There’s nothing quite like walking into a room and breathing in the aroma of freshly roasted coffee. The smell can evoke all sorts of feelings, from relaxation to a delicious sense of anticipation of your first sip of the nectar. Some people are reminded of laid back Sunday mornings, while others experience the happy ambience of a popular local coffee shop.
Whatever your personal reaction, there is a general consensus that the smell of good coffee makes us feel that all's well with the world, at least for the next hour or so while you enjoy a cuppa with your companions, and maybe a delicious snack to go along with it.
There are some scientific explanations as to why this might be the case. Coffee has a wide blend of aromas that range from the bitter earthy undertones to spicy, fruity, floral and sweet flavours. The very fact that it presses so many of our olfactory buttons may be one of the reasons why humans find the smell of roast coffee so powerful and attractive.
Our sense of smell has far more influence on our emotions and memory than many people realise. Indeed, when a sensory experience triggers a long buried memory, we often describe it as a ‘Proustian rush.’ This phrase originates from the seminal 1913 French novel, “À La Recherche Du Temps Perdu (In Search of Lost Time)” by Marcel Proust.
The author described a taste of madeleine cake that brought back some extraordinary personal and emotive memories. Smell and taste are closely related, because they are processed in a similar way in the brain. Our olfactory bulbs are incredibly sensitive, capable of distinguishing thousands of different smells.
The olfactory system that carries smell from the nose to the brain is directly linked to the limbic system, which includes the amygdala and the hippocampus, the areas of the brain responsible for processing emotions and memories. For this reason, smells can trigger memories from our past life in a far more vivid way than our other senses.
This might be the reason why even people who don’t drink coffee react positively to the smell of freshly roasted coffee beans. It is the happy associations of being around other coffee drinkers that they are remembering, whether that’s a lazy weekend morning in bed with a loved one, or an enjoyable lunch with a mate in a café.
As for those of us who love our morning coffee, the smell may simply be reminding us of the pleasure of the first cup of the day. Coffee contains caffeine which is a well known stimulant. It boosts the feel good chemicals in the brain such as dopamine and norepinephrine, which lift our mood and can set us up for the day ahead.
Coffee is traditionally a social drink, whether that’s taking a break with a work colleague or meeting up with friends at your local hangout. These daily rituals can help us to maintain our sense of wellbeing and positivity. No wonder then that many of us find the aroma so irresistible!
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