Tuesday, July 14, 2009

One more cup of coffee 'fore I go to the valley below

"Everybody in America is addicted to coffee. It's disgusting. They can't do anything before having their first two cups of java in the morning." E told me one day, years before we even decided to get married and move to Chicago. We were watching the Gilmore Girls. Lorelai and Rory had just entered Luke's Diner, asking for coffee, proclaiming they wouldn't be able to function without the delicious dark brew.

Like with beer, I started to drink coffee somewhat late in life. My mother never drank coffee, neither did she drink beer (except one year, when her doctor told her she needed to gain weight, she drank a bottle of alcohol free beer every night). I was robbed of the childhood memories of waking up to the smell of freshly ground coffee brewing. I didn't spend my Sunday mornings begging my parents for a sip of that black magic juice, like so many of my friends did.

I had my first cup of coffee at 19 years old. I was studying for my finals. I had always been better studying at night, only opening my books at around 8pm, often going until past midnight. Well, if you have to study 200 pages of Marketing, Accounting and Business Administration in two nights, studying from 8pm to midnight won't cut it anymore. That's when I bought my first jar of instant coffee powder. 

It wasn't very good (I wasn't used to the bitter taste and I did not know how to make it, ending up using way too much instant powder) but it did the job. At that point I was a clean slate. My adenosine receptors were open and welcoming to the caffeine and I was able to spend the next few weeks studying for long hours and surviving on a very limited amount of sleep.

I only started to actually enjoy coffee when I moved to Holland. My first host-family who I was nannying for had a coffee-shop-grade coffee maker which would make you the most amazing cappuccino just by pressing a button. They also drove an hour to buy their coffee beans. 

You know the term social drinker? Somebody who only drinks alcohol in social situations? Well the next seven years in Holland, I was a working drinker - working coffee drinker that is.
Sometimes I would drink 8 cups a day, arriving at work in the morning shaking, craving my caffeine fix. Other times I gave up coffee for months after my friend promised me giving up coffee would not only eliminate my cellulite but also give my skin a beautiful, peachy glow. Well, it didn't.

But my weekends were mostly coffee free. I was too lazy to make it myself and it never really turned out tasting the way I liked it anyway. Also if I didn't have to get up at 7am, I didn't really need something to wake me up.

I was sure that once we did the move over the big pond, at least until I found a job I would be caffeine free.

But I was wrong. What my husband told me back then is absolutely true. In America drinking coffee is more than enjoying a beverage you like or simply needing something to wake you up. It's a lifestyle. It's a fashion accessory. Holding a cup of Starbucks in your hands makes you instantly cool. Since smoking has become a big no-no in the US, coffee is the new smoking. 

I wish I'd be above all of that. I wish that seeing my favorite Michelle Williams with a cup of Starbucks in her hand wouldn't make me crave a cup of joe. I wish that if when somebody says "Oh, I could so go for a coffee right now!" we'd go to a cafe and I'd order green tea instead of cappuccino. 

But I am not. One of our wedding presents was a beautiful coffee machine which I have been utilizing every day for the last few month. 
Despite still not having a steady job, I have two big, hot steamy mugs full of coffee with breakfast every day. I even bought a coffee grinder, so I can grind my java beans freshly every morning (which made an amazing difference in the flavor of the coffee).
At this point I am not sure if I need the coffee to get me going or if it's the taste that I can't live without. Or maybe it's the feeling that you belong to the club? The exclusive club of coffee drinkers which is really not very exclusive at all here.

I am not sure what it is but one thing I am sure of - that America has a contagious obsession with coffee.


Anonymous said...

Sweetie, ist das eines deiner Fotos? Gefaellt mir. Bussi, Schatzi

The Austrian said...

Ja, alle Fotos sind von mir, ausser die von beruehmten Leuten.

Josephine said...

Ain't nothing wrong with a cup of Joe!

Kinda hooked on green tea now, but I don't think coffee is that bad for you (only for the wallet). I have been lead to believe it contains anti-oxidants.
Eight may be too many, but a latte a day keeps the blues away :)

I like your blog!

bubbly said...

I get the Straight Dope newsletter every week (which I think I found out about from E) and there's a Chicago-specific section now. Recently they met up with a coffee taster guy and went around to various places in Chicago tasting the coffee, sort of like you would do with wine: http://chicago.straightdope.com/sdc20090611.php.

The Austrian said...

Josephine: I had a green tea phase too, when I was working in Holland I drank one to two big pots full of tea. Unfortunately I haven't found a cheap water boiler here yet. But I actually get iced (unsweetened) green tea when I go to Starbucks. It's really refreshing and cheap.
And I just read about the anti-oxidants in Self magazine. They suggest drinking five cups a day which I'd love to do but if I drink five cups a day I
a. don't drink anything else but coffee all day
b. get a stomach ache

M: Thanks for the newsletter. I hadn't heard about Star Lounge but I know all the other places. I've been to Metropolis a few times and I actually bought my beans there to make my own.