We’ve got a war on drugs here in America. We are beefing up the borders and increasing our police forces to stop the flow of narcotics into our nation. That’s a good thing, I suppose. I just hope no one ever realizes that the entire nation is jacked up on caffeine.
Coffee, the product of the coffee bean, wasn’t something Westerners were getting high on until the mid 1600s. Some experts say coffee cultivation originated in Arabia near the Red Sea around 675 AD, and extensive planting of the coffee tree occurred in Yemen in the 16th and 17th centuries. The Europeans got a taste of the black drink brewed from the bean of the coffee tree and the world has never been the same. Realizing the power of this drug over the Europeans, The Dutch soon began to grow it in their colonies. The French successfully brought a live cutting of a coffee tree to the island of Martinique in the West Indies. This single plant was the forerunner and grandfather to all the great coffee plantations of Latin America.
Do you remember when your Dad would drink coffee when you were a kid? Long trips in the family car, Dad with his stainless steel thermos, you asleep in the back and smelling that wonderful smell. It smelled like Dad. And do you remember weekend mornings around the breakfast table, Mom and Dad with a cup of coffee? You’d ask for a taste and they’d let you have a sip, knowing you would make that face that all kids make when something tastes like crap. It wasn’t until high school or college that you started drinking it, right? Just like beer, just like pot. It took some getting used to. The taste was bitter. But it had a great effect. It woke you up. You could study better. All your friends were doing it. You found ways to make it taste better. Some cream, some sugar, milk, whatever. Then before long you found that you could drink it all kinds of ways and that it was great after a meal, while reading, sitting, driving and talking. It was a friend and the truth was, you needed it. You enjoyed it.
We stumble to the coffee maker first thing in the morning. Barely awake, we go to that corner of our kitchen that is dedicated to the bean of the coffee tree and start the hot water over the ground and roasted beans to mix that magic potion that is celebrated from sea to shining sea. When we get to work, our employers have placed stations all over the workplace that are devoted to the magic potion and the employer gives this potion to us for free. You drank it all? We’ll make more! We go to specialty stores that sell the ground and roasted beans in hundreds of flavors, from exciting and exotic locations. The local supermarket has an aisle devoted to it and even a bean grinder. We go to special bars and coffee houses that make it even better than we can at home and we’ll pay top dollar for a few ounces of the juice. We invest money in better machines that will approximate their concoctions of the brew and put them in our kitchen coffee shrines. Even the government is in on the act and will set up free coffee stations at rest stops on holiday weekends to keep the drivers on the interstates alert. The United States military is so addicted to coffee that they nicknamed it "Joe."
This employer sanctioned, government-funded epidemic has taken over and we have accepted it. We are a drugged nation. There is nowhere you can go and not find a cup of coffee. It makes you wonder what the war on drugs is all about. Marijuana comes from the exact same places that coffee comes from. The process to make drinkable coffee is long and involved. Just as no one snorts cocaine from the coca plant, no one drinks coffee from a coffee tree.
Imagine coffee being criminalized. Pandemonium and full-scale revolt. We’d have screaming and angry drivers in the streets, parents unable to get their children to school in the morning, All the Starbuck’s boarded up, coffee hoarding and lame attempts to grow coffee in attics and basements all over. You’d be meeting your coffee dealer in a secret location and passing brown bags of coffee under tables. Coffee drinkers wouldn’t lay low and buy and sell their drug quietly and discreetly, waiting for the next shipment to arrive, like marijuana users have learned to do. They’d take up arms and kill each other to get another fix. Coffee is a drug and we need it. Some of us can’t live without it.
Imagine the economic devastation resulting from the government’s declaring coffee a controlled substance - a narcotic
. Importers, exporters, investors, buyers and dealers out of business. Retail, wholesale and vending gone. The financial shockwave would be hard to overcome, but the money would find other avenues. Coffee Prohibition wouldn’t stop the flow of coffee across the borders from Mexico and the Caribbean. I'll bet some of the best coffee would come from Canada. We’d have speakeasies in secret hideouts. Gangs would war over coffee turf. People would be getting arrested on routine traffic stops for transporting truckloads of coffee beans…with the intent to distribute
. Drug addicts are resourceful and they will get their high, no matter how many laws we pass or how many police we employ to keep them from it.
I love coffee. I am a full-blown coffee-addict and I’m not ashamed of that. It’s not illegal and I hope no one at the DEA ever figures out what a powerful drug it is. Coffee is great and I will use it in all its forms. I love it from Arabia, Jamaica, Kenya, Columbia and Hawaii. I love it fresh perked, automatic dripped, or instant. I'll enjoy it in its super-concentrated form of espresso, a liquid jolt of energy, or in its dessert form of cappuccino, a tasty treat of get-up-and-go juice. I like it in the morning, the evening, while driving, reading, and talking. It starts my day. It’s my friend. It’s hot liquid hope
. I’m glad I don’t have to make discreet phone calls in coded words to paranoid dealers just to get a cup. I’m glad I can drink it in front of children and they haven’t been told at school that it’s a horrible, addictive substance that makes people act differently.
We need some things and we like them. We don’t want to be without them. Is that addiction? Maybe. Or maybe it’s just enjoying the things we have. Coffee is one of the many things we need and enjoy that alter our mood, change our thinking, or just help us get going in the morning. Like vitamins or aspirin - or for millions these days- Prozac, Zoloft or pain killers. Or a glass of wine, a bottle of beer. We are a drugged nation. Coffee's a habit, a ritual, a part of our lives - and I'm pretty sure it's not a gateway drug to more harmful things like crack and heroin.
If you want, I can hook you up with a guy who just got back from Martinique with some killer French Roast.
Labels: coffee, essays, war on drugs