I love the java juice and it loves me: Ode to coffee

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I don't think you Americans have ever quite recovered from the Boston Party, that rebellious 18th Century act during which members of the Sons of Liberty boarded three ships in Boston Harbour and, in protest of the British tax policies, threw 9,659 Pounds Sterling worth Darjeeling tea into the sea (which is probably what sparked the recipe for the blasphemous dunking of tea bags in later years).

Because if there is ONE thing Americans can't do very well - and most of them will readily admit to it too - it's making hot tea.

Those of us who grew up in former, more recent British colonies, are used to everything from tea cozies, teapots (which are also foreign concepts in most parts of America. After a desperate search, I finally managed to buy a real teapot at Ikea, a Swedish home store), preheated cups, milk and sugar.

At best, most Americans dunk a teabag in a mug (forget about dainty cups and saucers), pour hot-but-not-necessarily-boiled water over it and voila! Tea a la America!

It's enough to cause the Queen to abdicate.

If you REALLY want to throw an American waitress off course, be daring and ask for hot tea with milk. They don't seem to be able to quite grasp the concept.

But don't despair! All is not lost on the hot beverage front in the States.

Enter that delightful (if slightly potent) brew called to save the American day and people like me, who can be accurately summed up by the following witty slogan nabbed from a mug: "Instant Human. Just Add Coffee."

Let it be said early on that I'm not exactly what you'd call a coffee connoisseur. Sure, I would like to THINK that I am, but the fact that I even like airport and airline coffee would be a dead giveaway to my indiscriminate nature (and desperation. But never mind that now).

But oh, I DO love my coffee! In fact, the only time I ever venture into the coffee maker's private quarters (that room, which in other people's homes is better known as the 'Kitchen') is when I make (or try to make) myself a pot o' coffee.

My friends know that they can serve me almost anything, as long as you can't see through it. Oh, and it should at least smell like coffee. For: "No coffee can be good in the mouth that does not first send a sweet offering of odour to the nostrils." - Henry Ward Beecher.

With milk and sugar, please. Because my coffee should be like my favourite kind of guy: strong, but also very, very sweet.

Back to America, where coffeehouses like Starbucks have become all the rage (there is possibly one on every block in Washington D.C., and I do believe it's just a matter of time before they start to build more Starbucks shops in the parking lots of existing Starbucks shops).

For those of you who aren't familiar with Starbucks (ye poor deprived and sleepy fools!), they serve up the Java Juice in every possible flavour, size and form you can think of: from frothy cappuccinos, lattés, mochas and Au Laits, to jolting little espressos that will keep you awake until NEXT Thursday.

But honestly, as much as I love the coffee shops and cafés, you need a complimentary cup of coffee just to be able to navigate your way through the exasperating array of decisions to be made: choice of size (which in Starbucks is written in Italian. I've since come to realize that it's a clever ploy to make more money, because most people - okay, me - are only able to pronounce Grande, so that's what I they end up ordering), choice of coffee, flavour, milk (the choices of milk alone take up an entire aisle at the supermarket), method of sweetening... I think one deserves another complimentary cup after successfully managing one's way through that tongue-twisting and thirst-inducing list.

Simply writing about it has worn me out. Think I'll go and have a cup o' wake-up while I leave you with some quotes in defense and defiance of the brew.

"Coffee is not as necessary to ministers of the reformed faith as to Catholic priests. The latter are not allowed to marry, and coffee is said to induce chastity." - Duchess Charlotte-Elisabeth of Orleans (1652 - 1722).

"Coffee:
Black as the devil,
Hot as hell,
Pure as an angel,
Sweet as love." - Charles Maurice de Talleyrand (1754 - 1838).

"Sarah Shute
1803 - 1840
Here lies, cut down like an unripe fruit,
The wife of Deacon Amos Shute.
She died of drinking too much coffee,
Anno Dominy eighteen forty." - Tombstone located in Canaan, New Hampshire (1840).

"The best proof that tea or coffee are favourable to the intellectual expression is that all nations use one or the other as aids to conversation." - Philip G. Hamerton, The Intellectual Life (1862).

"I have measured out my life with coffee spoons." - T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (1915).

"If you can make a good cup of coffee, you can make any man glad he has left his mother." - Mrs. W.T. Hayes, Kentucky Cook Book (1912).

"The coffee was so strong it snarled as it lurched out of the pot." - Betty MacDonald, The Egg and I (1945).

"A real art student wears coloured socks, has a fringe and a beard, wears dirty jeans and an equally dirty seaman's pullover, carries a sketch-book, is despised by the rest of society, and loafs in a coffee bar." - John Bratby, Breakdown (1960).

"Coffee is perhaps more nutritious and certainly more permanent in its stimulating effects, than tea. But its influences, on the whole, are less genial. Taken in large quantities, at once, it not only produces morbid vigilance, but affects the brain, so as to occasion vertigo, and a sort of altered consciousness, or confusion of ideas, not amounting to delirium; which I can compare to nothing so well as the feeling when one is lost amid familiar objects, which look strange, and seem to have their positions, in reference to the point of the compass, changed." - Dr. Daniel Drake, Principal Diseases of the Interior Valley of North America (1850) (Does that statement finally help to shed some light on my erratic writing?)

And finally:

"Coffee detracts nothing from your intellect; on the contrary, your stomach is freed by it and no longer distresses your brain; it will not hamper your mind with troubles but give freedom to its workings. Suave molecules of Mocha stir up your blood, without causing excessive heat; the organ of thought receives from it a feeling of sympathy; work becomes easier and you will sit down without distress to your principal repast which will restore your body and afford you a calm delicious night." - Charles Maurice de Talleyrand (1754-1838)

Thank you, Monsieur de Talleyrand! Your words (but especially these three: "calm delicious night") back up my life-long argument that my coffee addiction has NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with my insomnia.

P.S. This post was inspired by her recent and blissful reacquaintance with coffee.

10 Comments

kim said:

grande vanilla latté w/ skim milk and two pumps of vanilla is all i have to comment. and there's no starbucks here where i live *cries* which is probably good because after all, 3.50 bucks for a cup of coffee is just ridiculus but because i'm addicted to coffee i'd probably spend 350 bucks a month on it... so i make my own and put some vanilla-flavour in it. there, saves me about 345 bucks a month. as far as to the classic american coffee all i have to say is: yuck and you don't have the right to even call it coffee. that's what i think. PS: i voted again ;o)

kim said:

PPS: have a good weekend...

amy t. said:

While I do use tea bags to make my tea *gasp*, I make a mean cuppa. I use a tea kettle and occasionally a tea pot. I make a big mug and use milk and a decent amount of sugar. And you want to know the most bizarre part? I make my tea by color. It's not ready until it's the right damn color.

Mostly I'm just babbling about this because I don't drink coffee *double up gasp gasp* but wanted to have something to say...

ruth said:

you should see how they serve tea in france...they leave the goodam limp teabag in the cup and you get a cup of cloudy water. DIY tea I say.

Annika said:

Mmmmm. Coffee. You vixen!

mcbk said:

'Ello, luv ... would you like to meet me for a spot of tea this evening? I called you on the telly and left a message, I'm about to catch the Underground again, so please call me.

'Twould be just lovely to see you, we can chat like old times. ;)

Gretchen said:

I'd be willing to be that, as an American, I have more teas than any other on the planet. However, as a dual citizen of England, majority of my teas are loose and are properly brewed in my authentic Brown Betty. Which I am very sadly going to have to replace since I broke the lid. Oh the shame of it.

Coffee for me runs a distant second.

martha said:

I'd be willing to challenge you as to number of teas.

Red - I've got the teapot, the homemade knit cozy (want one?) and the milk always... Of course, I'm English by birth so maybe that's why...

Of course, with the lack of sleep I get in grad school coffee has become my morning beverage of choice. But for comfort - tea, tea and only tea.

Lessa said:

Ooooooooh! COooooooffee! I much prefer to have too a little blood in my caffiene system then the other way around. My computer god was TEASING me just yesterday by this coffee he has to have a client provide him with (much like a dealer would a drug, though far more legal) because we cannot even get it up here. It's triple caffiene. Three cups of that, he said, and your FOREHEAD itches. I held the bag o'beans in my hand in RAPTURE, I tell you....

and he took it away.
and wouldn't share.

SOB!

Of course, he did warn that it's coffee you don't drink for the taste, but with enough milk and sugar, I'm sure I could manage... REALLY....

If he hand't have just spent 3 days fixing my computer... well. I woulda... woulda... slipped that little bag'o'beans into my tower case and run, far and fast! yes indeedy. but I'm not addicted. and pshaw. insomnia. HA! Just cuz I've been awake since last thursday. means NOTHING. NOTHING i tell you!

Bookstore Diva said:

Red Dahling,
As a Native Baltimoron born & bred, we drink our tea the way God intended. Iced.There is nothing like a glass of fresh brewed Iced Tea made with Lipton tea bags (that's right I said Lipton tea bags; U tea snobs), fresh lemons and enough sugar to rot your teeth. (Earl Grey works good too.) If you go to the carry joint, you ask for a half & half;that's sweet tea & lemonade. Nothing can compare.
(Spoken like a true Southern Girl)
On the coffee tip,I'm beginning to aquire a taste for it. Starbucks coffee is liquid crack. And for more coffee that will keep you awake for days. There is a place in Caton called Kiss Cafe. The have a coffee called the Velvet Hammer...OMG!!! After a cup , you can kiss sleep good bye.

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is a South African girl living in South Africa. That doesn't sound very original, we know, but you might find it remotely interesting when you learn that she has only recently returned to South Africa for the first time after a nine year, one month and two week (non-stop!) stint in the United States where she accidentally became an outlawed alien (also known, especially in immigration circles, as an 'illegal immigrant.' We prefer the term 'outlawed alien' ourselves). During her reversed exile from her homeland, she kept herself occupied by winning this website (but only after shamelessly bribing the judges) and thus being unleashed on the web where she slowly, leisurely became the World's Laziest Blogger; by being a nanny and by attending sci-fi conventions in search of other aliens. In the US, she also made her sailing debut, her international acting debut, tried and failed to learn the piano, and never learned to cook. She is hopelessly addicted to coffee, dogs (especially Labrador Retrievers), how-to books (with a particular fondness for her copy of the Time/Life A - Z Medical Encyclopedia), and she tends to grossly overuse parentheses (we're not kidding) during her attempts at writing, which you may - if you really have masochistic tendencies - subject yourself to by reading the words to the right of this column. If you REALLY and truly STILL want to know more, you can read her C.V. here.
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comments
  • Bookstore Diva : Red Dahling, As a Native Baltimoron born & bred, we drink our tea the way God intended. Iced.There ... [go]
  • Lessa : Ooooooooh! COooooooffee! I much prefer to have too a little blood in my caffiene system then the oth... [go]
  • martha : I'd be willing to challenge you as to number of teas. Red - I've got the teapot, the homemade knit... [go]
  • Gretchen : I'd be willing to be that, as an American, I have more teas than any other on the planet. However, ... [go]
  • mcbk : 'Ello, luv ... would you like to meet me for a spot of tea this evening? I called you on the telly a... [go]
  • Annika : Mmmmm. Coffee. You vixen!... [go]
  • ruth : you should see how they serve tea in france...they leave the goodam limp teabag in the cup and you g... [go]
  • amy t. : While I do use tea bags to make my tea *gasp*, I make a mean cuppa. I use a tea kettle and occasion... [go]
  • kim : PPS: have a good weekend...... [go]
  • kim : grande vanilla latté w/ skim milk and two pumps of vanilla is all i have to comment. and there's no ... [go]
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