Friday, 2 May 2008

To caffeine or not to caffeine...

I'm a poseur. Thought I'd come clean. I spend day after day in cafés -- right now most often at Coffee Revolution, thanks to all -- drinking double lattés and marking and writing lectures or preparing seminars. But it's all a sham. Because what I'm really drinking aren't double lattés at all but double decaf lattés.

There. I said it, publicly. Now you know. The dirty secret, thus far known only to me and a few staff at Coffee Rev, is out.

But is it really so wrong?

I'm ashamed to order them. I stand proudly at the counter, throw a loyalty card down and declare, 'I'd like double latté, please!' and then mumble, under my breath, as close to the ear of the person taking my order as they'll let me get, 'Actually, can you make it a decaf?' the last word pushed out through a half-closed mouth, lest someone at a nearby table read my lips. Then I feel as though I need to make excuses. 'I'm... er... not feeling well, you know. Had three cups of tea and four double espressos already, so, you know, I need to bring it down a bit...'

Bullshit. I'm fine, I just can't handle the amount of caffeine I used to. It makes me jumpy. Anxious. More than two caffeinated drinks a day and I start to get the shakes. Makes me feel like I'm falling out of my chair, leaving my skin busy ferreting away on the laptop at the table without me. So fuck it. I'm cutting down -- not cutting out, only cutting down -- on the caffeine.

But the shame. Oh the shame! I'm almost afraid to go my favourite café (plug: Remo's in Broomhill), where well-hardened coffee drinkers know no other way. Going in there and asking for decaf coffee would be like going into Picasso's studio and ask him to knock-up a pretty picture of dolphins to hang in the bathroom, or asking Bartók to write a little ditty for a toothpaste ad. (Though the real reasons I don't get there as much as I used to are that a) I don't walk by it everyday on the way to and from work and b) it's not quite the same, just, finding respite from the world in the perfect little café and the perfectly constructed little cup of joy, when your two-year old and four year-old are climbing up the walls, making a zoos on each table with sugar packet animals and building trains out of every chair in the place, even the ones that caffeine-wired young intellectuals are sitting in. (Sorry for the mess, Remo.)

So what's all this about? leaving aside my issues with getting older/looking like a wannabe/losing my cred amongst the proper café denizens? Nevermind that. Is this OK? in at least some scale upon which we judge such things? I'm still drinking Fairtrade, obviously. It's still frothy and steamed milk poured on water that has passed through ground coffee beans. It's just that the beans... you know. Have been neutered.

It's not like I've got alternatives. If I'm working, what I'm drinking needs to be hot, obviously. But a drink of 'Big Red Berry' tea just doesn't cut it. It's not just the taste. To drink tea so overtly would simply announce, rather more loudly than I need to, my caffeine-castration, which would be taking public self-deprecation to unnecessary extremes. And it's not just myself I'm thinking of here: I really feel uncomfortable around people who too proudly drink bad herbal tea in public. It's like sitting on the bus beside someone who's tattooing themselves with a pen knife. Where do you look?

So, again, is it ok? Or should there be a separate section of the café for people like me, one with soft cushions, ABBA playing on a continual loop and 'SHAME' spelling out in neon above our heads?


  1. I can't order decaf or herbal... and I secretly judge herbal tea drinkers, in the same way I judge people who can't skull a pint. I'm not proud that I feel this way because I'm obviously a substance-addled idiot about it. But there you go.

    However, Abba are not the musical equivalent of herbal tea - if there's a more brutally cathartic break-up song that Knowing Me, Knowing You, I'd like to be told about it!


  2. No. You're right. Abba are just a the soundtrack to my own circle of hell. (But don't get all 'Abba are actually awesome, because that won't really fly either, will it?)

    You're lucky, though: I just long to be a substance-addled idiot. I can't even do that right any more!

  3. I just managed four hours in Reno's on fruit juices.
    Having spent a week using coffee as a sleep substitute this seemed an appropriate recovery.

    Because if you're not going to drink a proper coffee, drink something else.

  4. You're right. I know you're right.

    Still, four hours in Remo's on fruit juices? I'm not sure how you got away with that one. And as a recovery for caffeine-induced sleep deprivation? Bit like a recovering heroine addict chewing on Twizzlers in a crack house, no?

    You are a stronger man than I.