It all started in 1983. That’s when a life-changing event occurred and changed my perception of coffee forever. Other kinds of drinks would no longer satisfy me like it would.
When I was growing up, it was the old folks (from my perspective) who drank it and it was almost always black coffee without cream or sugar. I remember my parents and aunts and uncles sitting around the dining room table, finishing off two pots from the coffee percolator before most of my siblings even got out of bed.
My siblings and I drank mostly iced tea and tap water during the average day. We considered soft drinks and fruit juices treats, not the things you’d drink regularly. Considering there was nine of us, they weren’t affordable either.
I joined the service in 1978 and up until a specific point in 1983, I only drank coffee when I was home on leave. And it was usually no more than a single cup at breakfast, heavily doctored with cream and sugar.
When I was at my duty stations, I’d drink water, orange juice and an occasional soft drink. Coffee was never on my mind, even at breakfast time. That all changed in 1983.
I was on a six-month Western Pacific deployment aboard a Navy ship. I remember several vending machines for soft drinks on the ship but I don’t remember where they were placed. Near the end of the deployment, the ship was rerouted to the Mediterranean Sea and positioned just off the coast of Lebanon.
We were due to restock just before the mission change, and sitting off the coast of Lebanon for another month depleted our supplies to the bottom of the barrel. The vending machines were empty.
At some point, I started getting nagging headaches and I thought I was having caffeine withdrawals. I didn’t know if there was such a thing as caffeine addiction but I decided to go to the mess deck and get some just the same. It became a daily routine and the headaches went away. After a few days, I had to drink it black because we were out of sugar and milk. I didn’t like it that way, but the cooks were making it weak enough that it didn’t really bother me.
After Josie and I got married in 1985 and moved into an apartment (temporarily), one of the first items I bought was an automatic drip coffee maker. I don’t remember what brand it was, but it probably wasn’t a Mr. Coffee. I couldn’t start my days without that first cup of Joe (that was my nickname for coffee).
With very few exceptions, I’ve had at least one cup of Joe every morning since that fateful day in 1983. Some days I’ll drink only a single cup, especially when it’s a hot and humid day. Other days, I’ll drink up to six (I don’t usually count how many cups I drink) and that’s almost a guarantee during cold weather.
I avoided instant coffee until Josie and I moved to the Philippines in 2006. The instant variety seemed to be available everywhere, even in the local sari sari stores (in 5 and 25 kilogram packets). I took a liking to one of the most popular coffee brands, Nescafé, and that was a good thing because it was made in the Philippines and that made it less expensive than the other brands.
Even after I acquired a new coffee maker, I decided not to brew coffee in it after going through a couple of containers of Folgers. I liked the instant Nescafé Classic (Clasico in Phoenix) better than brewed.
It doesn’t matter to me what the health benefits of drinking coffee are or what effect coffee has on alcohol consumption because I drink it for its own sake. I avoid places like Starbucks except when I want to drink coffee on the road. It’s just too expensive and I’m glad it only happens once or twice a year and I’m glad Josie figured out how to make coffee like Starbucks at home (using two spoons of instant coffee powder to simulate espresso).
Except for Starbucks and Josie, I prefer to drink it without creamers of any kind. If I could drink it without any type of sweetener (regularly, because I’ve done without any sweetener on occasion), I would. I think my original “caffeine withdrawal” was actually a sugar withdrawal.
I don’t think being a fanatic is a bad thing. If it’s an addiction, so be it. There are a lot of far worse addictions and I don’t think I need to mention what they are.
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