The Wussification of coffee

05.02 by Jim Riccitello (www.slowtwitch.com)

I love coffee. I drink it all the time. It picks me up in the morning when I’m groggy and I only have thirty minutes to get ready for the morning ride. I’ve heard it helps endurance athletes utilize their fat stores, thereby prolonging the pain and agony one suffers during a race or training session. I know that a cup in the morning will encourage a visit to the bathroom (not that I need the help), which is important when you only have thirty minutes to get ready for the morning ride.

All real athletes drink coffee. Coffee is a manly drink. Women who drink coffee are manly women and that’s a good thing. For these reasons and more, I’m deeply disturbed by what I’ve noticed happening to coffee recently: the wussifacation of coffee.

I like my coffee the old fashioned way—hot and black, the blacker the better. And if it doesn’t burn all the taste buds off my tongue with the first sip, it’s not hot enough. I wonder if I can sue a well-known fast food chain for burning all the taste buds off my tongue. It seems like a burnt tongue should be worth more than a burnt lap. I use my tongue a lot more than I use my lap. I’ll have to have my lawyer wife look into it. I bet that before long there will be a warning printed on coffee cups. Warning: This coffee is hot! Failure to blow on it and cool it off can cause scalding of your taste buds.

Speaking of my wife, Traci drinks a lot of coffee. She sucks down a pound of beans a week. That’s some serious caffeine. Being an attorney is pretty difficult and Traci says she drinks coffee because it sharpens her mind, and heightens her awareness. She definitely gets heightened, I can tell you that.

While I can appreciate the amount of coffee Traci drinks, the way she drinks it disturbs me. She pours this ultra pasteurized, non-dairy creamer in it. She has quite an assortment of flavors in the fridge. What the hell is it if it's non-dairy creamer? Can there be such a thing as non-dairy cream? Whatever it is, when you drink as much coffee as Traci, I guess you need to add something to it to coat your stomach, if nothing else. I guess I’m getting old. People don’t drink coffee the way they used to. There are all these poser coffee drinkers out there. They can’t just have a cup of coffee. They have to put frothed milk or sweet flavors in it. They even put whipped cream on it. Then they sprinkle nutmeg, or chocolate powder on top. What’s coffee coming to?

I’ll tell you how bad it’s getting. The other day Traci and I were sitting in a Starbuck’s Coffee. I ordered a double espresso; no sugar, no cream. I don’t know what Traci ordered, but it came in a big cup and didn't even look like coffee. It looked like whitish, tan, foamy stuff. I had a heck of a time even finding "double espresso" on the menu. The menu was full of drinks I never even heard of. If it weren’t for the sweet aroma of brewing coffee, I’d have thought I was in the wrong place.

There were some wussy sounding drinks on that menu with names like: Caramel Macchiato, Iced White Chocolate Mocha, Cinnamon Spice Mocha, and Iced Mocha Coconut Frappuccino. Let me just say this: First of all, coffee is a hot drink. There’s no ice in coffee. Secondly, if the word coffee or espresso doesn’t appear in the name of the drink, they shouldn’t sell it in a coffee shop.

So we’re sitting in Starbucks, and this family of four walks up and orders four Iced Mochas. I don’t know what an Iced Mocha is, but it must be a wussy coffee drink because kids were ordering one. My son will not be allowed to drink any of my coffee until he’s eighteen, for fear that some medical problem may arise, or at the very least his growth may be stunted. Heaven forbid, he ends up like me: short and spastic.

So the family of four gets their iced mochas and head over to the area where Starbuck’s has their coffee condiments. In the old days the condiments consisted of cream, sugar, and a lid. And if you wanted to drink your lid covered coffee, you had to either take the lid off, or rip a jagged hole out of the lid, that you could sip the coffee through, while being extra careful not to slice your lip on the lid. Nowadays the condiments consist of just about everything known to man you could think of to put in coffee. There’s: milk, skim milk, half and half, cream, fake cream, sugar, four different types of fake sugar, honey, powdered sugar, powdered vanilla, powdered chocolate, nutmeg, salt, pepper, etc. And the lid is a state of the art contraption that supposedly lets you sip the coffee without taking the lid off, or even ripping a hole in it. I end up ripping a hole in mine anyway, for old time's sake.

And let me ask you this: What’s with artificial sweetener? If you have a choice between a packet of real sugar and a packet of fake sugar, why would you pick the fake sugar? I hope it has nothing to do with calories. How many calories could there be in a packet of real sugar? Fifteen more than the fake sugar?
Anyway, as the family of iced mocha drinkers head over to the condiment station, one of the kids has a sip, gets this twisted look on her face and says, "Gross. This doesn’t taste like the iced mocha we had at Baskin Robbins."

The other kid says, "Yuk. I think they forgot to add the ice cream."

I’m sitting there thinking, "There’s no ice cream in coffee!"

The dad says, "Maybe we’re supposed to add some of this stuff to it."

They then proceed to dilute their iced mocha’s with some of the condiments. One of the kids adds a bunch of milk and says, "Nope. That didn’t do it."

"Try the half and half," the dad says.

"That’s a little better," the mom chimes in. "It’s still missing something, though. It needs more sugar. Maybe a couple of packets will do."

"More like four," one of the kids replies.

"Yeah, that’s more like it," the dad says. "It’s still not the same, though. Do they sell ice cream here? I bet a scoop of Blueberry Cheesecake would spice it up."

After the iced mocha drinkers left, a yuppie looking guy stepped up to the counter. He ordered a tall decaf cafe latte (don’t ask me what a latte is), and asked the girl behind the counter if she would add the "shot" of espresso after the frothed milk. There’s no large and small anymore. It’s short, tall, and grande. And I don’t know about you, but the only thing I’ll drink with froth on it is beer. Coffee drinking is just getting a little out of hand. It’s bad enough the guy ordered something called a decaf cafe latte (that can’t be a manly drink), but then he asked the girl if she could put an extra cup over the original so he wouldn’t burn his hand on the hot cup. What a wuss.

They don’t even offer regular coffee at the coffee houses anymore. There’s cafe lattes, cafe au laits, cappuccinos, mochas; you have to look real hard to find, just plain ol’ coffee, on the menu. If I opened a coffee shop, it would be for real coffee drinkers, people who wanted extra caffeinated coffee. My clients would be people who drank coffee because they love the taste and they love to have the shakes after they drink that extra cup before work. There’d be no short, tall, and grande. I’d offer: black, blacker, and tar. I’d have drinks like: quadruple espresso, or a large mug of black coffee with a cup of espresso. I’d have coffee on tap. Why hasn’t anyone thought of this yet?

I’d pattern it after European coffee houses. They know how to drink coffee in Europe. They brew their coffee with steam, so it’s not really coffee, as we know it, but espresso. And you don’t get a little wimpy "shot" glass to drink it out of. You get a big cereal-bowl-looking mug. That’s so you can dip your baguette in it at breakfast. You can’t even fit a doughnut in an American style coffee mug. You have to break it in half and dip it in little by little. In Europe, you could drop the whole doughnut in; let it get all nice and soggy, then just drink the coffee—doughnut and all. I could fit a whole croissant in my coffee cup in Europe. All they have for breakfast in Europe is coffee, baguettes, croissants, butter, cheese, and more coffee. It’s no wonder Americans get constipated in Europe. I’m no doctor, but I don’t think it’s the jet lag.

Speaking of constipated, they have more ways to eat a baguette in France. It seems like everyone has his or her own baguette-eating technique. I just add some butter and chomp away, then wash it down with some coffee. Some people crumble it into their coffee, and then eat their coffee with a spoon, like soup. Some people make a big production out of it. They cut the baguette in half length-wise, and scoop out all the soft bread, leaving just the crust. Then they stuff the crust with Brie cheese or butter, dip it in the coffee, and eat it. They love their baguettes in France, almost as much as coffee.

As I type this, and finish my third cup of coffee, I can’t help but notice my typing rate has increased. My fingers are dancing on the keys. My mind is flooded with thoughts and ideas. I have this strange twitch in my left eyelid, but it isn’t bothering me too much. In fact, I’m actually enjoying it. My energy level is soaring, and I can feel my metabolism working like a freight train. And now I must finish, because I feel a bowel movement coming on. I love coffee.

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