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No more coffee

KEELY BROWN
Special to the Daily
Keely Brown
ALL |

The hedonistic consumption of my youth, alas and alack, is over. I’ve been caught up short, forced to go cold turkey in a cold, uncaring world …

No, I’m not talking about drugs, or booze, or credit card debt. I’m talking about coffee.

For various dreary reasons, I can no longer imbibe my favorite potable. My high-octane coffee drinking days ” at least for the moment, and perhaps for a good while longer ” are decidedly over. In other words, I’m off caffeine.

Now, when I go to my favorite coffee house and cuddle my favorite coffee house dog, I’ll be drinking lemongrass and chamomile, instead of rich organic Sumatra roast. All those years of swigging coffee mugs filled to the brim with pure unadulterated espresso may have gotten me through my late night gigs, but now, I’m paying for it.

And I miss it. Oh, how I miss it.

I know I should try decaf. But to me, coffee without caffeine is like … well it’s like a car without the engine. I know I’ll get around to it eventually, but only after I overcome a lifelong prejudice and persuade myself that decaf is still real coffee. It’s kind of like pretending that the Sugar Bowl is the Super Bowl ” simply unimaginable.

But in the meantime, I am trying out all those teas with the colorful boxes and the luscious names ” chamomile, hawthorn berries, raspberry leaves, rose hips …

Why is it that they never taste as good as they sound?

I mean, something called “Vanilla Hibiscus Purple Passion” ought to taste at least as good as a banana split, don’t you think? Or at last as good as a cup of rich organic Sumatra roast. But somehow, the top note of these herb teas, no matter how complex the blend, ends up being the taste of hot water tinged slightly with something the cows have trod upon.

I grew up reading the novels and stories of Collette, and her frequent references to “tinsanes” of exotic flowers made me really want to try this stuff. I remember when, inspired by Collette, I tried my first cup of chamomile tea.

That’s when I figured that they must grow those flowers differently in France.

I’m trying, I really am. But all you herb tea fans out there, bear with me on this one.

Perhaps it’s an acquired taste, like champagne and caviar. But I doubt it. I never had to acquire a taste for Perrier Jouet and fresh Beluga Malossol ” I seem to have been born with it.

I’m trying to tell myself that I’m not drinking the swampy wetlands and meadows that the field animals have sat on ” and I use the word “sat” euphemistically. No, I tell myself I am drinking down fields of gold ” wheatgrass, lemongrass, all those lovely names. That rich flavor of hot Lake Dillon Reservoir water is merely caused by my coffee-tinged palette. It will soon wear off, and then maybe I’ll be able to taste something.

The worst thing, I admit, is the fatigue. As much as I love the flavor, I drank coffee for the caffeine. James Thurber once referred to that lovely euphoria that comes after the second cup ” well, I depended on that euphoria like a snowboarder depends on fresh powder.

It’s been a week now since I gave it up. And as for that first day without caffeine ” well frankly, I have no recollection of anything, other than some pretty weird indentations on my face when I woke up slumped over my computer keyboard. To be honest, the only thing that kept me awake throughout the day was the impact of my head hitting whatever it was I was falling asleep over.

Being forced to become a tea drinker has made me recall, with nostalgia and more than a touch of longing, some of the great coffees I’ve known. The best coffee I’ve ever drunk was in Sweden. Second place goes to a little shop in Key West that sells Cuban coffee ” maybe not genuine contraband, but it tastes wonderful enough to be.

The worst coffee I’ve ever drunk was in England ” anywhere in England. That’s why England is the one place where I drink tea, good strong Yorkshire tea, loaded with milk and just a touch of sugar, out of a proper China teapot. Perhaps I just need to buy a teapot. Then I can close my eyes and pretend. But then I’ll need the toast rack, and BBC Radio 2 in the background … and besides, the tea I drank still had caffeine, so I’d have to get decaf. If I do that, I may as well get decaf organic Sumatra roast … (sigh).

I could go on extolling great coffees I have known ” but I’m still too tired, and besides, thinking about all those lovely caffeine highs, now a thing of the past, makes me even more tired.

Yet, I must admit, I do seem to be sleeping better at night, ever since I got off the daily caffeine high. Hmmm … lifelong insomniac, plus lifelong swiller of copious amounts of caffeine … what could this possibly portend?

I’ll get back to you later on that one.


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