Last week on National Public Radio, as is often the case, there was a week-long series on a very serious topic – coffee.
Probing journalism on where it comes from, who drinks it, as well as songs, shows and other art created as a paean to the world’s favorite drink.
In honor of this retrospective, I will reveal my secret. My family and friends who visit my house already know it, but I will announce it here for the world to discover.
I don’t drink coffee.
Never have, never will. Don’t like it. Don’t like the flavor, don’t like the temperature, don’t like the caffeine. I like the aroma, but that’s about it. Don’t like mocha in my desserts. Don’t like coffee ice cream (although Ben & Jerry’s is passable.) The only thing I drink at Starbucks or, preferably, local coffee shops like the great Mayorga in Maryland, is iced chai lattes. Thank goodness for non-coffee drinks, with which I can still behave like a grown-up and throw away $5 on a drink just for the heck of it.
I don’t drink coffee to wake up in the morning – for that, I rely on a hot shower. I don’t drink coffee to stay up at night – I go to sleep early. I never, ever drank a cup of coffee in college to pull an all nighter, except for once, in my senior year, when I needed to finish a final paper, and I put a quarter teaspoon into my hot chocolate, and I buzzed for three days.
(For the record, I have never liked soda either, and thus the lack of caffeine tolerance. And while my husband claims that my chocolate addiction lends plenty of caffeine to my body, I just don’t think it’s the same.)
I don’t drink coffee at work. I don’t drink coffee after a meal.
I don’t even know HOW to make a cup of coffee. I may be one of the first people to arrive at my office, but I don’t go near the coffee machine. Of course today’s machines, with those little pre-measured packages that go right into the contraption, are easier to deal with than the old fashioned kind, but still, they scare me.
If you come to my house for brunch, which is my favorite meal and my favorite time to entertain (because I can’t stay up late at night for dinner because I don’t drink coffee) I ask the first guest to make the coffee for me, because I don’t want to make mud so thick and strong or so weak and diluted that my guests will never return. I just wouldn’t know the difference.
I may be the only adult I know who eschews coffee. I have close friends for whom coffee is akin to a religion, and who post pictures of favorite cups of coffee on Facebook (complete with those cool designs that baristas seem to know how to make on the top with froth.)
When I was a child, my mother woke up every morning and drank a cup of Sanka (what passed for coffee in the 60s and 70s), smoked her first cigarette and swigged a glass of Tang (what passed for orange juice in the 60s and 70s.) It seemed very grown up, and very hypocritical, because she insisted that I have a real breakfast. (My real breakfasts, mind you, usually consisted of Cap’n Crunch or Froot Loops, but they were more real than Sanka.) It was only for company that she broke out the Chemex and brewed a real pot of coffee.
I couldn’t wait to become an adult and act cool and drink coffee and smoke cigarettes. Except that when I finally got to high school and was left to my own devices, I discovered that I despised them both.
When I was a young adult in New York, tossing a few coins at the newsstand every morning for my New York Times on the way into the subway entrance, I was aware that almost every other person had the newspaper in one hand, and the ubiquitous and iconic blue, white and mustard Greek Acropolis coffee cup in the other. How they balanced both on the D train I’ll never know.
My daughter, on the other hand, has known practically from birth that she was born to be a coffee maven. She has been begging me since she was 8 or 9 to let her drink coffee. Occasionally, we’ll stop at Starbucks and I’ll let her have one of those horribly expensive, over-the-top frothy and creamy latte things. And she is in seventh heaven. I think she is counting the minutes until she starts high school and can sneak in a cuppa after school.
I have often wondered whether I was missing out on some tribal ritual by not being a coffee drinker. The NPR series framed this in stark relief for me. It seems that I am indeed an anomaly. I cannot participate in the most basic of rituals in which millions upon millions of adult Americans take part every day. I think it makes me a little bit of an outcast. Usually, I don’t care. But listening to all those cool jazz songs, along with the blues and a touch of Sinatra last week, made me feel like I had missed learning the secret handshake somewhere along the way.
So I’m feeling a little insecure right now. One of my favorite Squeeze songs from the ’80s keeps playing in my head …
It was the coolest sounding song.
But my coffee romance wasn’t meant to be. I will never drown my sorrows in coffee. I will never need a strong cup of coffee to get over a hangover the next morning. I will never have black coffee in bed.
Iced chai latte just doesn’t sound the same.
Photo by stepheye via Flickr