A Coffee To Start Your Day
For millions of people around the world, every day starts with a coffee. I myself am one of them. It’s such an intrinsic part of my morning routine that I flick on the kettle, scoop out the grinds and pour a splash of milk into the mug on auto-pilot. But why? As a teenager, I hated coffee. I thought it was bitter even with sugar added. And yet now it seems as essential to me as oxygen. Well, almost. For me and so many others, coffee makes the world go round, or at least kicks it into gear and blows away the cobwebs left by sleep. But why? What is it about coffee that makes us fantastically, deliciously but hopelessly addicted?
Some articles written on this very subject have pointed out the bitter taste of coffee and how this is an ‘unnatural’ taste for humans to enjoy. Firstly, I would argue that a good coffee is smoother more than it is bitter. Secondly, those who dislike the bitterness are likely those individuals who load up their cups with sugar (also add addictive food, might I add). But I think the human mind is far too complicated to only do or eat something because we ‘like’ it. Sound strange? Just think about smoking or drinking beer or eating chilli. When you first did any one of these things, it was hardly a pleasant experience. And yet people develop forty a day habits, spend every evening at the pub and order a Vindaloo on Friday nights. What we choose to do goes beyond what we like – it’s cultural.
My parents drink coffee but I was never interested myself in joining in their mid-morning routine until a trip to Europe. In Vienna, a friend’s aunt took me to one of the oldest cafes in Austria and ordered us coffee before we even had a chance to look at the menu. In Europe coffee isn’t just a culture, it’s basically a religion. The cups arrived and I stared down my nemesis, knowing I would have to drink it because a relative stranger had bought it for me. I added two sugar cubes, embarrassed to add any more, and took a sip.
I was in Europe for another three weeks and I had coffee without fail every single day after that moment. I suspect the first cup of coffee I ever had was probably one of the finest in the world and I have rarely enjoyed such a smooth blend since. But it didn’t matter. It was not just about the taste; it was about the fact that I finally, at last, liked coffee.
I had always wanted to like coffee. I saw it as an adult thing and wanted to say to my friends “let’s meet in town for a coffee”. Until I was 22, I was meeting them for hot chocolate and felt like an overgrown teenager. So while I delighted in the taste of that first cup, it was just as much about the fact that I finally ‘liked’ an adult drink. Just as I did when I started university and began drinking spirits, I essentially trained myself to like coffee. I steadily decreased the amount of sugar I added to each cup until I could drink it with just milk (I still struggle to enjoy an Americano).
As I write this, I’m sipping a flat white. To be honest, I’ve never understood the difference between a flat white and a latte but I always order the former. I wouldn’t say the coffee is powering the article but it seemed like a fitting addition to my table as I type. Already today I’ve drunk 500ml of coffee, my daily morning brew, and I decided to escape my home office this afternoon and head to my favourite café to write this article. Oh, did I mention that this café roast and grind their own coffee beans? In Cambodia, that kind of quality is priceless (or £2.25).
A few months ago, I gave up coffee. For two days. I wouldn’t say I was addicted but I found myself just supplementing every cup of coffee I would usually drink with at least two cups of tea. If it was caffeine I was supposed to be cutting down on, I was failing miserably. And then I realised that I didn’t feel any better for giving up coffee (although I admit I didn’t give it much time) but I did certainly feel worse. And by worse I mean grumpy. It wasn’t that I was having cravings or struggling to keep my eyes open but I definitely missed it. My French press sat miserably on the kitchen counter, its plunger straining skywards as if it was tempting me, daring me. Maybe I just lack self-control but by the Wednesday of my coffee-free week, the heady aroma filled my house once more.
Perhaps I’ll try to give coffee up again in the future. Perhaps I won’t. After all, my consumption of coffee didn’t make the world a better place. Rather, it probably made me a little sadder and my morning routine seem incomplete. Coffee, it seems, makes my world go round.
Go. Do. Experience. More Good Deeds.