Coffee. I don't like it. Never have, and doubt I ever will. Sure, the older members of my family all drank it. And like any good kid worth his curiosity badge, I took it upon myself to sneak in a taste or two when no one was looking. Yet, although the smell of coffee brewing in the morning was always a wonderful thing, unfortunately the taste of it on my tongue left a lot to be desired. It always tasted like burnt popcorn kernels, to be honest. Blech!
Also, unlike millions of other Americans it seems, I simply have no reaction to caffeine. Heck, when I was younger I used to down cans of Coke and then hit the sack immediately after with no ill effects. In fact, a nighttime cold soda was one of the things that used to cure me of the rare bout of insomnia. Go figure.
|Ah, the good old days! They simply don't make wholesome|
advertisements like they used to.
Fast forward to just recently. Out of curiosity, a little bit of boredom, and perhaps just a touch of sleepiness while at work, I decided to get down to the bottom of my coffee aversion once and for all. Over on Facebook for the past week or so, I've been chronicling my experiment into whether or not I could:
1) Get my body to react to the caffeine in coffee with a more noticeable boost to my system than what my daily 3-liters of water intake could provide; and
2) Whether I could become as hopelessly addicted to the stuff as everyone else I know seem to be.
Of particular interest to me was why people feel that they absolutely cannot have a good day unless they have one to three cups of coffee first. What does that feel like, I wondered? Having never been addicted to anything in my life, it was a sensation I had no prior experience with which to compare.
Unless, of course, you're counting my sweet tooth!
Still, I set about a straightforward course of action: to try one cup of coffee per day, and from a different establishment each time. I planned to sample the whole gamut of possible offerings--from the office break room to the high-fallutin', stuffy coffee houses where hipsters and artsy types congregate. I was going to try them all! And for this experiment to work, I felt I had to stick to the basics. To wit: a simple, regular coffee served "black." No sugar or cream/milk to get in the way of the core taste.
|Not so sure about this . . .|
Lastly, I wanted to chronicle the different price points of a simple cup of joe in New York City. For the sake of this experiment, all prices listed are with tax included. I was too lazy to research and find the basic price per cup at these places, and went instead with the real cash I had to pay out of my pocket at the cashier. Simple.
So, how did it go? Read my findings below:
The Great Coffee Experiment.
|Caffeine overdose just begging to happen.|
DAY 1 -- French Roast.
Total Cost: Free.
Grade: D+ (disappointing)
DAY 2 -- Barista's Blend.
Total Cost: Free.
Grade: D+ (disappointing)
DAY 3 -- Starbucks.
Addendum: Later that afternoon, on the insistence of some Facebook friends, I went back to Starbucks and tried their "medium" roast. Apparently it's called "Pike Place," and is supposed to be a lighter blend than the dark roast I had earlier that morning. But because the beans are not roasted for as long, the caffeine content is actually higher. I can't say that I noticed any special kick from the caffeine this time, either. It seemed that particular ship was never coming for me. But I did find the Pike Place blend to be a bit smoother and more palatable than the dark roast. I thought to myself: if I end up drinking coffee on a regular basis after this experiment is done, then this will most likely be my cup of choice. Hey, that's saying a lot!
Total Cost: $2.02
Grade: Dark Roast: B- (pretty good)
Pike Place: B+ (impressive!)
DAY 4 -- McDonald's.
Total Cost: $1.09
Grade: F (hide your wife, hide your kids!)
DAY 5 -- Dunkin Donuts.
Total Cost: $1.73
Grade: F- (crime against humanity)
DAY 6 -- Aroma Espresso Bar.
Total Cost: $2.00
Grade: A- (damn good!)
DAY 7 -- Kaffe 1668.
Total Cost: $2.43
Grade: A (outstanding!)
DAY 8 -- La Colombe.
Soup Nazi'ish, in fact! There are a few stools and one long bench along the wall, but clearly you are meant to take your cup and get the hell out of there. Like the previous two establishments, La Colombe offers every variation of coffee you can think of, with blends from all over the world. But its basic cup is strong and flavorful all the same, if perhaps just a slight step down from Kaffe 1668's brand. And like that place, I actually did feel a caffeine kick which lasted for most of the morning. I still fell asleep on the subway ride home around noon (it was my day off), but I've already come to the conclusion that I won't ever be able to rely on coffee to change the fact that I'm not a morning person. It's just not happening. *sigh*
Total Cost: $2.50
Grade: A- (damn good!)
As much fun as I had introducing myself to coffee and going to all the various places that serve it here in the city these past 8 days, I must regretfully conclude that this experiment was a whopping failure. Aside from the very small and rather short-lived caffeine boost I did feel from the last three coffee spots, overall I noticed no worthwhile increase in my energy levels throughout the day. Since this was a very big impetus for starting the experiment in the first place, I have to say I'm a bit disappointed. Without that caffeine boost in the morning, why exactly would I want to waste money on expensive coffee every day? Because, let's face it, the only coffee which tastes good enough to drink every day also happens to cost over $2.00 a cup here in New York. And that's only for basic daily brews. If you want a latte or espresso, you're paying somewhere closer to $4.00 per cup! I'm convinced now that the only people who drink the cheaper dreck from Dunkin Donuts and McDonald's are those who are either: 1) cheap and delusional; 2) can only afford these drinks and these drinks only if they're going to consume it daily; or 3) so addicted to caffeine that they no longer care about taste. Or all of the above, really.
And to be honest, I'm not particularly enamored by the taste of coffee from even the high-end places. Sure, it tastes better from these establishments than at, say, your local McD's, but my palate never did acclimate to that bitter, acrid aftertaste coffee still has for me. It's clear that you probably need to be even just slightly addicted to caffeine for the taste to be acceptable. And it seems that will never be me.
So, with those two points against it, the inevitable deduction I am forced to accept is that coffee is still not, and never will be, for me.
However, what I did learn is this: if for some reason in the future I absolutely have to have a cup of coffee (say, because it's bone-chilling cold outside and I just walked 2 miles; or because I'm in a social situation where the brew is being had all around), then I will definitely visit either Starbucks or Aroma for my cup of choice. And if I have to choose between those two establishment, the edge would have to go to Aroma Espresso Bar.
It really is everything short of extraordinary, that place. To be fair, it's probably only so well run and managed by virtue of not being as popular (read: populous!) as Starbucks, and therefore does not have to contend with the throngs and throngs of crazy caffeine addicts rushing into its branches demanding their daily fix. The clientele at Aroma seem far more relaxed and refined; business professional types who flock to it to escape the zombie hordes which fill up at that other place across the street or around the corner.
Plus, unlike that other place, Aroma serves Turkish coffee. Now that I would go back for and try! And perhaps revisit on special occasions whenever that travel wanderlust in me arises and I'm unable to appease it.
So, there's always that.
And to all you coffee drinkers out there who might be disappointed that I won't be joining your ranks after all: tell me, what is your favorite coffee? Or, rather, your favorite caffeinated beverage, since I know some of you prefer your fix to come in the form of tea leaves or carbonated sugar water. It's all good, though! Simply let me know in the comments section below.