What’s the first thing that you think about in the morning? The weather? Work? Hitting snooze for another five minutes?
With me the answer is simple: coffee. There is a direct line that runs from my neocortex to my nose, and with bloodhound-like precision I can tell you exactly what time it is by sniffing the air for the scent of arabica. If you are in my vicinity before 8:00 a.m. and I don’t have a cup of coffee in my hand, take note that something is wrong. I am either (a) sleepwalking, (b) a replicant, or (c) an angry ghost. The wisest course of action is not to approach until receiving certified confirmation of caffeination. Otherwise, you could lose a limb. Or an eye. Perhaps a knuckle.
While coffee has frequently borne the brunt of various misguided souls’ animosity based on specious claims that it is detrimental to one’s health, it has gotten an approving nod as the world’s most popular stimulant from prince and pauper, beggarman and thief — all of whom blearily queue up at Starbucks for their morning jolt. Forget meth, forget crack, just get me a triple shot of espresso and drop it into 16 ounces of French Roast and I am ready to face dragons. Coffee boosts energy by blocking the neurotransmitter that makes you tired, makes your heart go pitter-pitter-PAT, speeds up thinking and talking and cognitive ability on virtually all levels, and has nary a detriment that can stake a legitimate claim.
Take some of the obviously nonsensical objections: Coffee can worsen insomnia. Coffee can make your heart beat too fast. Coffee constricts your blood vessels. Coffee can raise blood pressure. To this insipid caviling, I say “Really? It’s surprising that coffee exacerbates insomnia? Or that a stimulant makes your heart beat fast? That’s your best shot? You are clearly in need of a cortado.”
Let’s take a look at the beneficial effects of coffee as determined by our friends the scientists, who — though caffeine-injected — are nonetheless as close to unbiased as we can get in this world. First, they tell us that coffee lessens the risk of type-2 diabetes. Drink a cup of black coffee instead of a 32-oz Coke, and miraculously you won’t ingest 5 worthless tablespoons of sugar, and your body will say thank you by not spiking your blood with insulin and turning you into a fiendish hypoglycemic wreck. Just remember that it’s not the caffeine that does the trick, its the coffee itself, so you can’t cure incipient diabetes by swallowing handfuls of No-Doz like a junkie on a day pass. Drink the good stuff, pass on the pap, and your fingers, toes and waistline will all remain intact.
Second, coffee just doesn’t prevent diabetes, it prevents gallstones and cirrhosis of the liver, and — according to a Finnish study — significantly lowers the risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s. What else? Oh, there may be a correlation between the regular consumption of coffee and lower risk of heart disease and cancer.
Despite these studies, the coffee haters are still out there beating their Kombucha drums alongside the English with their weird tea fetish. I attribute the anti-coffee sentiment in the United States to the strivings of C.W. Post — the inventor of Grape Nuts — who like his bosom pal John Kellogg was a bit fanatical about a daily dosing of grains. The two of them threw the crazy hat back and forth from their respective sanatoriums in Battle Creek, Michigan, where Post peddled “Postum” — a blend of grain and molasses harkening back to the Civil War (when they couldn’t get coffee) — as a coffee alternative to those beleaguered souls who were unfortunate enough to find themselves entrusted to his care. Much to their lament, the days of five-egg omelettes with a side of sausage and a carafe of delicate Kenyan waved goodbye forever the moment they set foot across Post’s threshold, to be replaced by tooth-breaking morning grains accompanied by a cup of flavored hot water.
I can see them all, their grain-bloated faces pressed up against the bars of the sanatorium (though sanitarium sounds more apropos) as the man with the espresso cart rides by and toots his horn. Such a miserable lot they seem, desperately searching for meaning in a lukewarm bowl of wheat juice, endlessly dreaming about rashers of bacon and a steaming cup of joe.
So needlessly depressing.
So tiring to think about.
Makes me want to go fire up the cafetera, really.
For further edification on the fine art of self-abnegation, please see T. C. Boyle’s painfully funny novel, The Road to Wellville, which chronicles the battle of the bulge (and other battles) at Battle Creek in the 1880s.