Coffee leads men to trifle away their time, scald their chops, and spend their money, all for a little base, black, thick, nasty, bitter, stinking nauseous puddle water. – The Women’s Petition Against Coffee -1674
It’s 6:30am and I stumble into the kitchen. I feel a slight twinge in my medulla and need to feed my fix before the distant cerebral drumbeat becomes a multi-bladed roto-tiller burrowing into my brain. I robotically pour water into a decanter and place a filter in the drip coffee maker. I have not even bothered to turn on the lights. I can do this in my sleep like a junkie crouched in a dark alley. The only thing missing is perhaps surgical tubing. The percussion in my forehead picks up a few beats. It’s now reminiscent of the naval battle in Ben Hur – (thump, thump, thump) “Ramming Speed!” (Thump, thump, thump) I reach for the foil package of brown, finely ground gold dust — a blend of arabic beans slowly radiated over sage and baobab fires, handpicked by native North Africans paid fairly under The Progressive Coffee Coalition for Responsible Global Trade Agreement of 2002. I imagine the red nuggets glistening in the morning sun of another cloudless day somewhere in Ethiopia. A lion roars in the distance while flamingos ascend in a shimmering hurricane of pink.
The package feels dangerously light. To my horror, it is empty. I search the cupboards and freezer. The heartbeat in my brain is growing more rhythmic, accelerating into a finely tuned drill. There is no coffee. Was I hit by a bus and this is my first day in hell? When do the flies, boils and the other plagues arrive? I become frantic. Like a heavy drinker pathetically eyeing the cooking sherry, I suddenly recall the partially consumed holiday basket from two years past that still gathers dust in an kitchen upper cabinet. Inside the basket, I find the package. “Ghiradelli Vienna Creme Hazelnut Mocha — An Elegant Dessert Coffee”. Yeeeech. This is a moral dilemma for a coffee addict. Juan Valdez would use week old grinds with filtered septic water before he would allow any of this artificial monstrosity to pass his lips. He would not even feed Hazelnut Mocha to his burro, Sancho. Yet, addicts have no dignity and I rip at the garishly colored tin foil pouch. As I pour the fragrant grounds into the filter, I distinctly see the terrible five letter word: D-E-C-A-F.
So this is my bottom? Does my family enter into the kitchen only to find me rocking back and forth, slowly humming nursery rhymes with a belt wrapped around my head to reduce the possibility that it might explode? Should I sprint next door to the Murphy’s replete with facial tics and a measuring cup, begging Charlie if he could spare three fingers of anything caffeinated? No coffee? Do you have any Mountain Dew?
Perhaps my caffeine addiction is carried in a chromosome. Now that I think about it, we did not think there was anything abnormal about my father keeping a four foot high pallet ( no lie ) of Coca Cola in his den closet. He would routinely polish off a six pack before two in the afternoon and then suddenly appear in army fatigues so hopped up on soda that he would wanted to weed the entire neighborhood. My Mom finally connected the relationship between soda consumption and his pathological need to clean the garage with a toothbrush. Whether it is borne of genetics or personal body chemistry, I have vainly tried in the past to shake the caffeine monkey off my back. The occasional attempt to join the ranks of the decaffeinated is usually afforded by an unforeseen bout with the stomach flu or some other annual illness where a headache accompanies a high fever and offers the ability to mask my caffeine withdrawal. It is after I am feeling better that I realize it has been days since I had my last cup of Joe. I now have a decision to make and I ponder a future without my daily addiction. I consider a life free of the blood sugar rollercoaster. Can I live a more tempered existence now that I have slayed the Java Jabberwocky? Can I fit in with the denizens of tea drinkers? Will I miss the nervous exhilaration where it feels like I need to run to Tennessee after drinking a triple espresso? Would my colleagues no longer think me the perfect candidate for Flomax because I have ditched my dark diuretic. I could rejoin the ranks of the living and abandon the undead who line up each morning outside of Zumbachs twitching like junkies, wiping noses and stomping their feet while dreaming of Blue Mountain Jamaican blend.
Yet, my resolve always falters. I smell the deep aroma of roasted beans as I drive past the coffee store. Ahhhh, what I would not give for a hot cup of home? It is a love affair. Even, the media feeds my addiction. Each holiday season, we see the all American boy sneaking in from college on Christmas morning and making a pot of coffee so potent, it awakens the entire house — a celebration of rich Columbian blends. “The best part of waking up is Folgers in your house…” The fact that he has missed Christmas eve and has been missing for weeks is all forgiven when that first cup of coffee is poured. Even American icon, Joe Dimaggio, was known as – – Mr. Coffee. Joe drank coffee every day of that 56 game record hitting streak. The fact that Joe did not sleep at all during this period is a mere asterisk that the American Coffee Growers have successfully erased.
In 1990, a young Swede, Krister Lindmark compiled a list of the evil brew’s many aliases: Artificial sleep, bean, bean soup, black gold, the black horse, bucket of black snakes, caffeine sandwich, the everlasting, that evil black brew, fourth cushion on the sofa of pleasure, go juice, Java, jet fuel, joe, jolt juice, jus de pipe (too strong coffee), leaded, lifeblood, liquid life, low crank, magic elixir, Mrs. Olsen’s elixir, mud, nap suppressant, nerve oil, nut snake, Peruvian love drops, Columbian marching water, Turkish black top and zoom.
In the end, everyone wrestles with their own demons of addiction. Some carry around monkeys manic for sugar. For others, excess is exercise, spending, alcohol, relationships, or reruns of The Three Stooges. My dependence de jour is harvested faithfully every day in the wilds of Africa and South/Central America. It is shipped, washed, toasted, dried, oiled, packed and eventually ground and filtered. It is timeless. Theologically, my theory is the world might have taken ten days to make had it not been for coffee. It is possible that someone rewrote the original opening of the Old Testament. It may have actually read: ( Genesis 1:1-3 ) ” In the beginning., there was nothing but darkness. God was tired and wanted to sleep a few more hours. God created coffee and declared that it was good.” The rest, as they say, is history.