I Won't Apologise For Not Drinking: The Coffee Edition
Only a few phrases in the English language exist that when spoken are met with a combination of shock and suspicion, and one of those phrases is: I don’t drink coffee.
I don’t drink coffee.
There I said it. I have never had a cup of coffee in my life. At most I have had two consecutive sips, and even then it was the type of half-hearted sip where the tongue hits the surface of a liquid and recoils in disgust. The second sip happened seconds later to deduce whether my tongue was actually reacting to the temperature of the coffee or the taste. One whole body spasm later concluded it was the taste.
Growing up coffee was always around me because my babysitter was obsessed with coffee. In a normal 8-hour stint while my parents were at work, my babysitter would drink anywhere between 4-6 coffees, not including the two she had already drunk before I arrived on her doorstep. In case you’re imagining a hyperactive Video Hits presenter style teenager bouncing off the walls in a caffeine-induced euphoria, I should mention my babysitter was my Nonna. She got paid in love, tantrums, and a daytime television accomplice.
My Nonna loves coffee. A lot. Coffee is a lot like a grandchild - it puts you in a good mood 10% of the time, and keeps you on edge 90% of the time. She would measure out of her coffee and set the percolator on the stove. When the percolator whistled it signaled a moment of respite for this mid-fifties woman babysitting four grandchildren under five. She would always drink half of her coffee in the kitchen before even contemplating leaving it. Those first few sips were nana insulin. This was my first introduction to coffee – a grown-up hot Coca Cola with healing properties.
From here on, I started noticing coffee pop up everywhere. It was the 1990’s and everyone was sipping on their cappuccinos peppered with chocolate dust – remember coffee art didn’t surface until the early 2000’s (coincidentally a lot more baristas were single around this time without the invention of the stenciled chocolate heart).
Even non-coffee related items were now coffee-related items – plain milk that you once put into your coffee was now coffee flavoured, perfume counters were medicinally using coffee beans to alleviate the dizzying affects of Elizabeth Taylor’s White Diamonds, and olives were removed from martinis.
Coffee was everywhere.
Sure I didn’t like coffee then, but I was young and figured my taste buds would acclimatise when I hit my stride in my teenage years. This is when I imagined I would ascend into young adulthood one ¼ shot flat white at a time.
My taste buds didn’t mature.
I am now 26 and don’t drink coffee. It shouldn’t be offensive to dislike a beverage, but the thing is coffee is so much more then a drink. It is human petrol. Similar to breathing, everyone one is drinking coffee, and similarly to not breathing if you don’t do it, you are pretty much dead.
When it’s revealed I don’t drink coffee, it’s common that the recipient of this shocking revelation will react in one of the following ways:
- Take a step back and stare at me suspiciously. I have just transitioned from human to the enemy. To them I take on the human form but am actually a disguised extra terrestrial ready to assault them with green tea.
- Ask a series of questions nervously fast paced, fearing for my welfare, ‘What do you mean you don’t drink coffee? How are you functioning right now? Can I get you one? What do you take instead? Are you one of those green smoothie drinkers?’
- Offer solutions to my condition, ‘I used to be like you too, then I started adding a teaspoon of Nescafe to everything I ate and cured myself. Now I can even drink half a hipster filtered coffee and pretend I enjoy it.’
Of course there are some perks and pitfalls to not drinking coffee. An upside to not drinking coffee is that you can use it as an excuse. Someone invites you to coffee that you don't particularly like? No problem, you are telling the truth when you say 'Sorry, I don't drink coffee' instead of your usual get-out-of-jail fallback of 'I am washing my hair that day'. No one ever reascends their coffee invitation and says 'Want to get an orange juice?', which they should because everyone drinks orange juice, and everyone would be forced to say yes. It's Dating: 101, duh.
I never have coffee breath. People who drink coffee might not be aware but coffee breath is a real thing. It's a musky scent that's non-offensively omnipresent, it doesn't require an intervention but will prevent people from kissing you hello and go for the friendly handshake instead.
The pitfalls to not being a coffee drinker are few and far between, one is that you forced into being a tea drinker. Don't get me wrong I love tea, it's just that tea is so ceremonious. I have passed the age where it is no longer socially acceptable to order a hot chocolate out while all of my peers are sipping lattes like they are city slickers who have just stepped out of a New York subway. I could order a Chai but that fad faded hard by the end of 2009, so tea it is.
I will order tea and an offertory procession will be served - my half of the table is instantly cramped with a menagerie of utensils including teapot, tea leaves, tea cup, milk jug, tea strainer, and a tea strainer holder. Usually the tea strainer is harder to use then it looks and causes the tea drinker to fumble, while the coffee drinker dissolves their sugar and stirs seamlessly. By the time your meal is served you are forced to eat it out of your lap TV dinner style. Ordering a tea is the Korean BBQ of beverages, where you pay someone to give you the privilege of making your own tea. I might look sleep deprived compared to the coffee drinker, but at least I can have my tea as milky as I want and for that I won't apologise.
Illustration by Alice Oehr.