are shocked that a health fanatic like me enjoys her coffee. Well, one cup a day is not so bad, and it actually contains some amazing antioxidants. And it sure makes me smile.
According to WebMD: “A growing body of research shows that coffee drinkers, compared to nondrinkers, are less likely to have type 2 diabetes, Parkinson's disease, and dementia and have fewer cases of certain cancers, heart rhythm problems, and strokes.”
Coffee wakes up my brain as it leads to a release of dopamine in the prefrontal cortex. However, any more than 1.5 cups a day and I start to feel the negative effects, such as overstimulation of the adrenals and kidneys. Overdrinking java can also lead to anxiety, osteoporosis, hypoglycemia, and other issues. Drinking a little coffee helps you keep your weight down by speeding up the metabolism; overdo it, and you gain weight because it releases insulin, the hormone that tells the body to store fat.
Back in the U.S., I was a regular at Starbucks. They didn’t know me by name, but greeted me with, “Good morning, Tall Black Americano Split, No Room!” “Tall” was actually their “small.” An Americano is less acidic (really an expresso with hot water), and “split” refers to half decaf, while “no room” means I skipped the cream.
The issue I have with ordering coffee ini restaurants here is that it’s lukewarm if I don’t drink it pretty fast. One solution is to put the saucer over the cup. Another is to bring my own cup with a lid. Usually, I just make my morning coffee at home with a French press. I sometimes make it toddy-style—even less acidic. Once in a while, I like an afternoon coffee.
Where is the best coffee in Cuenca? The first place I went to that had good coffee when I moved here 15 months ago was Frutilados, a chain restaurant found in the malls, downtown, and other places. The Coffee Tree on Calle Larga is also not bad and allegedly organic. But $1.80 seems high for one cup, and it’s gone before I know it. Banana’s, located near Carolina Bookstore has fine coffee, and they have even given me a second cup free. The place best known for following the American tradition of getting a “bottomless pit” is California Kitchen. The Tutto Fredo ice cream shops even serve the abominable frozen coffees.
Recently, I went to the new place, Magnolia’s, and enjoyed their Americano. It seems funny that you can even order an Irish coffee (with whiskey) at this coffee place. It reminds me of drinking beer at the European McDonalds’ during my youth. (I couldn’t afford it elsewhere.) Other countries don’t require a license for alcohol like they do in the U.S. What is really odd is that Latin Americans seem to think of instant coffee as something special. At the upscale Piedra’s (hot mineral bath), for example, I was horrified to realize I was drinking a Nescafé! Here we are in the land that produces much of the rich fine coffee we drink in the U.S., and they appreciate what we Americans consider faux café.
For those who dislike coffee, there's also the option of tea. I have found Kookaburra Café on Calle Larga to be the best place for tea: They give you an entire pot for a dollar. In a pot, it stays hot and you can savor it for an hour or so.
Once in a while, I get inspired to stop coffee. Or I go on a break from it. But it’s like my friend Lynn says, “I just don’t feel I'm reaching my happiness potential when I don’t have my morning cup of java.”
Susan Schenck, LAc, is a raw-food coach, lecturer, and author of the two-time award-winning book, The Live Food Factor, The Comprehensive Guide to the Ultimate Diet for Body, Mind, Spirit & Planet, which has gained a reputation as the encyclopedia of the raw food diet, as well as Beyond Broccoli, Creating a Biologically Balanced Diet When a Vegetarian Diet Doesn’t Work. Go to www.livefoodfactor.com and register for the free newsletter to get a copy of the first chapter of The Live Food Factor.