One of the best things about about drinking coffee is definitely the first sip: when we place our lips on the lips of our teacup and slowly, ever so slowly, lift it to allow that gorgeous brown liquid to enter our mouths and just envelop our taste buds with its glorious taste. The first sip is, as I believe it, when we let our taste buds do the talking. I get full-body tingles every time I take that first sip of my drink (ahh so good). A burnt tongue for great coffee is definitely worth it.
Another reason why I cling to this morning habit more than all my other habits (i.e. stretching, drinking a glass of water as soon as I wake up, catching up on the news, etc) is because (alright, this may sound completely bonkers) this particular drink is accompanied with that
elusive much sought after sense of achievement–the idea that I actually can do the things I set myself out to do and I will do them.
I’m going to be honest with this one: coffee makes me feel smarter. And no, I’m not even going to apologize for this because let’s all admit it, it does.
Perhaps one of the more serious reasons why I cling to and strongly reinforce this habit is that I am reminded of the role coffee and coffee houses played in history. I don’t think it’s too far fetched to say that most of the things we have now, we can thank coffee (and caffeine for it). Malcolm Gladwell put it well: it basically created the modern world (read: Java Man). Its affair with history dates back to the 17th century (maybe even earlier, I reckon) along with its steady relationship with the world’s greatest and brightest minds (Gladwell drops a few names: Robespierre, Napoleon, Voltaire, Victor Hugo, Théophile Gautier, Rousseau, and the Duke of Richelieu). I especially agree to how one blog put it: “Coffee has always been associated not only with meetings, but the exchange and flowering of new ideas” (read: A Brief History Of Coffee Houses as Meeting Places) and as I said, I agree 100%.
We know that the science behind this is that caffeine basically stops us from being sleepy thus increasing productivity and brain activity. It blocks adenosine (this makes us sleepy), lowers our blood pressure, and slows down our heartbeat. And apparently, the reason why coffee is such an effective stimulant is because caffeine can cross the blood-brain barrier easily. It passes through the stomach and intestines, straight to the bloodstream and of course we all know where the blood goes– everywhere. And take note that this happens so quickly, so our body is able to feel the effects faster than most drugs.
But that’s just the technicalities behind it, I’d rather focus on how coffee made a name for itself. According to Gladwell’s Java Man, coffee has the capacity to insinuate itself into every aspect of our lives, and not merely influence culture but even create it. Gladwell goes on to explain that perhaps the reason why coffee actually created the modern world is that it manages to blur the lines between socioeconomic classes. He begins by stating that before the popularity of coffeehouses, people were found talking in pubs or bars and Gladwell states that this drew from specific socioeconomic niches–in essence, a rich man wouldn’t clink beer mugs with a carpenter so talk was limited to class. Add the fact that they serve alcohol and you eventually get drunks who slur rather than men who think. Fortunately for us, the popularity of coffee houses in London (its humble beginnings) reached Paris and became such a hit there as well. According to Gladwell, “the new coffeehouses drew from many different classes and trades, and it became a place where men of all types could sit all day; the tobacco they smoked made it possible to drink coffee all day; and the coffee they drank inspired them to talk all day. Out of this came the Enlightenment.” And out of the Enlightenment came the ideas and philosophies that helped shape the 21st century.
During the 18th century, the romance between coffee and the Age of Industrialization began. According to authors Weinberg and Bealer, coffee helped “large numbers of people to coordinate their work schedules by giving them the energy to start work at a given time and continue it as long as necessary.” And well you know what this translates to: greater productivity. The same romance occurred between my favorite drink and the twentieth century, and well I’m sure we can all agree that the same affair happens up to this day and will continue on well into the future, I reckon.
That impromptu history lesson involved quite a lot of words, didn’t it? But I’d like to believe that it was worth it. It makes us appreciate even more that small cup of brown liquid we hold in our hands. For some of us it’s a way to keep ourselves warm on a cold morning, maybe even a source of comfort for dark days ahead. For others, it spells the difference between a pass and a fail. I know of some people who think of it as the perfect company to just about anything from a good book, a new playlist, and a lazy afternoon. I bet some of us have given little thought to just how big of a role it has actually played and deeply its influence was in creating the world we have today.
So today, I just want to raise my cup (never mind that the hot beverage just sloshed just a bit on my hand) and salute the “thinker’s” drink.