Strange Realization About Coffee

I had a strange realization a while back about coffee. I was sitting in Starbucks looking around at the decor, the artistic black and white photography of coffee beans... the milieu of stainless steel and ceramic cups and mugs, some for home, some for travel, some large, some small... the machines for sale, the grinders, the coffee makers, the espresso makers... the varieties of beans and roasts for sale, Ethiopian, Colombian, et al....

And then it suddenly hit me. "I am in a head shop."

Is it just me, or is the subculture and paraphernalia surrounding coffee very similar to that surrounding marijuana? While it has been a very long time since I have smoked marijuana, I remember all sorts of varieties and strains with international and domestic origins, different flavors, growing practices, and potencies, with brand names like skunk, hydroponic, G13, purple hair, and the like. It seems very similar to the variety of beans and roasters you find in the coffee industry. And I remember all the pipes and bongs at the head shops, glass and ceramic, brass one-hitters, water filtered, vaporizers, etc. It seems very similar to all the mugs and cups and machines you can buy at Starbucks. I remember walking into head shops and smelling the incense burning, being reminded of the smell of marijuana, and I find the experience of walking into a Starbucks and smelling the coffee somewhat reminiscent of that. The coffee related art on the walls at Starbucks doesn't seem all that different from tie-dyed marijuana leaf posters. And head shops were selling music long before Starbucks had that bright idea.

Of course, these similarities should not have surprised me. In both cases we have plants that are grown and consumed for their mood altering properties. Marijuana is much more potent in this regard, and hence much more controversial. I would certainly not attempt to equate them on that level. But when one visits Amsterdam and wants to smoke marijuana, where do they go? To the coffee shop. And does anyone dispute the physically addictive nature of coffee?

I knew a guy once whose nickname was "Coffee". He drank coffee all day every day. When he was broke, which was much of the time, he panhandled to get "coffee money". He got severe headaches and became very irritable when he didn't have any. You knew what he wanted when you saw him coming. He carried a coffee mug with him wherever he went. He never washed it. He claimed that the brown resinous buildup on the inside of his mug actually enhanced the flavor. I suspect when he was out of coffee he may have scraped off the brown gunk and added hot water to get a quick fix. I never understood how addictive coffee could be until I met a man who took it as his name.

Now don't get me wrong. I like coffee just fine. I'm not trying to say that coffee is a terrible drug, and that Starbucks is the dopeman. Lots of people drink coffee, and it actually has a positive effect on their life. It's great in social settings, it helps people start their day, to wake up, to stay focused and alert. And it can be quite comforting on a cold day to cuddle around a warm mug. I don't have a problem with it. I can quit anytime I want.

Ken Bussell
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1 comment:

PaisleyJade said...

Very good point! I love coffee, but am very aware of it's addictive nature...