Photo: flickr/morgan

A coffeed culture

Rebecca Myers wakes up and smells the truth about our coffee addiction

When I have a bad day, when the world is in chaos, and I’m almost certain the clock has been nudged forward by someone with a particularly cruel sense of humour, I think about coffee. I picture an enormous hamster bottle, stuck to the wall by my desk like the wall of a cage, turned upside down and filled to the brim with hot, hot, black coffee. A giant hamster bottle to feed my giant workload. This image of coffee on tap, taped to the wall, was an image conjured by none other than Wisdom herself, Alexa Chung (!) in a tweet I once read, and is an image which has stayed with me ever since.

Earlier this month it was International Coffee Week, and I was celebrating at full pelt, tanking back cup after cup of the golden (black) hot stuff, jittery and determined, watching my fingers fly unbidden across the keyboard, sending emails with such speed I got a tingle of alarm that I might have actually sent things to completely the wrong people almost every time I pressed send. Nothing like the risk you might have sent an email for your mum as an internship application to liven up a bit of admin.

There is something about the mentality of coffee – the pace at which you work after you’ve drained the dregs in your cup, the shrewd gloss of focus that descends over your eyeballs after the First Cup of The Day that isn’t always as positive as it seems.

We all feed into our coffeed culture. Students slump into the library café like drunk bumble bees, drowsy on hours of revision, only to buy a coffee and buzz out the other side raring to go, like a caffeinated university production conveyor belt. Offices are fuelled by coffee, meetings and conferences fuelled by coffee, even in down time, people “go for a coffee”. Films give important businessmen and women characters a token Starbucks in hand to ensure everybody knows they are Very Busy And Important. The phrase “I need a coffee” must be one of the most overused in the Western world. If coffee beans suddenly became extinct, the whole world would ground to a halt.

More fool you if you actually like the stuff: while lattes and macchiatos and babyccinos and mochaccinos and caramel nut praline toffee fudge cappuccinos have all been invented for the modern coffee-hater so that you can drink a drink you don’t actually like in order to feel like you’re drinking it, for the veritable coffee-lover, a serious predicament occurs. You have a cup in the morning, perhaps with breakfast, perhaps to kick-start your day. Bam. Alive, alert, awake, enthusiastic. Then, at elevenses, you fancy a cup, because you’d like a cup. So you have a cup. Then, by afternoon, you have a cup because you need a cup. Cup with a biscuit? Ooh go on then. Cup after dinner? Wouldn’t mind. By bedtime, you’ve had so many cups the walls are getting closer to your twitching face and your hands are so shaky you can’t turn the light out to sleep NOT THAT YOU COULD SLEEP EVEN IF YOU WANTED TO.

Photo: Flickr / Jen Collins

Photo: Flickr / Jen Collins

I, for one, drink sleep-inducing herbal tea, probably just as a counter to all the coffee that drives my To Do lists. We are part of a wired nation: the coffeed nation who dose until close and rely on this effective legal high, day-in day-out.

As International Coffee Week drew to a close, I sealed up my coffee tin and called time out: this week, a solid week without coffee. Safe in the knowledge that the rest of the world was calling a time out on work for the Easter weekend, I called time out on my vice, and spent a blissful week without jitters and without gritted teeth, and knowing that absolutely all of my leisurely-sent emails were not in danger of signing off to potential bosses “love you xxxx”.

But now term has resumed, and so has the daily grind – not to mention the grinding of coffee beans in the cafés of campus and Leamington Spa. I know my habit will set in once again, with  a vengeance, and I’ll have to order in more antidotal herbal teas to combat my vibrating, buzzing mind. But that is life, and it’s not all that bad.

After all, I am just one blip in a massive, international, wired, coffeed culture.


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