by wjw on April 11, 2011

About a year ago I started drinking coffee again.

I’d avoided coffee for at least 25 years, and for a very good reason: it made me sick.  If I had coffee— even coffee ice cream— in a few days I’d come down with stomach pains, sometimes very severe, and they’d go on for days.  This was part of the gastritis from which I’d been suffering since I was 22— coffee was the only thing I knew of that would absolutely bring on a gastritis attack.

Working this out took a number of years, because the cause and effect wasn’t clear.  I’d have coffee, but I wouldn’t get sick for several days, during which time I’d be eating and drinking other stuff.  But eventually I finally figured out the equation: coffee=pain.  Not liking pain, I quit.

I drank tea.  Lots and lots of tea.

Six years ago I was in the hospital having various organs removed, and I wondered if my gastritis was caused, at least in part, by the gall bladder that had gone all necrotic and which had to be sliced out of me.   (Clearly this gall bladder was Not My Friend.)  But after the hospital stay I had a few minor attacks, nothing like the days of pain and agony I used to have, and they convinced me to stay on my meds and to stay away from coffee.

But I still continued to wonder whether I could try coffee again.  Maybe it wasn’t me that had a problem with coffee, maybe it was my gall bladder— maybe my gall bladder still had a problem with coffee, but as the gall bladder and I had parted, it wouldn’t be my problem any longer.  But I never made the experiment, because I didn’t feel I could afford to take a week out of my life to be sick.

About a year ago, I decided it was time to find out.

That was when I fully realized that coffee drinking has really changed.  When I was drinking coffee in my youth, the only coffee available was crap coffee.  There was Folgers, and there was Hills Brothers.  There were a few places in New Mexico where I could get espresso, but it was crap espresso— basically the coffee beans that got burnt during roasting got turned into espresso. This wasn’t San Francisco or Seattle, this was New Mexico, which got the crap end of everything.

When I quit coffee, there was only one Starbucks in the world, and it didn’t serve coffee.  It sold coffee beans. You had to buy the beans and make the coffee at home.

So now, having decided to have coffee, I had to figure out what kind of coffee to have.  The choices now are a bit startling: there are lattes, cappucinos, frappucinos, flavored coffees, macchiatos, mistos, mochas, and the ever-popular Iced Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha.

I decided to go for a latte, because it was cut with milk, and I wasn’t sure what straight coffee or espresso would do to my system.

I remember this taste, I thought.   I used to like this taste. The taste wasn’t particularly inviting on renewed acquaintance.

I drank my coffee and I got a buzz.  I was actually high.  I was alert.  I was functioning at a high level.  I got a lot accomplished.

I remember this, I thought.

I waited a few days and I didn’t get sick.  So I had another latte, and another, and then various other coffee drinks.  I finished my last book in a blast of caffeine-fueled creativity.

Dang!  This is good stuff!

I drink coffee most days now.  I haven’t got sick.  I haven’t had any pain.  I’m just more awake than I’ve been in, say, 25 years.

I’m not any less lazy, but I think more intently about not being lazy than previously.

I’m also in the process of working out what kinds of coffee I like.  I have an awful lot to choose from.

Turns out I’m in favor of the darker, richer brews, your French roasts and whatnot.  Malcolm Gladwell says that most Americans say they like dark, rich coffee, but that they actually drink weak, milky coffee.  I’m not one of those.

I’ve decided that flavored coffees are the invention of the Devil.  Who is putting these almonds in my coffee? I ask.  Must be Satan!

I tried Kona and liked it, but I didn’t like it 400% better than other coffee, and that’s what it cost, so I didn’t buy any more.  I’ve developed a liking for Cafe du Monde coffee, which I suspect is crap coffee, but I don’t care, it wakes me up.

And now, having awakened, at least for the day, I’m going to go to my writing computer, and try to write like a coffee-tokin’ fiend.

Mark Wise April 11, 2011 at 10:38 am

I’ve decided that flavored coffees are the invention of the Devil. Who is putting these almonds in my coffee? I ask. Must be Satan!

Amen, brother. If a coffee shop uses oil-flavored beans, eventually all coffee there tastes “flavored.” Ugh.

That said, I don’t turn my nose up at Turkish coffee with a pinch of cardamom.

kat April 11, 2011 at 11:42 am

Huh. I have a slightly similar experience, though without the sick: coffee just makes me really, painfully hyper. As in a quarter-cup sets me bouncing off the walls and gives me the shakes, tension headaches, black spots in the corners of my vision, and paranoia (my husband is particularly fond of this last). I also can’t have decaf, black tea, most sodas, and particularly strong chocolate. It’s a pity. I can do without the tea and soda, but I rather like the taste of coffee.

Maybe someday I, too, will grow out of this….

DensityDuck April 11, 2011 at 8:02 pm

For some reason, I went insane(r) one day and decided to get this “special edition Buttered French Toast With Syrup” coffee. K-cup pods.

First cup: Damn if it doesn’t smell like buttered french toast with syrup! And kinda sorta taste like it, too! Yay! Tasty!

Second cup: Hey, yeah, this is good!

Third cup: Uh…yeah, this *was* good…

Fourth cup: Okay, by this point I don’t even want *actual* buttered french toast with syrup anymore.

(there were twenty-four pods in the box.)

wjw April 11, 2011 at 8:28 pm

I’ve had the same experience with this Vietnamese coffee that Kathy likes. The first cup, I thought: “Hey, this is really tasty and different!” Second cup: “Yeah, this is okay.” Third cup: “I don’t ever want to smell this stuff again!”

JaniceG April 13, 2011 at 5:03 am

I’ve been decaffed for over 30 years thanks to a predisposition not to remember to drink noncaffeinated liquids, which doesn’t do great things to your alimentary system. After UTIs, the dr decided it was better for me to just cut out caffeine completely than to count on me remembering to drink water during the day. Now, if I get served the real stuff by accident rather than decaf, I buzz for a day or two. As Stephen says, I start behaving like a hyper butterfly and I’m up chattering for hours. I’m sure Kathy is glad you didn’t manifest this behavior :->

Tony Coffee Beans DiCorpo April 13, 2011 at 4:44 pm

Yes, great read!

Caffeine will dehydrate you so for every cup of coffee you drink, you should at some point in the next hour drink at least 8oz of water. Also, caffeine will make some people sick as will the chemicals that are used to decaffeinate coffee. If that is the case and you truly enjoy the ‘taste’ and have a passion for coffee, drink decaf coffee but get the Swiss Water (SWP), Mountain Water (MWP) or CO2 Process decaf coffees. Each are naturally decaffeinated without chemicals.

The other thing that can make you sick is any coffee that is treated with pesticides. You can get completely organic coffee that will take care of this issue as well.

As for Jamoke…excellent read my friend! You may have had issues with your coffee way back when because if all your choices were just Folgers or Hills Bros., these were/are made up of 100% robusta beans. Robusta are grown differently and in some countries harvested and processed differently than Arabica, the high quality beans you get today at specialty coffee shops and artisan roasters. Robusta also has TWICE the caffeine content than Arabica. You may have had serious issue due to the high caffeine content. It is higher than the caffeine in most low-grade teas and that is pretty high!

It has been my experience that the body goes through changes every so many years: some things that once affected your system don’t any longer and vice versa. I was once completely fine with all forms of dairy. Then literally one day it literally changed and ran a course of about 5 yrs. Now I can have any form of dairy without problem.

Ralf the Dog April 15, 2011 at 4:07 am

When I drink coffee or am around people drinking coffee my lungs fill up with junk that gets infected, then I get very sick and almost die. I can handle other caffeinated drinks.

I fond this out many years ago when I was working as a waiter. One of my jobs was to clean the coffee machine. Every day, I kept getting sicker. When I finally went to the doctors office, they did lab work on my blood. My white count was twice what it should have been and my platelet was three times (perhaps the other way around). The first thing they said to me was leukemia.

I wish I could drink coffee, it sounds fun.

wjw April 15, 2011 at 7:09 am

Good lord, Ralf! And I thought I had a bad reaction to the stuff.

“Coffee gives me leukemia.” Who else in the world can say that?

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