One rainy day while working from home I decided that I was old enough to try coffee. I had no interest in trying it in my previous 43 years because it just had no appeal for me. What did appeal to me was not having to answer the question “Why haven’t even tried it?”
Since I know little about making coffee, I let a Keurig and a well-known and a beloved coffee brand do the work for me. All I had to do was drink a cup of it. The coffee smell is one that I neither like nor dislike, it’s just a pungent, ever-present scent in American life and especially reminiscent of breakfast. As I tipped the cup to my mouth, the smell poured into my mouth and nose. It wasn’t much of a comfort, unfortunately.
The taste was beyond disgusting. It was like someone had mixed battery acid and hot chocolate with the ashes of a cremated demon. It was bitter and appalling. None of the smoothness of Robitussin medicine, but all of the gag potential. The taste was worse than grapefruit juice (which I detest). It reminded me of a poisonous, chemical death.
I forced myself to drink the entire cup. Each mouthful was equally disgusting, but I didn’t want to be accused of not ‘really trying it.’ When I was done I tried to rinse my mouth with cold water, but the taste clung to my teeth, my tongue, and my gums for hours. Every ten minutes another ‘note’ of coffee taste would emerge in my mouth and I had to screw up my face in disgust.
I know what you coffee drinkers are thinking. It’s an ‘acquired taste’ and the solution to absolutely hating it is just to drink more of it. Right? Kill whatever nerve receptors are screaming ‘poison!’ Or try a different brand, or some other bean-type, or prepare it some other way. Maybe add milk, cream, or sugar to mitigate its awful taste. Right?
If any food or drink is so bad that its taste needs substantial disguising, perhaps it’s not worth imbibing. Avoiding the taste can be done most effectively in this case by avoiding the drink itself. I drink a variety of teas straight and haven’t felt the need to sugar or cream them up to acceptable palatability.
I can almost hear the coffee fiends reading this, their hands jittering, quietly begging that I do anything but conclude that coffee is an absolute yuckfest. I wonder if they feel threatened if anyone fails to support their coffee cult. Don’t worry, I won’t begin a prohibition campaign.
Oh, but, wait, my coffee adventure wasn’t done yet. A couple hours later, there came a tumbling in my abdomen like a lock had been swiftly unbolted. My bowels became the Keurig cup and some pointy thing punctured them. I rushed to the bathroom and became my own Keurig machine, right down to the sounds and the finishing drip, drip, drip.
Now, I’m what I think of as a religious humanist. I have faith in humanity to continue to improve and evolve. Not all the time, but over time and as a species. You’d think that is a faith that hard to maintain, given the range of opportunities to be disappointed. It’s not too bad, actually. But nothing has quite shaken my humanist faith like the human affinity for coffee after having drank it.
During the rest of that day I thought what is wrong with people that they would not only drink this swill, but celebrate and venerate it? What defect does the human race have, across all continents, decades, and cultures, that they worship this disgusting beverage? Is it some kind of mass psychosis? The effect of peer pressure writ large, so large that a beverage everyone secretly hates is supposedly gratefully consumed by the gallon for fear of not looking normal?
Perhaps this is just another oddball reaction on my part. Like cilantro, perhaps some small percentage of us are wired to despise coffee. I imagine we have not heard much from those people because the fiends probably had them ground up in some hand-cranked press.
I am not averse to most tastes. I even like typically reviled veggies like spinach, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, and cauliflower. I can eat vegan, Ethiopian, Indian, and even American food. Perhaps it’s an aversion to the bitter, tart, and spicy tastes that makes coffee a non-starter for me. The same has been true for alcohol and really spicy food.
Maybe my faith in the human race should stay intact. Maybe coffee drinking is the cause of our species’ woes, not any inherent human weakness. The caffeine and the bitterness probably combine to prompt the worst impulses. Do stupid things faster, right? To commit truly evil deeds, you probably need to have that ashes of death taste in your mouth. Your taste buds maybe aren’t wrong; coffee is poison, bad for your mouth, bad for humanity. Maybe some day, humanity will consider coffee just an ancient barbaric practice, like football,