A coffee a day keeps the stabby away.
— Aunty Acid
International Roast was the first coffee to pass my lips.
Yes, I know, that’s pretty bad. If this coffee was tea, my grandfather would have called it the sweepings from the factory floor.
I was 17, working in the local cornershop (sort of like a mini supermarket) at the time and was given a half-hour break. That’s not enough time to go out anyway, but too much time to sit and twiddle your thumbs in a barren staff room containing nothing more than some chipped coffee mugs, an urn, some milk, sugar and a massive tin of International Roast instant coffee. So, she who had never had coffee before, thought, ‘Why not?’
It wasn’t bad. (Strike me down now!) And so began my coffee drinking days.
International Roast was the coffee of choice for quite some time, if I ever had to buy it for myself. At my grandparent’s place, and at home, I drank Nescafe Blend 43 — because it was the brand they bought. My family were not coffee drinkers, they were happy with instant and my grandparents actually preferred tea (not sure why, I don’t like the stuff myself).
At university I discovered the cappuccino. The refectory at UC made what I thought was rather nice coffee, however, I have to admit the milk froth and generous sprinkle of chocolate on the top was my favourite bit. When I say generous, I am not exaggerating. Sometimes the froth took up over half of the cup. They also sold ‘cups of froth’ for 50 cents.
Then along came the revolution — flavoured coffee! Vanilla (my favourite), hazelnut, caramel (yuck). These were all super sweet and masked the flavour of the coffee beautifully.
I don’t think I actually LIKE coffee.
I find most coffee to be rather bitter. I sort of like the smell, but a strong coffee just makes me feel unwell. This is why I add flavours, or ask for it to be made weak or with lots of milk. I certainly don’t drink espresso. My brain tells me I like coffee, but my taste buds disagree.
‘So, why do you drink it?’ asks my black-and-white logic son.
Why do I drink it? Now, there’s a question.
Initially, back in the days of the cornershop, I drank it for something to do.
Then, I drank it to be sociable. Sitting and having a coffee and a chat with Dad was often the best part of my day. Visiting my grandparents for morning/afternoon tea meant being automatically made a coffee (and my grandmother introduced me to lattes made fully on milk), to be drunk while they had their tea. And, ‘meeting for coffee and cake’ was becoming the done thing with friends.
Pretty soon, I was having a coffee with my breakfast, one when I got to uni (or work), another at morning tea (recess), another with friends after class (school) and one after dinner. It was a habit … or, in stronger terms, an addiction. I still didn’t really like it.
Crunch time came when someone gave me a small coffee machine when I moved out of home to Newcastle for my first teaching position. The coffee machine made around 5-6 cups of coffee; I was living alone. I did not need 5-6 cups of coffee in one sitting, but one day, when I was doing some lesson preparation for the term, I somehow drank all 6 cups of coffee.
I was so sick.
Needless to say, I didn’t do that again and I decided to wind down the number of coffees I drank. I also got rid of the machine and went back to instant (by which time I had discovered Jarrah instant coffee with its flavours and its no sugar cappuccino).
Coffee has never impacted my sleep. I can drink coffee (instant) before I go to bed and still sleep. Mind you, two coffees before bed, as I did once because I was up late studying, is not a good idea.
I also used to think I didn’t need coffee as a kick-start in the morning. WRONG! I tried it for a week and was headachy by about 10am. However, lack of coffee does not make me ‘stabby’ — at least as far as I know, others may wish to disagree.
A couple of years ago, when the poor teacher on ‘tea/coffee roster’ kept forgetting to bring in fresh milk (I say ‘poor’ because I’ve had that job and it sucks), I decided I just wouldn’t drink coffee during the day. I didn’t really miss it because half the time I wasn’t able to drink all of it (or any of it) anyway; 15 minutes at recess is not long enough to down a coffee when you have ‘neko-jita’ (cat-tongue in Japanese, meaning you can’t tolerate really hot liquids). So I would take it back to class and promptly get so engrossed in what we were doing the coffee would develop that yucky, scummy surface, and ended up being too cool even for me to drink. It would have to be tipped down the sink because coffee reheated in the microwave is just wrong.
Last year I decided to stop drinking coffee from mid-afternoon. This had nothing to do with sleep — well, not directly anyway. I found I was waking up during the night needing to wee … then, once awake, I couldn’t go back to sleep properly.
Finally, since starting chemotherapy, coffee tastes like mud. I still drink the occasional cup (it’s the social thing), but on the whole I just don’t.
And — here’s the best bit — I DO NOT MISS IT!
I do not get headachy (from lack of coffee), I am not grumpy or stabby (more than usual anyway) and I don’t automatically reach for the coffee packet prior to sitting down at the computer.
There are some good things about chemo after all.