Black Coffee for The Purist

Black Coffee for The Purist

People who prefer black coffee over coffee with cream and/ or sugar constitute a whopping 35% of Americans—hardly a minority. They have their own personality and view of the world—a view that does not include milk and sugar. People’s preferences in how they doctor their coffee (or don’t!) can sometimes go a long way toward revealing what type of personality they have.

A Brief History of The Black Coffee/Milk and Sugar Controversy

The first coffee drinkers, inhabitants of the Arabian Peninsula, drank only black coffee, occasionally adding spices. The Egyptians around 1625 were the first to add sugar to their coffee, brewing powdered coffee beans along with sugar at the start of the process, but it took another 35 years for a Dutch ambassador to China to try the experiment of putting milk into his coffee cup, and 25 more years for the practice of adding both sweetener and dairy to become standardized.

The “Coffee—Personality” Study

In 2013, a Los Angeles-based psychologist named Ramani Durvasula conducted a survey of 1,000 coffee drinkers that sought to connect their coffee preferences to certain personality traits. Durvasula found that black coffee drinkers were typically straightforward, no-nonsense types who thought of themselves as purists and were resistant to change. Specifically, he discovered that many black coffee drinkers were “abrupt” and “dismissive,” often preferring quiet and subject to mood swings.

A more recent study by the University of Innsbruck in Austria sounded a considerably more ominous note. In examining the taste preferences of approximately 1,000 people, researchers found that those who preferred more bitterness in foods (such as black coffee) scored higher on questions that could indicate Machiavellianism, a term used in psychology to describe personalities that are “master manipulators” and tend to exhibit a penchant for duplicity. At times, the Machiavellian personality could even point to psychopathology and sadism. Slate later published a response to this study that called its methods and findings into question.

Happily, there is ample evidence to support the notion that black coffee drinkers merely prefer a simple life—a life without cream and sugar to soften the bitterness. There is room for everyone in the coffee-drinking world: those who like a bit of sting, and those who prefer to avoid it with a little sweetness.


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