Coffee as a backup plan

Coffee as a backup plan

There is a little coffee shop in downtown Holland, Michigan called Lemonjello's. I got really into this place during my sophomore year of college. I would stop by every day and order their iconic yellow mug of coffee or one of the special $5 drinks. After about a week, I started wearing a baja sweatshirt and was dangerously close to playing pickup games of hacky sack.

This was the first time I started drinking coffee. And why did I wait so long! Coffee felt like turning the lights on in another half of the brain. Those yellow Lemonjello's mugs made me feel like Luke Skywalker when the Force finally clicked. Especially for writing. Coffee was the ultimate fuel. It didn't matter how late I was up the night before. Didn't matter how tired I was that morning. Just walk down the street, fill up a Lemonjello's mug, get back in the zone.

Just a block away from Lemonjello's was JP's. Now JP's was the serious coffee shop. The spot for business majors and young professionals. Case and point, my first big job interview was at JP's. The only interview that came out of Lemonjello's was after I ran my checking account into the ground from too many $5 drinks and had to apply to work at a gas station.

But you look at either of those two worlds, the JP's vs. Lemonjello's crowds, creatives vs. business people, right brain vs. left brain, whatever you want to call it, the common ground was coffee grounds. In any line of work, coffee makes the world go round.

Listen to the way people talk about coffee. "I'm not human until I've had my first sip." "Don't talk to me til I've had my first cup." The smell alone can bring peace to a room. And that moment when someone puts two hands around their coffee mug, takes a sip, and does that little shoulders up move; that moment is more intimate than any hug I've ever seen.

Coffee is a $20 billion industry. There are 14,000 Starbucks in the United States. 500 billion (!) cups of coffee are consumed every year around the globe. It's an essential part of life, especially in a world of alarm clocks, and late nights, and getting to work on time.

Which is why my next point is going to take some time to brew. My Medium Rare argument today is this: I think we should make coffee a backup plan.


Two years ago, I went cold turkey on coffee. Cut it out completely. It became apparent right away what a stranglehold coffee/caffeine had on my brain. Day one, coffee was a 350-lb arm wrestling champion squeezing my brain like a sponge. Day two, my brain was determined to squeeze until it burst. It was waiting for me to cry out, "Alright! Alright! I'll take a shot of espresso. Just let me see my family again."

Once you get past the withdrawal stage, things get a whole lot easier. One of the advantages post-coffee is there's no trouble falling asleep at night. No restlessness whatsoever. You start to slow down around 9 o'clock. Now, the obvious disadvantage is mornings become much harder, but then again--if you're falling asleep at 9/10 o'clock--5 or 6 a.m. is still around eight hours.

There were no health reasons for why I stopped drinking coffee. No anti-coffee stance. Not a lent thing either. The decision to send coffee to the bench was to create a secret weapon. Another gear that I could tap into if necessary. Just like the Incredible Hulk doesn't go full-time green monster, I've got the coffee pot waiting in reserve, waiting for life to get hectic. Coffee shops are like my version of the Clark Kent phone booth.

They say coffee's for closers. I slightly disagree. Coffee is the closer. Coffee is like Mariano Rivera waiting in the bullpen. Doesn't matter if it's bases loaded, no outs. Doesn't matter if you were up til 3 a.m. battling a cold, and then you had to take the kids to school, and now you have a big presentation at 9 a.m. The messier the better. Coffee calmly stands up from the bench. I got this. Enter the Sandman.

After a no-coffee stretch, it doesn't take much at all for a buzz. One sip becomes the equivalent of six liters of Mountain Dew. If you ever see someone in a work meeting and they're just shaking and their foot is going up and down like crazy, that person just ended their no-coffee streak. They're ready to conquer the world (or possibly faint in the bathroom).

Overuse diminishes coffee as a super power. When I hear someone say they drink 5-6 cups of coffee a day, I'm worried because what's the next gear - sprinkling in a packet of cocaine instead of sugar? Instead, if someone goes from 5-6 cups a day down to zero and then ramps it back up to 5-6 during a busy season, there's a decent chance that person will solve cancer and get the entire world to turn in their nukes all in the same day.

Now, the rebuttal to this whole post might be, "Why not keep drinking a cup of coffee a day and then just have a second one or make an extra strong batch during the really busy seasons?"

And to that I say, "Eh, that's a pretty good point. Maybe just go with two."

Ah, it feels good to be back. A month is a long time to go without writing a Medium Rare. I'll have posts up every Monday in April. Next week will either be about why you should give things 79% or one I'm working on called "Love letter to the chocolate chip cookie." If you'd like to subscribe to the blog, feel free to enter your email address in this box below.

Thank you for stopping by and see you next week!

Image courtesy of the brand Ashland, took a photo of this frame in a Michael's store

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