I slipped again this morning. I woke with every intention of drinking green tea for breakfast. As far as coffee was concerned, I was officially on the wagon. But something about the combination of the play of early morning sun on the grass, the slight chill in the spring air, the late night before, weakened my resolve. My wagon went around a turn too fast, and off I fell, right into the line at the local coffee emporium. There I stood, eager as a child, shivering in anticipation at the heady aroma of coffee brewing, the reassuring “bzzzzzzz” of a burr grinder, the “whooossshhhh” of a short espresso pull.
Why do we love our morning brew? Maybe it’s a simple habit, ingrained by years of filling our Mr. Coffees with Maxwell House the night before, already eager for the scent of coffee at 7 a.m. Maybe it’s the pleasurable taste and mouth feel of a hot, creamy latte or a potent, bittersweet espresso. Or maybe it’s just the gratifying jolt of an immediate infusion of stimulants.
Caffeine is key; a quick hit of the stuff increases mental acuity, stimulates heart rate and respiration, and has mild psychotropic (mood-altering) effects. We are, at heart, a nation of stimulation junkies: electronic media, big-screen TVs, video games, cell phones, chocolate, food, sex–and caffeine. It is, quite simply, our favorite drug.
What’s your relationship with coffee? Is it a simple love affair, or an unhealthy obsession? It’s a question worth examining. When love turns into an obsession, caffeine has a dark side. Drink too much of it, and you’ll dehydrate your cells, burden your liver, increase your blood pressure and stimulate your central nervous system into what approaches a fight-or-flight response, leaving you jittery, anxious or high-strung.
If your relationship with coffee is a healthy one, it should leave you feeling fulfilled, not tense. And, like any good affair, quality, not quantity, is what counts. The prevailing wisdom holds that, unless you have some kind of predisposing condition–insomnia, anxiety disorders, stomach sensitivities, high blood pressure–a cup is just fine for most people.
Next: Does your relationship with coffee parallel your love affairs? Find your coffee lover profile.