In Defense of Coffee

My friend Keith has written an eloquent defense of tea, to which I feel compelled to respond. 

First of all, I must come out as a beverage bisexual. I wouldn’t say that I like coffee and tea in equal measure, but I definitely appreciate the charms of both. On the Kinsey scale of caffeinated beverages, I probably lean slightly in favor of coffee. Say, about a 7.5 or so. 

That said, I believe Keith does not recognize the true complexity and majesty of coffee, the role in history that it has played. Enlightenment thinkers convened in coffeehouses (not tea shops) when hashing out the ideas that transformed the modern world. America would not exist without coffee. After all, what did our founders drink after they dumped tea into Boston Harbor? That’s right, coffee! 

Politics aside, I’m afraid that Keith is basing his hatred of coffee on a faulty premise. He mentions Folgers and Starbucks, which are hardly the benchmarks one should use when evaluating the true merits of the divine brew. Folgers is dehydrated coffee crap. Starbucks is burnt, and only palatable if doctored with plentiful milk and sugar (or is my favorite Starbucks delivery system, a grande vanilla latte with whole milk).

To truly appreciate what coffee can be, to extract its ur-coffeeness, it must be cold brewed. That method eliminates the bitterness about which Keith complains, and makes iced coffee a near-orgasmic experience (and something you can enjoy in front of your co-workers without getting fired…Jeffrey Toobin, I’m looking at you).

I must admit, I used to drink tea almost exclusively. This was due mostly to being oversensitive to caffeine. Working a 9-to-5 office job wore down this sensitivity, and now I crave the dark, sensual caress of my first sip of coffee in the morning as I crave light and air. Does this make me an addict? Who fucking cares? Life is hard enough without coffee. Tea, as delightful as it can be, does not satisfy in the deeply pleasurable way coffee does.

And here I think we are getting at the crux of what separates tea drinkers from coffee drinkers. Tea, as Keith wrote, appeals to a refined palate. Its charms are delicate and nuanced. It is my drink of choice in the afternoon (ideally accompanied by a cookie or a square of chocolate) when I need a pick-me-up that will prevent me from succumbing to the mid-afternoon slump. Coffee, however, is what I require to face the day. It is my slap in the face, my clarion alarm. It is, to quote Nabokov on a completely different subject, the light of my life, fire of my loins, my sin and my soul. 

Reader, coffee is sex. Not polite, respectful tea-sex; knock-down, drag-out, fuck-your-brains-out sex. 

The question is, what do you prefer? I know my answer.

Karen Kaletka writes short stories and novels in the literary and romance genres. She likes naps, coffee, reading compulsively, and inventing cocktails. You can visit her website, or follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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