Coffee, what is it good for?

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As a tea drinker, I have always been baffled by the idea of drinking coffee.

A cup of coffee is a cup of math teacher breath. I was not good at math, and I’m not sentimental about math teachers. Come to think of it maybe I would have been better at algebra if I hadn’t been distracted by the aroma of digested java.

I’m not convinced anyone actually likes coffee. Coffee drinkers think they do, but they don’t. Not really.

If they did they wouldn’t add other flavours to make it palatable—chocolate, vanilla, caramel, pumpkin spice, and the list goes on. If you drink those coffees you don’t like coffee you like chocolate, vanilla, caramel, or pumpkin spice.

There are so many different kinds of coffee and those fancy ones—frappes and lattes and cappuccinos—are taking over coffee shop menus. Coffee is all about trends, just look at a Starbucks menu.  Even humble Tim Horton’s has jumped on the elaborate coffee bandwagon; it’s not just about double-doubles anymore.

It all seems like an endless experiment of trying to come up with something worth drinking.

Tea drinkers don’t ask for their orange pekoe with a hint of cinnamon or light foam. We’re lucky to get milk. And rarely are there so many varieties of tea as there are coffee.

I was in Wales and asked for an Earl Grey and the guy behind the counter looked at me like I had asked for the key to the Queen’s bedroom.

I thought it would be easy enough to get. Wales is part of the UK after all, the place where citizens are supposed to love tea as much as they drink beer.

I asked why they didn’t have it and the guy behind the counter said it’s “too posh.” Too posh? I can get it at any McDonalds in New Brunswick.

There are countless coffees that include alcohol too: Irish Coffee (Irish whiskey), English Coffee (gin), Russian Coffee (vodka), Jamaican Coffee (Tia Maria and rum), Kula (espresso with Amarula), Karsk (moonshine), and dozens more.

I’m pretty sure all the boozy coffee is an indication you need some kind of payoff to drink it—like a good buzz.

A few years ago civet cat coffee was the hottest trend. It’s been dubbed the most expensive coffee in the world at $35 to $80 a cup—this is when you don’t say to your co-workers “I’ll buy”—and a one-pound bag of beans runs between $100 to $600. The price alone is insane but the origin of the beans, and I’m not talking about Indonesia, is off-putting. The beans are eaten by civet cats, pooped out, collected by humans and turned into expensive coffee humans with too much money are willing to buy. I bet it tastes like poop. Have some self- respect rich people!

Some hopeful entrepreneur came up with elephant dung coffee after civet coffee became a thing. That makes poking around in elephant waste a job. This is just a guess but I bet it pays like crap.

In essence, coffee sucks. But what sucks worse than coffee is being a tea drinker.

Show up at a convention or some other event and you’ll see what I mean. You walk over to the big steel urns lined up like space ships at NASA and they’re all coffee. If there happens to be an urn devoted to hot water, typically there’s a sad little basket nearby with fruity teas, especially the obscure ones like jasmine or ginger-orange. I want caffeine, just like the coffee drinkers, not “sleepy time” brew.

There have been times when I’ve been at an event and there is simply no tea. When I’ve asked staff about it they look shocked and then say they’ll see if they can find some. Eventually they return with a single tea bag in a crinkled wrapper that looks like it was hauled out from the depths of a staff member’s purse, a staff member who is also carrying around paper clips, a tube of toothpaste, and a vegetable peeler because she was hoping to go to a taping of Let’s Make a Deal in 1982.

And, not surprisingly, it’s pomegranate lemon. Forget it.

It’s not as if I haven’t given coffee a chance. I was about seven when I first tried it. I was at the Royal Ontario Museum with my dad and we stopped for a break. He ordered a coffee, which arrived in one of those non-descript white diner cups and told me to try it. I trusted my father so I took a gulp and then asked to have my tongue amputated. Since that wasn’t an option I had to settle for vigorously wiping my tongue with a napkin.

Perhaps I was introduced to coffee a little bit early but everyone I know who first starts drinking coffee adds 18 sugars and a gallon of milk to choke it down. If a beverage requires such massive adjustments, why drink it?

It’s not as if coffee has no practical purpose. Apparently the grounds repel bugs so it’s good for gardeners. It can also be used for scrubbing dishes and as an exfoliant.

My grandmother introduced me to tea when I was about four years old. Tea with a bit of milk, that’s all and that’s how I still drink it today. So while I ponder the usefulness of coffee, I’m going to make myself a cup of tea with milk, no foam, no chocolate sauce, no sprinkles and certainly no pumpkin spice.

Baby it’s cold outside so here’s a little recipe coffee drinkers should love: hot chocolate.

You will need (or not need depending on your taste)

4 cups whole milk

¼ cup sugar

2-inch piece fresh ginger root grated

2 cinnamon sticks

3 whole cloves

orange peel removed with vegetable peeler to keep it large

8 ounces dark semi-sweet chocolate (70%) broken into small pieces

2 tablespoons orange or ginger liqueur (optional)

This recipe can also be adapted to include hot chilies


Optional toppings

1 cup cream

2 tablespoons sugar

cocoa powder or ground cinnamon


Place the milk, sugar, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and orange peel in a medium saucepan over medium heat. As soon as the milk reaches the boil, remove the pan from the heat, cover, and let the flavours infuse for at least 20 minutes.

Gently warm the spiced milk. While the milk reheats, whip the cream with sugar in a small bowl until peaks form, if using as a topping.

Place the chocolate pieces in a medium bowl with the liqueur, if suing. Pour the warm milk over the chocolate through a fine mesh sieve. Discard the captured spices and orange peel. Whisk the warm milk into the chocolate, blending until smooth. Ladle the hot chocolate into mugs, top with a dollop of whipped cream, and a dusting of cocoa powder or cinnamon. Serve immediately.

Any left over hot chocolate will keep in a covered container in the fridge for up to three days. It can be reheated on the stove or at half-power in a microwave.

Serves six to eight.

This recipe comes from Charmian Christie as part of the What’s for Dinner cooking series.

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  1. OMG YES! Math teacher breath. Mr. Hashem was a smoker AND coffee drinker and the nicest guy who was always there to help, especially this 7th grader who spaced for a few days in class (life was SO dramatic that Tues/Wed/Thurs) so by Friday I was totally lost. But I couldn’t approach him for help – his math teacher breath was like another person in the room. An icky person surrounded by green putrid fog ICK!

    That said, I am an avid drinker of cold brewed coffee. I really do like it though with every first sip of the day I wonder if I really do?? But I do. I love the straw, the crushed ice, the bit of half/half that soothes the initial bitter taste. And I also love the caffeine. That’s obvious. 🙂 You are too funny – thank you for the laugh! I’m sharing to Pinterest. My dedicated board for Coffee 🙂

    • Laura

      Thanks for the kind words Julia and thanks for sharing. Yes Grade 7 math teacher breath is worse than Grade 9 math teacher breath, for sure.
      I will be giving your avocado ranch dip a whirl!

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