Sunday, February 20, 2011

'Beverage of the Friends of God'

Latest Newspaper Column: The Pilot

So there's this drink called "5 Hour Energy." It comes in a little bitty bottle you can buy almost everywhere, and it purports to have "zero sugar," thus avoiding the sugar crash you can suffer if you eat candy or guzzle soft drinks to try to pep yourself up. One shot, the ads promise, and you'll be over that mid-afternoon slump with which we are all familiar.

So far, so good. I've been tempted to try the stuff myself, since the legal profession frowns on the sanest and most logical way to get oneself over the mid-afternoon slump, which is a quick nap. Or sleeping till noon.

Then the folks who make "5 Hour Energy" started running ads promoting the use of their concoction in the mornings as a substitute for coffee. According to the ads, coffee is just too expensive to buy, takes too long, and is just generally too much trouble. Why not just gulp down our magic elixir, the ads suggest, and do away with all the hassle?

Boy, these people really do not understand the point of coffee.

Oh, sure, the energy boost is a big part of it. While I am not one of those surly types like the guy in the McDonald's ad I wrote about a couple of weeks ago (the jerk who says "don't even talk to me before I've had my coffee"), I do greatly appreciate the caffeinated jump-start a cup of coffee provides. As someone once wrote, "There may be life before coffee, but it is not necessarily intelligent life."

But there's so much more to a good cup of coffee than that. There's the aroma, for one thing. Is there any more pleasant smell to wake up to than the rich bouquet of a pot of coffee wafting its way from the kitchen? It just draws you out of bed and down the hall, and it's particularly nice when it's all hot and ready because someone's already made a fresh pot. (Thanks, honey.)

Then there's the flavor. Ah, the flavor.

Coffee comes in a number of varieties, from all over the world, and caffeine-iacs can get as pretentious and annoying as some wine buffs, discussing the relative merits of Jamaican Blue Mountain over Kona over Sulawesi, and on and on. Some get all excited over their gear - grinders, presses, mills, etc.

All of that foolishness becomes just so much background noise to me once I take that first, hot, richly flavored sip of good, black coffee. Yes, I take mine black, or maybe with just a little sugar.

I confess, I used to be a bit of a reverse snob about it. I used to sneer, "If you want a cup of cream and sugar, why'd you ask for coffee?" I've mellowed a bit with age and experience (and lots of coffee), so I tend to be tolerant these days of those who take theirs with a bit of cream, a shot of frothy milk, even fancy coffee-shop additives like vanilla or nutmeg or caramel.

But as for me, I just love the unadulterated taste of well-made coffee, that complexity of taste, that hint of bite, the feel of it going down and warming me up from the inside out. Ambrosia.

As for its effects, while I have no actual empirical evidence or studies that prove coffee makes you smarter - well, let's just say it's one of those things that coffee drinkers just know. And we know it because we drink coffee and are therefore smarter. See how it works?

An anonymous Arab poet once wrote about coffee: "This is the beverage of the friends of God; it gives health to those in its service who strive after wisdom." French novelist and playwright Honore de Balzac wrote, "When we drink coffee, ideas march in like the army ... things remembered arrive at full gallop ... the shafts of wit start up like sharp-shooters, similes arise, the paper is covered with ink."

Let's see your tiny little bottle full of fancy-schmancy energy drink duplicate that.


Randy Johnson said...

I'm re-posting because something happened and I'm not sure whether it went through.

None of that claptrap loaded with stuff and five bucks a pop(not sure as I've never been in a Starbucks and never plan to). just a regular cup of joe for me.

tama said...

A big part of it for me is the ritual of coffee. I get up early, before I need to, for sure. Turn on the stove light, measure the water and tamp down the fresh grounds in my cheap-ass espresso maker. It's still dark out and this is my only chance today for quiet. Then there's that glorious noise of the end of the shots being expressed--ahhh, thank you! It almost makes me want to get religion again. Hot black velvet peace and and a seat for a few moments. Vitamin C.

JD Rhoades said...

Randy, I too prefer a regular cup of joe...but when a coffee shop opened just downstairs from the building my office was in, I was persuaded to try a couple of types of lattes. I liked them. I never went so far as frappucino, though.

Celine said...

Ah, once again it's brought home to me that I must be a changeling, or perhaps an abandoned space alien. The smell of coffee alone is enough to make me gag, and no matter what kind of additives you put in it, it still tastes like burned beans. Putting coffee into anything else (like chocolate) just ruins it.

None of which is to say that it wasn't a well-written column -- just (for once) one that doesn't speak to me at all.

JD Rhoades said...

Chacun a son gout, baby.

David said...

No comment, Drinker-of-Fire.