Coffee Break Edumacation

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic



I believe all those who call themselves serious coffee drinkers should go bottomless as often as possible.  While your neurons try desperately to erase that imagery,  allow me to explain.  Before this country became one giant parking lot for Starbucks, we had diners, roadside grills, greasy spoons,  holes in the wall, mom and pop stands, donut shops, burger joints, and other examples of American gastronomic superiority.  All of these establishments had one thing in common- the patented Bottomless Cup of Coffee.  For a few measly quarters, one could enjoy an endless supply of industrial strength motor oil coffee, refilled at critical moments by sympathetic hands.


Going bottomless is not for the faint of heart- it's a lifestyle choice that demands a lot of dedication from its practitioners.  If you go bottomless, be prepared to have an opinion on everything, from national politics to what's wrong with these kids today.  Bottomless coffee isn't served by 18 year old college freshmen named Brittany or Kelli- it's flung out by waitresses named Edna or Polly or Eunice.  These angels in comfortable shoes have already been there, already done that, and have strapped on the apron to prove it.  When you go bottomless long enough, the fourth wall between waitress and customer comes down with a satisfying thud.


The entire Bottomless Cup industry hinges on ritual.  The first cup- only a warm-up swing, a little loosening of the pipes.  The second cup comes around and suddenly the world is a much nicer place.  Now is a great time to fling out the best thought on your mind- just get it on the table and see who runs with it.  By the time cup three rolls around, you notice that Edna looks a little tired.  The debate over Ginger or Mary Ann is still raging strong, though, so now's not the time to pry.  Cup four is usually the deal-breaker, unless you have a hollow leg.  Mary Ann is leading by a wide enough margin for you to make a dignified exit.  You make your goodbyes, pat Edna platonically on the arm and slip her an extra dollar for her troubles.  Another Bottomless day is complete.


Now go out there and grab yourself a bottomless cup o' Joe, for old time's sake.  Oh yeah- and tell Edna I sure do miss her cooking.




A few years ago, I read an article exhorting readers to find their inner Ted Nugent.  By that I gathered we should all embrace our inner gun-toting, caveman-thinking, Alpha-male tendencies once in a while.  Oh yeah, and while we're at it we should learn three chords on a really loud guitar and play the same four songs until we die and/or retire.  I have a sinking feeling the Nuge would have earned the title  "Motorcity Madman" whether he was a rock star or a third-shift busboy at Denny's.


Since I have no interest in acquiring cat scratch fever,  I have acquired a new hero.  I want to get in touch with my inner Kaldi.  For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the history of coffee, Kaldi is the fun-loving  Abysinnian goat-herder responsible for discovering an elixir we now call coffee.  Legend has it that Kaldi was leading some of his charges through a neighbor's field when they came upon a bush bristling with red berries.  The sheep began eating these berries in earnest.  Kaldi noticed that his sheep began dancing  like frat boys on prom night.  Never one to pass up an opportunity to ingest something unproven and potentially life-threatening, Kaldi sampled a few berries himself and became the prototype for SBC customers everywhere.  He later shared his discovery with some local monks, who refined the process and produced a bitter but drinkable beverage.  They noticed that a few sips of this concoction would give them the ability to stay awake during prayers.  Ironically enough, a thousand years later we would be drinking the stuff to stay awake through everything else.


The story of Kaldi, Abyssinian ambassador of strong coffee and dancing sheep, may be apocryphal, but I'd still like to glean a few nuggets of wisdom from it anyway.  Sometimes in life you just have to take the word of your flock and throw a few red berries down your gullet.  Maybe you'll discover a new and exciting beverage for the ages,  or maybe you'll discover a new paint thinner.  Maybe you'll discover a new beverage AND a  paint thinner, who knows?  What doesn't kill you just makes you stronger, or at least more awake in church.  So raise a mug to the spirit of Kaldi,  a man who missed his calling as a kamikaze pilot or rock guitar legend.  As for me, I'll have what the sheep are having, thank you very much.




A moment of silence please, for the coffee bean that time forgot. (......)  Thank you.  Now I'll tell you the story about coffea stenophylla and why it's not sitting in your cup as we speak.  There are at least 25 species of plant belonging to the Coffea family, but only a handful make up the bulk of commercially produced coffee.  The most familiar is arabica, considered to be the best bean for gourmet coffee roasting.  Arabica beans account for a full 75% of the world's commercial production of coffee.  The rest of the market consists primarily of robusta and liberica beans, which are easier to grow than arabica but are not especially flavorful.  You'll most likely run into robusta beans in the budget coffee aisle or in instant blends.  Truth be told, you'll probably find liberica beans sitting on a dock somewhere,  accompanied by an exasperated coffee broker moaning about his lot in life.


But the dominance of the arabica bean was not always a done deal.  In the mid-1890s, a variety of coffee named coffea stenophylla was discovered in West Africa and brought to the attention of several English coffee plantation owners.Stenophylla was said to be more flavorful than arabica, and even more resistant to the leaf rust problem that devastated most of the plantations.  On the surface, stenophylla appeared to be the ideal solution for plantation owners desperate to replace their ruined crops.  But it was this same desperation that proved to be the death knell for coffea stenophylla.  The one major difference between stenophylla and arabica was the growing time.  Stenophylla took 9 years to mature into a high-yielding plant, while arabica trees grew to maturity in 7 years or less.  Plantation owners chose to cultivate the arabica variety of coffee for strictly economic reasons.  Stenophylla soon fell out of favor as a commercially viable crop, and today is primarily grown in Guinea and the Ivory Coast.  Some say it has a flavor closer to tea, which probably doesn't do it many favors in the demanding field of coffee cultivation.  To my way of thinking, coffea stenophylla will always be the fifth Beatle of the gourmet coffee world- it came ever so close to the Big Show, but time and fate had other ideas.




I realized the other day that my first taste of coffee didn't come from a cup, but from a little piece of penny candy called a Coffee Nip.  My dad used to take us to an indoor flea market on Saturdays, and one of the booths featured nothing but candy of every description.  If we had a quarter or two, we could easily recreate the average Halloween haul.  I fell hard for a piece of German-style chocolate called an Ice Cube.  It wasn't like your average Chunky or Hershey Bar- it was incredibly smooth and creamy with a strong hazelnut flavor.  At three cents a pop, it was the Cadillac of penny candies but I couldn't get enough of them.  Our first and only goal on Saturdays was to seek out the 'Candy Lady' and load up our small brown paper bags.


On other days, we would ride our bikes up to a store called Reinker's, which was owned and operated by a sweet old German man.  Mr. Reinker ran his store old-school style, with clerks that always knew your name and the best ice cream section in town.  He would always insist on patting us on the head, which would simply offend our four year old sensibilities.  As I grew older, I discovered that Mr. Reinker also stocked an incredible assortment of penny, nickel and dime candies.  Just behind the cashier stood the Wall of Paradise, complete with Ice Cubes and Coffee Nips.  But it didn't stop there, no sir.  Reinker's carried the Holy Grail of collectibles for an eight year old kid- Wacky Packs.  These were cards featuring spoofs of well-known products, like Dunder Bread and A-Jerks Cleanser.  Each pack contained the ubiquitous stick of cardboard bubble gum, at least 5 stickers and a piece of a much larger puzzle.  It was a glorious day when I actually had enough pieces to finish the mother of all things Wacky- the big puzzle.


I did some checking around the other day and found a supply of Ice Cubes online.  They now go for thirty cents a piece.  The Wacky Pack manufacturers cranked out their last run sometime in the late 80s or early 90s.  The stickers I wasted as a child are now worth a fortune to serious collectors.  I could be very sad about these twists of fate, but I'd much rather get another pat on the head from Mr. Reinker as he casually slips another Ice Cube into my mother's purse.




So here I am, sitting in my doctor's waiting room and thumbing through a magazine dedicated to high-end electronics and the platinum credit card holders who love them.  Personally, I believe the doctors deliberately offer these selections so that we patients will understand what cool and exciting hobbies our diseases help finance.


I found an article on DVD players that absolutely changed my entire world view.  Apparently these little black boxes are walking miracles of cutting-edge technology and we plebeians have the nerve to take them for granted.  A typical DVD player has to make 3 billion calculations every second, and do it consistently for the entire run of the selected disk.  One false move and it's time for our least favorite movie, Endless Loop.  To put it in practical terms, trillions of precise calculations must be performed every time you want to enjoy a  movie on DVD.  Are you absolutely sure you want to see Ernest save Christmas?


That perfect cup of coffee you enjoy every morning is also a miracle, all things considered.  Only the ripest beans can be selected for processing, which requires tremendous amounts of labor-intensive work.  Coffee brokers must travel to warehouses in exotic and occasionally dangerous locations, bringing back only the beans that meet their employers' particular needs.  Any professional coffee roaster will tell you how thin the margin can be between a successful roasting and unspeakable charcoal.  If you grind your own beans, the subtle differences in sizes can easily turn your automatic drip masterpiece into a disastrous Warholian espresso.  Coffeemakers alone are a miracle of technology- water is held at just below boiling long enough for the filters to precisely control the flow through the grounds.  If the water reaches boiling temperature, you could be left with coffee soup.  Those paper filters have precisely enough permeability to allow coffee to flow through, but enough strength to hold back the unwanted solids.  The result of all this precision is a delicious cup of gourmet coffee, any time you want one. 


Sometimes the best miracles are right in front of us and we don't even know it.




Did you know that in 16th century Turkey a man could be fined for not keeping his family coffeepot full? Only a scant 500 years later, a few of us should be arrested for doing just that.  Few things disappoint more people in a shorter time than a pot of freshly-brewed bad coffee.


I got to thinking about the ancient Turkish solution to bad coffee, and I realized we actually have a patron saint of tarnished brew- Detective Nick Yemana from the TV sitcom “Barney Miller”.  Yemana's bad coffee was legendary among his co-workers, and when Jack Soo, the actor who played Yemana, passed away in 1979, the entire cast raised a mug in tribute. So I thought it might prove useful to provide 'Yemana Rights' to anyone accused of serving up less-than-ideal java:


'You have the right to grind your own beans.

Anything you do grind up will be filtered,

and served to you in a court of public opinion.


You have the right to clean water and clean equipment-

if you cannot afford clean equipment, a Mr. Coffee will be issued to you

and charged to Joe DiMaggio's account.


You have the right to ask for a Starbuck's or SBC employee to be near you during questioning.  If you cannot find a Starbuck's or SBC employee,

you're not trying hard enough.


Your coffee is presumed drinkable until proven otherwise in a court of law.

Unless, of course, the judge's clerk hands him the wrong mug.  You may be toast.


You may have the right to reclaim any article of clothing used as a filter, but the court suggests you consider it an experiment that went horribly wrong.'


I can just see it now.  “Coffee Squad”, starring retired detective Nick Yemana and his band of cops-on-the-edge.  They work 24 hours a day,  7 days a week, protecting the city from bad coffee makers everywhere.  'Boss, we just got a call from the Kinko's on 24th and Main.  It sounds like a Code Sanka IN PROGRESS!'  'Bob, you and the new kid take this one.  And be sure he gets Yemanaed real good.  I don't wanna lose another one on a technicality!'




I'm always on the search for words that should exist but don't.  The other day I  tried out two new ones, wifittude and husbanality Wifittude is what husbands receive when their chore list becomes an ignore list.  Husbanality is a generic term for all those stories your spouse insists on retelling,  under the mistaken belief that they are universally hilarious.


Here are some new words for the coffee house generation:


Slurgle:  The first tentative sip of coffee you take before deciding if it's safe to swallow.


Janglicide:  Unilateral decision that the only way to cure your caffeine shake is with more coffee.


Shotophobia:  Irrational fear that your shot of hazelnut syrup will turn out to be bubblegum-flavored instead.


Grande Envy:  Noticing the KFC-chicken-bucket-sized-cups everyone else seems to be ordering.


Javachum:  Those irresistible candies and snacks which only seem to taste right with gourmet coffee.


Brevado Delirium:  Ordering your coffee in the grand style of Niles Crane, only to end up with a cup of hot water and an oreo cookie.


Mochavision:  The perceived ability to see through walls after five shots of espresso.


Brewfluvia:  The pile of  empty sugar packets, candy wrappers, coffee cups and napkins left by the previous occupants of your prized corner table.


Browzilla:  Bookstore code for a patron who skims through every best-seller while nursing a 50 cent cup of coffee.


Jaux Pas:  Any mistake made while ordering which results in suppressed laughter from the staff.



Submitted: February 05, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Michael Pollick. All rights reserved.

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