Coffee- Read&Delete Style

July, 1999

Greetings friends and enemies!

    This month's newsletter is artificially stimulating. The opinions expressed here can be dripped, brewed, boiled, percolated or freeze-dried. I am speaking about coffee, of course. Like many Americans, I drink quite a bit of it. 

      I like coffee. Office coffee. Regular coffee. Coffee that is processed in enormous factories, ground up in gigantic coffee mills, each one the size of a Buick Roadmaster. Cafe' De Bulk Process, sold in two pound cans, and brewed in large galvanized steel drums in every truck stop in America. Hot, strong, vibrant, bottomless, complete in itself. My kind of coffee is given by the Red Cross to disaster victims as they sit shuddering under blankets at the scene of calamity. It is the cup of joe that gives hope to the helpless, warmth to the homeless, and comfort to the stranger. The cup that says, "Welcome, friend." It is coffee from the pot that is eternally bonded to the white aproned waitress's right hand, the liquid that appears magically every time you sit at the lunch counter and turn over the upside-down cup that is nesting in its saucer in front of you. This same substance, once spilled, will instantly bring the waitress back with a washrag to wipe it up before it eats into the linoleum counter. Coffee, maybe mixed with cream and sugar, maybe black, but no nonsense. 

      Coffee is the elixir from which America draws its strength. It is the beverage backbone of our republic, the hidden dynamo powering democracy around the world. It has been brewed on the field of battle, and has been drunk on the surface of the moon. We Americans thrive on it, can survive on it, and when the going gets tough, we put on a pot 'o Folgers or Maxwell House and just get on with it. 

       But now as we approach the twenty-first century, regular coffee is a little hard to get. To be sure-- you can still go into your local grocery and pick up a can of the real stuff, to brew at home. I am talking about trying to get a cup of this coffee at the train station, shopping mall or doughnut shop. The trend in our society today is one of "upscale, ever upscale". Everything needs to be richer, finer and more satisfying. We have a way of ruining plain and simple virtue with the adulteration of spice and fiction.        

       Nowhere is this more evident than in the marketing of our coffee. Plain is out. Ridiculous is in. 
There are places to go to in our towns that propose to sell "flavored coffees." Some of them are: Starbucks, Gloria Jean's, Latte Land and countless others, where unsuspecting patrons will pay as much as $2.50 for a Styrofoam cup filled with deceit, a charlatan, a pale shadow of what once was. Predisposed humanity is lining up like cattle, waiting to order concoctions with names like: "Aunt Anastasia's Latte' Frappe'", a rich multicultural mixture of ground up maple leaves and ranch dressing. "Cappuccino licorice," made with real anise and charcoal. But by far the favorite flavored opiate around my neck of the woods is the flavor known as "French Vanilla", which is neither of the above, but rather tastes like a blending of old tea, sour milk and dish soap. Some flavors are also available in "decaf", sort of a "Casa El Debil" (loosely translated: "house of the weak"); an emasculated alternative to the "full Monty". A virtual cup of shame. Asking for a plain cup of coffee from one of these establishments will usually bring forth a blank stare from the counter attendant and a stifling hush from the rest of the crowd.

       Most of these places will also gladly sell you fresh grounds, so you can poison yourself and others at home and at work too. One time a co-worker of mine mixed up a batch of some tea/coffee combination in the pot at the office. It tasted like pickles in brine and left grounds in the filter that looked like the contents of an old vacuum cleaner bag. If you think I had a bad reaction to this toxin, you should have seen what it did to my coffee mug. It began to shake uncontrollably as it was filled up, and a loud knocking sound issued from it until I cleaned it out with bleach. Some hours later it attempted suicide by diving off of my desk. After months of therapy it still trembles a little as I fill it up, even with plain water. 

     Speaking of toxicology, at the far end of the pH scale is "Orange espresso", a poison which is made up of decayed orange rinds, coffee beans and battery acid. Contained within a mere 6 ounces of this stuff is enough caffeine to keep the entire student body at most universities awake for all of "finals week." When mixed with sugar, espresso is ruthless and brutal, and its consumption can create a biological reaction powerful enough to cause people (myself included) to radiate enough energy to levitate. Espresso is one of the more nasty substances ever to be dumped into a demitasse. My pet theory is that people who drink espresso on a regular basis actually need that much stimulation to keep their multiple personalities alert.

      But the biggest insult to the coffee purist is a product that goes under the name of "Water Joe." Water Joe is simply bottled water laced with caffeine. It was invented by stock traders on the floor of the stock exchange. They wanted the boost of caffeine without the flavor or the "hassle" of coffee. Quite frankly, it tastes like standing water in which rusty iron nails were kept for about 2 weeks. It's a real tooth grinder. But these stock trader guys need caffeine like nature needs the Internet. Any group of men who can tie full Windsor knots in their neckties in four seconds flat is hyper enough without it. 

     So I beg of you, heed my advice. If you are standing in line for more than five minutes to buy a cup of coffee that costs more than a Sunday newspaper, if you have more choices in coffee flavors than ice cream flavors and you can't remember what regular coffee tastes like, you are in the wrong place. Go to the nearest cheap diner and ask Mabel for black coffee. She will bring you a cup of real coffee, a plain doughnut and a dog-eared newspaper. Dunk the doughnut, drink the coffee and look in the want-ads under the classification "Lives available, to rent or own." It's time to wake up and smell the-----you know.

Gotta go, I need another refill.


P.S. If you ask me, I can give you the recipe that the U.S. military uses to make 40 gallons of strong coffee. It's not classified information, I just didn't want to gross everybody out at once.