It’s well known by now that the Greek island of Ikaria holds secrets to health and longevity, with more centenarians than almost anywhere in the world. And while much of the islanders’ health is attributed to a Mediterranean diet, the study sought to find out whether their longevity – and particularly, their cardiovascular health – was linked to another dietary staple, Greek coffee.
The fascinating results showed that the elderly Ikarians who drank Greek coffee daily had better endothelial function (or the function of the cells that line the heart) than those who consumed other types of coffee, even for participants who had high blood pressure.
The lead author, Gerasimos Siasos, explained: “Boiled Greek type of coffee, which is rich in polyphenols and antioxidants and contains only a moderate amount of caffeine, seems to gather benefits compared to other coffee beverages.”
The coffee’s polyphenols, chlorogenic acid, and other heart-healthy compounds may also contribute to lowering one’s risk of diabetes and improving overall immune health.
Unlike American coffee, which is a rather coarse grind, Greek coffee has an almost powder-like consistency. Instead of drip brewing, the coffee grounds are boiled in a small pot known as a briki. The entire brew is poured into small, demitasse (about 2-3 oz) cups where the grounds settle at the bottom. The result is a strong, thick beverage that is sipped slowly, sometimes with a little sugar but never milk.
The methodical preparation may provide a sort of mindfulness activity—encouraging one to slow down and be present in the moment. Greeks also typically enjoy their coffee with company and conversation, which we know is an important contributor to overall health and well-being.
If you’d like to take a lesson from the Ikarians and make Greek coffee a part of your daily routine, my YouTube video offers some quick instruction. A briki, a demitasse or small teacup, and some high-quality Greek coffee are all you need to pick up this delicious and heart-healthy habit.