Monday, May 20, 2013

The Virtues of Coffee

by Ross Wagenhofer

“Coffee - the favorite drink of the civilized world.” – Thomas Jefferson

One of the most beautiful sights, at least in my opinion, is that of steam rising from a cup of coffee. I often watch it coiling and moving around in the air as I wait for the coffee to cool. There's a great juxtaposition of the steam's white lightness and the black bitterness where it originates.

In my estimation, coffee shares the top spot with alcohol as the most literary drink (my metric for judgement of the literary quality of a drink is the popularity of it among writers, although I suspect actual hard data could reveal booze to be in the number one spot). The caffeine so abundant in coffee is a great legal source of drive and inspiration. Consider Honoré de Balzac, the famed French writer of numerous novels, plays, and stories. He turned to coffee, taken in appalling amounts, to fuel long stretches of intense and focused writing. The amount of coffee he drank slowly turned his stomach ulcerous and caused the left ventricle of his heart to hypertrophy, leading to his early demise at the age of 51.

A cup of brew I enjoyed while at the Massachusetts Library Association conference.

Balzac is an inspiration unique case in the amount of coffee he put into himself, and many other famous writers and figures have sought the drink in lesser amounts. Noted fans include Jonathan Swift, John Van Druten, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and T.S. Eliot. Eliot once said, “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.” Among some modern celebrities that have publicly declared their fondness for coffee: Hugh Jackman, Lana Del Rey, and Ice Cube.

Coffee is a bitter drink when made poorly, and slightly less bitter when made right. I don't often drink coffee black. I've heard many insist coffee ought to be drank black and with no frills to experience it properly. I agree; it is the same with steak, wine, Shakespeare, paintings, and walks through the forest. And yet, I prefer steak with A1, wine with food and friends, Shakespeare in modern interpretations, paintings hung in ornate frames, and strolls among the trees with musical accompaniment from my iPod. So it is with coffee: I like cream and sugar. If there's shame in that, so be it.

Image credit:
I first discovered the inspirational qualities of coffee when working on college entrance applications and writing essay after essay for different scholarships and schools. The average-sized and average quality drip coffee machine in my kitchen became a fountain of lethargy-killing nectar. Once discovered, I never stopped drinking the stuff. Like many freshmen before me, my first year of college startled me with work and busyness, and I turned toward coffee to help me with the myriad essays, tests, and stressful evenings laboring over projects.

Albert Camus once pondered: “Should I kill myself, or have a cup of coffee?” It’s a classic question of existentialism, but perhaps also a statement of the necessity of the black stuff for the Absurdist’s everyday existence. My ongoing wellbeing is certainly connected to coffee.

How do you drink your coffee, and how do you prepare it? (No really, I want to know. I've been thinking of getting a moka pot - it is worth it if I already have a French press?) Drop a comment below or toss us a tweet at @GodinePub on Twitter!

No comments:

Post a Comment