Five Insidious Gateways to a Coffee Habit

Do you drink coffee for pleasure? Do you use coffee as a caffeine delivery system? Some combination of the two?

Chances are one of these five items catalyzed your coffee habit. Here are five potential and prominent gateways into coffee (a.k.a., the best way to consume caffeine, the world’s most popular psychoactive drug).

[1] Coffee ice cream/Coffee Nips (or other candy/concoctions***). It’s been proven by science that coffee ice cream is, plainly, the best thing ever. For this reason, it lives in many home freezers, and perhaps you as a child had access to it. Also, cheap candy that happens to be coffee flavored can be pretty damned delicious. Perhaps this availability/price point and associated sugar high laid the groundwork for your coffee habit (as well as your future dental woes) in elementary school or junior high.

[2] Diner coffee…w/free refills. Diner coffee is weak enough to appeal to a large cross-section of palates . . . and is the one drink that’s usually “free refills” at a sit-down restaurant. When you need something to waste a lot of time, drinking cup after cup of weak-ass, burnt diner coffee may have been your solution. Spiritual cousin to gas station coffee, which generally is just as bad, and without the refills, but beggars can’t be choosers on a late-night drive.

[3] The Starbucks Effect. When an entire nation is chatting on about complex frou-frou drinks, half-caffs, how milk is steamed, and all that jazz, it’s tough not to at least want to try it. Starbucks was something of a bellwether starting in the late 1980s and through the ’90s, raising awareness of better coffee than gas station and diner coffee as its borg-like assimilation marched on. Maybe you started with a mocha or some kind of crazy blend, or maybe you went straight for the jet fuel, but if you’re an everyday coffee drinker in the U.S., the culture and popularity of SBUX may well have had something to do with it.

[4] College. All that last-minute cramming and/or marathon writing sessions, often brought on by procrastination, surely led many college student to the temptation of coffee. We’ll imagine madly spooning instant coffee grounds into a mug and filling it with tepid water, just to stay awake and sharp.

[5] First job. If you avoided coffee in college, congratulations on your superior time-management skills (or perhaps willpower). But the workplace raises the temptation ten-fold. Because you’re not just tired for a few crucial weeks, you’re tired all the time. Waking up on a grown-up’s schedule and all that. And the coffee is fairly likely to be free. Free + tired = a deadly combination. Coffee in any form may well prove to be the cure.

***Kahlua, maybe, but hopefully not in elementary school.

These are five of the top reasons for a coffee addiction, but there are surely many more.

Now, what you do or did with your love of coffee after this can vary wildly. You might stick with the weak stuff/Folger’s crystals/SBUX Via/diner joe/etc. You might take a turn to the specialty coffee side and discover that, just like most things, there’s a whole nerd and connoisseur sub-culture that will tell you you’re doing it wrong. And health issues may prompt you to discover the side-culture of decaf (you have our deepest sympathies).


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