Coffee Is Not Always A la Mode

Reid Kiyabu

To meet the escalating demands of the midterms season, I pulled my first all-nighter last night. While the seconds ticked away and the minutes melted into hours, I deliriously contemplated reaching for a good ole fashioned cup of Joe to ease the pain of a sleepless night. As I stood up to hustle the cappuccino machine for a pumpkin-spice latte, I quickly withdrew my outstretched hand because, unlike most of the student body, I don’t drink coffee.

For those of you who don’t know me extensively (probably 99.9 percent of you reading this), I was a vegetarian for the majority of my life. In fact, I only recently started to assimilate myself into the world of “normal” carnivorous eating. The reason for this was actually surprisingly simple — I never had, and never considered eating meat. I was healthy, I had energy, and the sustenance plant matter on which I had grown easily supported my lifestyle. There was never a need to eat meat so I just didn’t. The same can be said about my coffee-less way of life — I never had to, never needed to, so I just didn’t.

As I’ve stated in a previous article, I spent an enlightening summer at Cornell University two years ago. While I sat waiting for the lecture session to begin, I made it a game to count the number of people who were drinking coffee on any given morning. As the count reached the echelons beyond my 7:30 a.m. brain functioning, there were three girls who caught my eye. They looked like they had just crawled out of a swamp. It was impossible to miss their unkempt dirty blonde locks, wrinkled garments and sagging, baggy eyes. As they snuggled into the lecture hall seats, they clutched steaming coffee cups with both hands, holding the bitter liquid up close to their pouting mouths as though they were scared of putting it down and falling asleep. It was ridiculous to see teenaged girls so dependent on their morning mochas. This experience only strengthened my belief that coffee is an unnecessary evil.

I don’t know how many of you actually like the taste of coffee, but I suspect that much of the reason our society seems to be so attracted to it is because it is a sign that we have “grown up”. There is no worse feeling for a kid than getting written off as an immature, non-contributing member of society. We see the most prominent people in the world drinking coffee, we see “cool” older kids rushing to class with “venti” cups and we consequently begin to believe that we must also adopt that habit to be taken seriously. In the case of coffee drinking, gaining the publics’ acknowledgement that you are a time-conscious human being is worth sacrificing the height you could have attained had you stayed away from excessive caffeine till after puberty.

Coffee is a pop icon born from Folgers, the demands of metropolitan life and our own materialistic dependency. Once a homemade commodity for lazy Sunday mornings and a staple in college caf?es, coffee has become an international symbol in the Starbucks brand. Gone are the days of “exclusive blends” and specialty shops – the proliferation and increasingly accessible nature of java is a trademark of our generation. Coffee mugs have become an asexual accessory, whose newfound prominence has been marked by a loss of charm that was once evident in the highly personal “Number One Dad in the World” designs. There is simply no denying it: we are obsessed with coffee and the social recognition it carries – its ability to keep us functioning for days upon restless days has become a petty bonus.

Coffee and I have never really had a relationship. Sure, we’ve had some close encounters and, from across the room, she’s looked really tempting on 20 plus-hour days. Still, despite her many fragrances and alluring spicy, sweet or feisty flavors, I’ve never dabbled in her, afraid to become addicted to the very features that have captured the taste buds of so many before. Will she go out of fashion anytime soon? If anything, coffee seems to be escalating her strangle hold over the modern world. I don’t see myself drinking coffee anytime soon, even if it means falling short of a crucial all-nighter. I’d rather not get myself hooked on caffeine; drinking coffee doesn’t make you cool and it definitely doesn’t mean you’re mature.