By Alan S. Chartock
For Capital Region Independent Media
Many people see coffee as an elixir, a cure-all that will make life better when one enjoys that first cup in the morning or takes that last sip in the evening after a meal.
It’s interesting. I drink coffee, but I don’t particularly like the taste. I find it to be too acidic. But coffee is one of those things that has different effects on different people.
In my case, a swig of coffee can make all the difference in my mood, not to mention my general outlook on life. So, when we have our cup of coffee, the outcome on our mood or appetite can change. Sometimes, it cheers us up while at other moments, it can depress us. The point is, we can’t always anticipate the outcome — how we will react or even feel in general.
So whether coffee acts as a stimulant or depressant, it’s clear that we can become addicted to it. Just go a few days without your morning cup and see how your head feels. It’s not pretty. In my case, I would describe my addiction as drinking it without really enjoying it.
Of course, in addition to how much we drink, there’s always the matter of the kind of coffee we buy and how we prepare it. People have been inventing new ways to do that for years and years.
There are those who favor the drip method and those who use coffee machines. Some swear by the French press, others use an old-fashioned percolator. Now there are fancy single-serve machines.
For a lot of us, once we’ve gotten used to the way we make our coffee, we’re not about to change methods. We like the consistency of knowing just what that cup of coffee is going to taste like. Plus, the beans we choose and whether or not we opt to add sugar or sweetener or cream can really change the taste.
Obviously, some cream or milk makes all the difference. For those who have never experienced what whole cream or milk tastes like in coffee, you are probably in for a rude awakening when you imbibe the real thing, even if you suspect you are harming yourself by swallowing.
Once you add milk or cream or sweeteners, you will change what you are drinking to the point that you may approach the addictive stage. Certainly, that’s the case when you add too much sugar.
There are people who swear that we are hurting ourselves when we add things to our coffee. I remember when I was teaching at Rutgers’ Eagleton Institute, I would join my colleagues every day for coffee breaks. At that stage in my life (I may have been paying for it ever since), I would add three heaping tablespoons of sugar to my coffee. My colleagues, including my part-time secretary, would watch in horror and tell me in no uncertain terms that I was killing myself.
Indeed, I may have been. They may have been right. To this day, and it is many, many years later, I really don’t know how much cumulative harm I did to my system then. Perhaps the ensuing harm has followed me through my life.
I know one thing, the heart burn which has often been a constant pain seems to be related to my sugar intake.
Frankly, I have never really liked coffee and yet, I think that I have talked myself into this addiction. There are those who love tea. I am not one of them. To me, the stuff tastes like moderated swill.
Alan Chartock is professor emeritus at the State University of New York, publisher of the Legislative Gazette and president and CEO of the WAMC Northeast Public Radio Network. Readers can email him at email@example.com.