For some time now, it has been a habit of mine — much like how a frequent cocaine user would call his addiction a “habit”, to take my coffee black. Sans crème, sans sucre — a straight, untampered and unholy noir. I’m not sure how this came to be, the exact progression (or descent) to my black coffee drinking preference, but it certainly wasn’t always this way. Freshman year, I could barely stomach a sip of such vile brew until an ungodly dosage of cream and sugar was applied. Yet sometime in between the now and then, a coffee dependency took hold, and I weaned myself off any and all unnecessary additives to become the calloused coffee drinker I am today.
If you consider one who spends at least a third of his waking hours in the library a workaholic, then I am decidedly a workaholic. I drink coffee, not first and foremost for the flavor nor the questionable health benefits, but to feel AWAKE. To work and to get shit done. I find black coffee to be the best lubricant in achieving this state of productivity. Its taste, which some may find to be bitter, harsh and acidic, is the perfect kick-you-in-the-throat, wake-up-motherfucker! pick-me-up that I so desire. It is my inseparable, work-fighting sidekick whose companionship, retail value of $1.99 USD at Libe Cafe, can never be forgone during a serious crunch session.
Yet my affair with my black coffee, in many ways, is ruining my life. I need to have her everyday, even if I’m not working, just so I can feel alert. And by the time I have finished consuming the entirety of her volume, once her full effect has taken stride, I am conditioned as if by a pavlovian force to get started on work. School work, busy work, intensive social media investigative work, anything really as long as I’m occupied. And even if I don’t have immediate work that needs to be done, I always feel this anxiety pressing down on me to make use of the mental state that I’m in.
For me, it is inexplicably taxing, both mentally and physically, to have my feeling of wakefulness bound to the consumption of a drink, whose effect can be at times overwhelming. Though, in a recent and odd move on my behalf, I think I have found a workaround to my black coffee dependency woes. I walked into the cafe, just like any other day, ready to order my usual coffee. The theme of the day was leisure, and reading a book was on the agenda. I got my coffee, but instead of taking it black as I normally would, I thought to add a splash of creamer into my coffee, just to see how it would taste. Taste-wise, yeah, the coffee went down a lot smoother. It felt nice to have a change in flavor. However, the true effects were felt mentally. I was awake, yet calm. I read at ease with no kicking anxiety, no jitters and no burning desire to do work. During this time, I enjoyed the coffee much more. I sipped it slowly; with each intake I could appreciate the robust and complex flavor of my drink, rather than worry about the task at hand. This drink, coffee with creamer, was not so much an enforcer of my present activity but rather an aid.
Though there may be something to be said about the effects of black coffee taste-conditioning, let’s be clear: there’s no voodoo magic in creamer. I think it’s quite obvious that the main reason for why my cream-coffee experience was more pleasant than my usual cup of joe is that I had no real work to be done. Still, it is romantic to think that somehow I can control my mood by adjusting the flavor of my coffee. And, perhaps there is. It is not the creamer itself that makes the coffee different, but the act of adding it in. It is with the addition of creamer that I have made a conscious decision not to spend the next few hours grinding away at work, but to take it easy instead. I propose that I will use creamer as a switch. I will continue as I was, drinking black coffee when I want to get things done. And here and there, when the time is right, a splash of creamer to kill my inner workaholic.