I love coffee. Let me just put that on the table right from the get-go. Me and coffee, we were made for each other. It fuels my day. It makes me happy. It has accompanied me through many a coding journey.

At the same time, I recognize that I am an addict. How do I know? When I go away for the weekend to my Aunt & Uncle's (who don't drink coffee) summerhouse, as I tend to do in the summertime, I get headaches. This is a classic caffeine withdrawl symptom. But it's more than that -- I drink Coke, or Snapple, or tea, or other caffeinated beverages. Still that dull pain in the back of the head reminds me that I have forgotten to have a cup of the dark stuff. I don't want caffeine in just any old form. I want coffee.

So here is what bothers me, and feel free to dismiss this as YANAC (yet-another-node-about-coffee), but I view it as more of a philosophical problem. In fact, you can substitute (good) red wine or IPAs (two other beverages I dearly love and are integral parts of my life) for the above and it will be roughly equivalent. Except that in those cases the headaches come after I have lots of the drink in question. But I digress. The issue is: it bothers me that I don't know whether I like coffee primarily because of its active ingredient. I don't want to love coffee because it has caffeine in it. I want to love it because I love coffee.

The scientist part of me doesn't think this is a big deal, and keeps suggesting that I drink decaf for a while and see if I still enjoy the other pleasures as much, and that will be that. But I don't like decaf -- as Robert Frost said about writing poetry in blank verse, it's like playing tennis without a net. There's no sense of adventure, no visceral anticipation of the buzz, no social stigma or sense of drama. It reduces it to a mere beverage, like ordering a seltzer water. In short, it's not the same experience.

So I am at a loss. I sort of feel that an Eastern philosophy would be of help here (if I only knew more about Eastern philosophy), but I find that I am unable to separate my coffee-nature from my caffeine-nature.

I know it's fundamentally a nitpick, or maybe an ill-posed question, but I can't help that it bothers me. It's a bitter drink. It's not good for you. I hated it as a child despite the fact that it smelled really good. But now I love it. In fact I'm a coffee snob of sorts -- I vastly prefer the brew from my local independent coffee bar (a rarity in NYC) to the Starbucks, etc., superbrews. So I know that (as with wine or IPAs) I'm able to appreciate and enjoy qualities apart from the active ingredient, distinguish among brands, etc. But that doesn't mean I really like it by itself. Maybe I just prefer a certain delivery system.

The bottom line is, I suppose, that I don't like being an addict. I like being an afficionado. I want to be coffee lover, but only for the right reasons.

Talking of which, I could really use a cup just about now...

To really answer this question, simply ask yourself, "DO I enjoy decaffeinated coffee"? I'm in the midst of writing about this topic, and it occurs to me that if you do drink and enjoy decaf you're really the top tier of coffee drinker, drinking it purely for the experience of enjoying a cup of coffee. I've been forced into drinking more decaf for health reasons, and have been lucky enough to find a local roaster that produces an excellent decaf, which has actually become pretty much my daily driver.

So yes, I really enjoy coffee for itself.

For Terse Quest 2024
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