The Zen of Coffee

I knew it was going to be a good day when I got off the bus and was confronted by a huge sign that said FREE COFFEE AND DOUGHNUTS INSIDE! Free coffee? I thought. Why, that’s my favorite kind! No matter that I had already consumed about half a pot of coffee at home — I had every intention of taking advantage of this little gift from the Caffeine Gods. In fact, I spend a portion of most days wishing that someone would randomly offer me some free coffee, or that I would happen onto a magically unmanned pot of freshly-brewed coffee.

Now, I’ve had so much coffee that I feel kind of dizzy.

You would think that someone who loves coffee as much as I do would develop that weird coffee snobbery thing that someCoffee ad coffee lovers get. I know a guy that loves coffee, but constantly talks crap about what brands suck and what brands he thinks are superior. Not me. I’m an equal-opportunity coffee drinker. I’ll drink 79¢ coffee from the gas station, $5.00 coffee from the trendy coffee shop — it’s all the same to me. The only thing that really matters is that the purveyor of hot, caffeinated beverages makes non-dairy creamer available to me. You know, that wonderfully beige-colored, malty powder that coffee snobs disdain the way that wine snobs mock people who put ice cubes in their wine. I love watching the pile of powder melt into the coffee; the edges of the mound crumble as it revolves in the center of the mug. I try to avoid stirring until the whole, enormous pile is totally dissolved. Watching it is part of the ritual. It builds the anticipation. It’s like a zen thing.

The first time my husband saw how much creamer I use, he was astonished. He wasn’t the first. My coffee drinking habits perplex and amuse most people. The conversation typically goes like this…

Me: Yay! You have non dairy creamer! I love this stuff!

Them: Really? I like half and half.

Me: Half and half is alright, but this stuff is awesome! It makes your coffee all thick and malty. Mmmm. You mind if I use a lot? I like to use a ton.

Them: Oh. Wow. You weren’t kidding. You do realize that stuff probably causes cancer? Or something.

Me: Heh-heh. It’s just Methyl-disodium-propylene-sorbate-A. Oh, and powdered lead.

Them: (long pause)… You gonna drink that or just stare at it?

Wasn’t it Confucius who said, “The less stuff you’re a snob about, the more stuff you enjoy?” That includes powdered lead.


4 thoughts on “The Zen of Coffee

  1. You must come to South India and have the coffee on the streets, which some call “meter-long coffee” because the dense shot of “filter coffee” and sugary boiled milk are mixed cup-to-cup, poured at full arms’ length. (How do you say “barista” in Tamil?)

    There is a strange moment of recognition when first tasting South Indian coffee, and it is not that you are, in fact, drinking coffee. It is that you’ve discovered the source for the flavor of those sweet, creamy, “coffee flavored” hard candies.

    I’ll try to do a post on the coffee stands later this week, if I can.

    In the meanwhile, here’s a link to a piece I wrote a few years ago tangentially involving South Indian coffee. (It takes place at the legendary Indian Coffee House, which you will remember from The Life of Pi, which I recall seeing on your recent book list.)

    Coffee on the streets in South India is not free. It generally costs Rs. 6 — about $0.15. There is no methyl-disodium-propylene-sorbate-A; but really, you won’t need it.



  2. Thanks for reading/commenting!

    Mark- that coffee sounds FANTASTIC! Thanks for the link to that beautiful and inspiring post. I look forward to reading your post about the coffee stands. You know I experience India vicariously through you, right? Maybe one day I’ll get my butt over there to see for myself.

    One question, for any fellow coffee addicts out there: does too much coffee make you sweaty? Since my indulgence (read: mild overdose) in coffee this morning, I’ve noticed that my armpits have been sweaty all day. This is weird because I’m pretty sure I used antiperspirant this morning. What’s more, I’ve been shivering inside the university’s grossly over-air-conditioned lecture halls for most of the day.

  3. I’ll take your creamer and raise you four spoons of sugar. Mmmm…I love my coffee, even if after I’m done with it, it no longer resembles it.

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