Wake me up! Tie me down! Spill the beans!


November 05, 1993|By MIKE LITTWIN

Once, and correct me if I'm wrong here, the idea of coffee was pretty much the same as Jolt cola.

It got you going in the morning. It was the hot, liquid wake-up call, which worked either by drinking it or spilling it on your lap.

What you did was grab the 3-gallon Big Gulp from the 7-Eleven on the way into the office, and by the time you hit 10 a.m. you looked like Don Knotts when he had to tell Andy he'd lost the keys to the jail.

It was all about caffeine, the other South American drug. I've seen some bad addicts, too. I've seen people who would sell their mother for one more ride on Juan Valdez's donkey.

Some people come to work with the giant thermos. Have you seen the life-size Shaquille O'Neal version? These folks drink coffee all day. Watch Bill Clinton, our own leader. You never see the man without a coffee mug in hand. It leads him around, like a divining rod. Maybe he's looking for an election that a Democrat might win. In any case, you don't have to wonder what to get him for Father's Day.

Coffee mugs have, or should have, a short shelf life. Let's face it, they're almost always disgusting. Look in the bottom of your mug. Notice the brown sludge effect, much like the one in Boston Harbor.

A friend told me she once found a roach floating at the bottom of her mug -- dead. Nuclear war won't kill roaches, but coffee sludge will.

Now, is Clinton a caffeine addict, or doesn't he swallow? Here's where it gets confusing. Clinton says he drinks decaffeinated coffee. Hmm.

As a non-coffee drinker, I don't get decaf coffee, which apparently originated in California and now pretty much dominates the market. What's the point?

It's like they've decriminalized the drink. Is decaf coffee any different from non-alcoholic beer, which gives you the impression of drinking without, of course, the taste or the kick or the benefit of throwing up?

Decaf coffee, I'm told, allows people to drink coffee at night and ++ still be able to go to sleep. Now, for about 3 million years or so, there was only caffeine coffee. Did people not sleep for those 3 million years? Or did everyone stop drinking at noon?

The reason I'm so concerned about the coffee situation is that it has a direct impact on my social life.

Once upon a time, you'd go out for an evening, and afterward you'd go somewhere for drinks. This was as American as a DWI citation.

Now, people don't drink. That's not true. They drink fancy water with bubbles from foreign countries. Or they drink non-bubbly water and look annoyingly healthy. These people never, I want to emphasize this, eat bacon cheeseburgers.

And where many go after a night out is to a coffee bar.

Coffee bars are the hip places to be, which is tough if you don't actually drink the stuff. I'm out with friends. They get coffee. And me? Suddenly, I feel as dumb as if I were at a sidewalk cafe in Paris with Sartre and de Beauvoir and ordering a Mr. Pibb.

So I'm learning. You don't just get coffee, of course. You get cafe au lait. Or latte. Or cappuccino. Or espresso. All come decaf -- Swiss water processed -- if you ask. Everyone seems to ask.

Or, if you do get "regular" coffee, you get the gourmet stuff. The menu reads a lot like Ben and Jerry's. There's chocolate macadamia coffee. And southern pecan. Hazelnut cream. Raspberry. Swiss almond. I keep looking for Cherry Garcia.

The regulars don't just drink the coffee, they talk coffee. They talk about their coffee makers, which, let's just say, Joe DiMaggio would never recognize. They're always some German-sounding brand, and people who use them talk a lot about getting the proper froth. Not to mention the proper designer-brand coffee.

You can have Fancy Bourbon Santos, from Brazil. Or Ethiopian Harrar. There's Tanzania Teaberry, which is from the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro. Actually, just from the Moshi slope.

There's Kona Extra-Hawaii. It's grown on the slopes of Mount Mouna Loa. It costs $16.99 a pound, which isn't surprising. Mount Mouna Loa is a volcano, and you've got to figure there's a lot of overhead going toward workmen's compensation.

So, you go to a coffee bar. You order your coffee, and then you get your biscotti, which are hard Italian cookies that you dunk in your designer coffee.

The cookies are great. I keep wondering how they'd taste if you dunked one in a Bud.

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