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Coffee: is it good for you or not? This is the question that has had coffee and its faithful followers on a rollercoaster for quite some time. At this point it is pretty well up to you. If you want to find advice and support for your coffee drinking habit you will find it. On the other hand if you need support for not touching the stuff or getting someone else to stop their habit, again you will find it. The advice seems to be all over the map.

Given the confusion and the proliferation of research and advice on whether one should or should not drink coffee it comes down to individual choice. Do you like to drink coffee? Does coffee agree with you? Do you enjoy the act of drinking coffee? Is coffee an important part of your life?

more than meets the eye

In a previous post (reviving an old love affair, March 14th, 2012) I wrote about my love affair with coffee and in this case my love of good old black coffee. I have decided that perhaps I have been consuming one too many lattes lately so I have gladly returned to asking for black coffee at least until I once again feel I truly would like a latte or a cappuccino or a macchiato. I know that day will come.

This choice has made me think a little about the act of having coffee, of going for a coffee and of being in a cafe drinking the stuff. In some ways I think it is the act that interests me as much as or even more than the drink itself.

So much has happened in my life that would not have happened had I not been a coffee drinker. So many memories are centred around the act of “going for a coffee”. The ritual has power much greater than the bean.

My university days found me in the coffee room of the library drinking rot-gut machine dispensed crud that somehow was passable as a drink because being there was more about being there than the drink. This was where my friendships with other students developed and where through these burgeoning relationships I found support when I needed it most, studying for exams and preparing papers.  The camaraderie and the ability to chat (unlike in the library itself) had me making my way down the worn-out stone steps on many a morning, afternoon and evening. The memory of the love and support I received from my studying gang in the coffee room after being with my family grieving the death of a cherished cousin is still strong and clear. I don’t remember if I actually drank the so-called coffee that night but I still feel the tenderness of my friends as they tried to make me feel better. Our studying in the coffee room grew and eventually it was all about relationship and friendship with coffee as the backdrop only.

Relationships at work in an office developed around conversations at coffee-time and “going for a coffee” was always an important part of the work day. Many a memory of trips I have taken centre on sitting in a cafe watching the world go by, again I have little memory of the coffee itself but much about the experience.

Finding a spot in a coffee shop and sipping on the hot tasty brew has been instrumental in my production of many a technical report.  It started with the need to find a quiet place away from the regular to collect my thoughts as I poured over research articles and consultation findings. It developed into a habit and a preferred way of completing the task of writing the countless reports I had committed to preparing.  Consistently the clarity emerged over that cup of coffee.

I have written about my experiences in a cafe in Edmonton where I have met so many interesting people and have developed many a true friendship. Had I not taken the time to “have a coffee” I would have not enriched my life as I did. Trips to Italy and visits to this cafe took me on the path of drinking cappuccinos and then lattes and away from black coffee but it was well worth it. Just like the cafe in the basement of the university library or the coffee room at work it was the coffee that allowed me to connect with a wide variety of individuals. I found and connected with people who like me loved to take time over coffee to engage in conversations about whatever. It was here through the act of “going for a coffee” that I felt a sense of love and belonging, what a wonderful feeling. I loved having the opportunity to meet, talk with and develop relationships with people of all ages and from all walks of life. This became my community.

More than that, being within the supportive cocoon of this community I ventured out of my hesitancy to connect with “strangers” and have found this as a fundamental life skill that served me well. It is this that has allowed me to continue to connect with other people no matter where I go. Some of these connections have developed in coffee setting and reinforce the importance of the act of having coffee.

“going for a coffee” is also the expression of wanting to take some time to chill, to converse and to share time together. Many a day, when all five of my immediate family lived in the same city, a simple text message had all five of us gathering at our family-favourite cafe for that latte but more so for the connection, conversation and confirming that all was well with everyone. Fond memories are plentiful.

I rarely drink coffee at home but I “go for coffee” at least once a day. Things don’t feel right if I do not. Friendships are strengthened and new relationships are always developing. The act of having a coffee lends me a sense of being grounded and being balanced.  

My coffee drinking habits may change over time but the act of “having a coffee” with someone or with many people remains high on my list of must-dos in my life.  

Irene McDermott © 2012