Good to the First Drop

By Dave Jaffe

In the historical debate whether coffee is a beneficial or unhealthy drink, the fundamental question is, did I make it?

If my wife Denise brewed it, Science shouts, “Healthy!” If I did, Science mumbles timidly, “Um, could. . . . could Denise maybe make a fresh pot?”

And just to defuse accusations that I’m “Sexist!” and “Coffeetarian!”, Denise brews the coffee because she’s an early riser in much the way God is an early riser. An artist by trade and training, she greets each day with cheerfulness and optimism, initiative and drive.

For me, mornings are an existential crisis. I shouldn’t be allowed near anything sharp, like a coffee pot. I scatter so many grounds that the countertop looks like Columbia exploded. And my final brew tastes like irrigation runoff mixed with sadness.

Returning now – although probably just for a moment – to our lead question that, if I still recall, had something to do with whether coffee is beneficial or detrimental to health, there’s a bit of history to consider. So, pull up a chair, get comfy, and pour a nice hot cup’a joe.

But for God’s sake, don’t drink it yet!

Is coffee good or bad for you? Read the tea leaves. Grounds! I mean, read the grounds!

Little is known of the origins of coffee but that it predates the 15th century. While no early records exist, references to the dark brew were passed down through oral tradition by storytellers who never understood why they had so much trouble sleeping at night. The secret of coffee-making remained a dark – and in some cases, medium roast – mystery until Christopher Columbus discovered Seattle, which he named Starbucks.

After that, nothing interesting happens to coffee until the 1950s when Buzzkill Science accuses it of being unhealthy. Science is just doing this for attention, History gossips, because students are switching their major to Liberal Arts, which rides a motorcycle and hangs out in arty coffeehouses.

Contrarily, later studies link coffee to a range of healthful benefits such as a lower likelihood of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, liver and endometrial cancers, Parkinson’s disease, and depression. Rather than admit to having been mistaken, an embarrassed Science distracts the nation by launching a space race and landing a man on the moon.

A cynical Liberal Arts slides his hip shades down the bridge of his nose but remains cooly detached.

Despite this positive news, coffee’s image has remained tarnished and been further degraded by misinformation perpetuated by lobbyists in the pay of powerful industries like Big Chicory and the Seltzer Policy Center.

“Oooohhh! Coffee’s so hot you’ll burn your lip!” they decry. “Don’t spill! That stain never comes out!” and “They’re just a bunch’a wild mug throwers. You know that, right?”

And eventually they all resort to the C-word. . . caffeine.

If you recall your high school science class, I’m sorry for that. However, that’s where we learned that caffeine is a widely used natural stimulant found in coffee, tea and college students during finals. It’s a bitter, white crystalline with a chemical structure that looks like a lot of little red balls connected to grey and white balls by pipe cleaners. The caffeine associated with moderate coffee drinking can help a person stay alert and delay tiredness while offering numerous healthful benefits. However, it can heighten anxiety, especially in people confronted by a bunch’a wild mug throwers.

Thus, it is caffeine that is the devious kingpin in the cup, and coffee, merely its hired muscle.

Armed now with the same level of informed, well-reasoned facts by which we elect our political leaders, why shouldn’t we enjoy our coffee?

“Because it’ll stunt yer’ growth!” my father would snarl at 10-year-old 1960s Dave when I’d asked for a taste. “It’s a bad habit and it ain’t healthy!” he’d add, snuffing out another non-filtered Lucky Strike in his mug.

“Wull. . . why d’you drink it, Dad?”

“Ask yer’ mother! And go do your homework!”

Good talk, Dad. And despite all quantifiable, scientifically proven evidence to the contrary, that is the lesson that sticks: Coffee stunts yer’ growth!

So, when my 9-year-old granddaughter, who’d had a sleepover at Grandma and Grampy’s, asked for sip of my breakfast brew, I gently, logically dissuaded her.

“Who told you about coffee! Is that what they teach you in school nowadays, along with spitting on the flag? Or did some little schoolyard caffeine junkie give ya’ a ‘free taste’? Is that how you wanna start life, missy, with a monkey on your back? . . . Admittedly, a monkey who stays alert and focused and offers numerous healthful benefits? That sound good to you, missy? Does it? DOES IT!!!”

Unruffled, my adorable granddaughter, who I learned can shout as loud as Grandpy, explained that her dad—my own son!—had let her taste some of his heavily creamed-and-sugared coffee at the airport while they were awaiting a flight.

Did she notice any effects? This is an actual honest-to-God quote:

GRANDAUGHTER: “I took two sips and I was super energized, like bouncing off the airplane walls causing maintenance problems.”

Ah-HAH!

When my former son picked up his daughter, I quietly drew him aside and calmly screamed at him for allowing my granddaughter to guzzle coffee.

Son listened calmly, as one does to a speaker spewing foam around their mouth, then explained that he’d lied to granddaughter that his cup of hot cocoa was coffee.

“Soooo, she’s not a coffee-fiend-hophead-burnout-addict?” I asked.

“She’s never even tasted it,” he said. “What, you think I want to stunt her growth?”

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Now, do you like dogs? Do you know any dogs? Are you a dog? If you’ve said yes to any of those. . . or no. . . read these award-winning humor books by Dave Jaffe.

Sleeping between Giants Books 1 & 2, are available through Amazon and your favorite booksellers.
  • Winner — 2023 Best Indie Book Award for Humor
  • Winner — 17th Annual National Indie Excellence® Awards for Animals & Pets
  • Winner — 2021 International Book Awards: Humor
  • Winner — Indies Today 2019 Best Humor Book Award
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