When I was in college, I had a pot-a-day coffee habit. The pot was only big enough to hold four cups, but I diligently drank all of them. I did so because I liked the taste of the strong brew, because I liked the jolt of energy I received from the caffeine it contained and because it felt like the adult thing to do. I woke in the morning and drank a cup of coffee. I had another between classes, a third while working in the newsroom and another late at night when I was trying to stay awake long enough to finish my homework.
By the second year of university, I learned — the hard way — that I had a heart condition, one that was exacerbated by caffeine. On doctor’s orders, I gave up java entirely. The palpitations lessened, even more so once I started taking medicine to ease the condition. And I kept working, just as hard as before, only without the liquid-boost I once enjoyed.
I maintained my coffee sobriety in the decades that followed, allowing myself to consume only one or two cups a year. Drinking more made my heart race.
I still desired to fill the air with the delicious scent of newly ground beans and to listen to the music of a fresh brew dripping into a pot, yet I chose to abstain. Nor did I replace these cravings with other addictions; I simply went without and relied on sheer force of will when age or illness caused my energy to flag.
Then, a few years ago, I drank a cup of coffee. And another. The taste was as I remembered, silky and smooth, but this time the rhythm of my heart didn’t skip a beat or pound. Instead, I was able to consume the creamy, sweet and bitter drink for the sheer enjoyment of its taste rather than the necessary jolt of adrenaline it used to provide.
My annual consumption soon turned into a monthly one, then a weekly one. Now I allow myself to drink one cup a day and it is wonderful, all pleasure with no side effects. Well, almost no side effects. For when I drink coffee, the synapses in my brain begin to fire. In these moments, I must write, talk or move. Unlike tea, which has long symbolized quiet, comfort, warmth and relaxation, coffee demands that I go forth and do something.
Which brings me to today. I need to get some unpacking done. Time to make a cuppa joe and get started.
–Photo by se hui(shirley) Kim