The food pundits and cookery book writers as well as the nutritionists have all waxed lyrical about the Mediterranean diet and its health benefits. Having lived in Turkey, Greece and Italy I can say without hesitation that Mediterranean food is wonderful and healthy of course, as what you eat is fresh and usually not genetically modified. The huge 'beef' tomatoes grow that way and olive oil from the villages is an absolute gastronomic delight-no doubt about it.
However not many of them sing the praises of the one drink that is common to all three of the Mediterranean countries I have lived in – coffee. Elizabeth David, writing in the 1950s did describe Turkish coffee as “thick and aromatic” but in other cookery books it scarcely gets a mention. Greek coffee and Turkish coffee is the same thing, powdered Arabica coffee beans, boiled with water and sugar if desired and served in tiny cups. Greens start their day with it and you can have it sketo (no sugar) or metrio , (medium sugar) and glyki with coffee in your sugar. It is made in a long-handled pot called a briki , which comes in various sizes, for however many cups you usually make. You boil the mixture, remove it from the heat and boil it for a second time before pouring it into the tiny cups. People take a lot of coffee as part of the Mediterranean diet, as the Italians have their equivalent of this- espresso.
We may have to rethink our ideas of the Mediterranean diet given the latest research from Harvard (Mat 2011) which showed that men who drank the coffee over a twenty year period were less likely to get prostate cancer than men who did not drink as much coffee or who drank no coffee. Their findings were fairly conclusive, and perhaps we should forget the thought in the back of our minds that too too coffee is bad for you. It did not seem to matter in the study whether the coffee was caffeine or decaf, but it was not stated whether the responders took sugar and milk in their coffee. In Greek and Turkish coffee as well as in espresso, no milk is added.
The olive oil and tomatoes along with the wine and fresh fruit and vegetables clearly help people in the Mediterranean remain healthy and live longer, but perhaps coffee also helps.