That over, it is time to consider the cultural and ideological ramifications of coffee. You may not know this, but coffee has a long and dark history of price fixing, exploitation of native peoples, land grabbing, clear cutting, and other things that are bad for human beings, bad for the environment, bad for the rain forests, bad for democracy and just generally bad all the way around. You think the mere eating of meat has bad side effects? Or the snorting of cocaine? My friend, you don't know from bad until you consider coffee. In fact, coffee has such a bad side to it that a real environmentalist, a true defender of the planet, an honest hater of slavery and exploitative labor practices would simply cast it aside, never to drink it again, before contributing another dime to the ghastly underworld that produces this bitter brown liquid.
Luckily, I'm neither a real environmentalist nor a true defender of the planet. What I am is a solid four-cups-a-day adventurer, to put a not-too-fine point upon it. Once upon a camping trip (yes, I have been known to go camping, though it's generally of the lodge-in-the-woods variety), one of my jolly fellow travelers couldn't find the coffee and suggested we take this weekend to break our caffeine addiction. I told her I liked my caffeine addiction just fine and I was going into town for a Starbucks, back in 45 minutes. (Six other women placed orders.) Because, seriously, I may be a Buddhist but I grew up in a Lutheran household. Anyone who did, knows that Scandinavian blood does not start to flow in the morning until it's at least 0.05 caffeine. Until then, it's best to stay out of the way, unless you happen to have some vinarterta handy (Vikings can be appeased temporarily with sugar).
Though it's hard to remember the time B.S. (Before Starbucks), there in fact was such a time, and during said time, a Brazilian exchange student lived at my place for a year. I was fifteen and she had coffee. Not American coffee, mind. American coffee was far too weak, so she had her parents mail her bags of Brazilian coffee which she ground herself. This coffee was amazingly strong. I mean, a spoon would stand by itself in a cup. In fact, I think a couple of spoons may have dissolved. One day, out of sheer curiosity, I poured a small amount in a cup and added enough cream to choke a horse, along with a ton of sugar (I mean, this stuff was dark). I stirred it and took a very, very cautious sip.
I remember the rush. My brain launched out of my skull, like a rocket, and flew skyward. I remember wondering why anyone bothered with cocaine when this stuff was cheap and legal. I also remembered wondering if I wasn't maybe a little young for this sort of thing. Then I chugged the rest of it (it wasn't very warm, what with all the cream) and poured myself another cup. That was it. I was hooked. Only one other time did I taste coffee this strong, and that was at a Viet Namese restaurant in San Diego, California. Not only was it almost solid, it was also combined with sweetened condensed milk. I was bouncing off the walls for twelve hours. Seriously, cheap and legal. Think about it.
If not for coffee, I'm reasonably sure I never would have finished high school, and I'm also reasonably sure I never would have made it through college. In college I began having interesting fits of sleeplessness (okay, let's call a spade a shovel; manic episodes) in which I'd not sleep for sometimes three or four days. I'd still be tired in the morning, though, which is where a new restaurant near the university, called the Coffee Plantation, came in. On those mornings I'd stop in and get a double espresso with a shot of chocolate syrup. This ensured that I would not only be tired, but tired and jumpy, a great way to manage Russian 101 and the finer points of my Victorian literature seminar. In its later years, the Coffee Plantation deteriorated from a necessary student stop-in to a student meat market and finally a would-be-artist hangout before nose-diving out of existence in the wake of the Starbucks boat, finally sailing in from the Pacific Northwest. Before it died, my best friend Kevin pounded a stake into its heart by dubbing it the Coffee Pretension. It expired of ruffled dignity before the market struck the final blow.
In closing, let me finally say that there are plenty of ways to mess up a pot of coffee, but coffee is like pizza is like sex is like an airplane book: Even when it's bad, it's still pretty good. (The Strain might be the unfortunate exception.) It took Joan almost 15 years of living with me, but she now drinks the stuff, too. Which just goes to show something or other. Cheers, all, I'm off to Starbucks.