At one point, before I became one of Columbia's premier dealers of my drug of choice, I was a junior in high school taking A.P. U.S. History and I had put a six-page research paper off until the night before it was due. Because I was in our school musical's pit orchestra, I had only between 4 and 6 p.m. to concoct my paper.
My dad had always discouraged coffee drinking because he hated the idea of being dependent on a substance to be productive—which, of course, made it all the more tempting. That day I decided to throw caution to the wind, and as a newly licensed 16-year-old, I drove on down to Starbucks. Like a badass.
I bought myself a 20-ounce iced coffee and downed it in the car before I got home. I could never have expected the flurry of jittery brilliance that followed. With barely any coffee in my life until then, I had zero caffeine tolerance. My heart was racing and I felt shaky and nervous, but then (after a trip to the bathroom), I entered a state of intense, euphoric focus. By 6 p.m., I had finished my entire paper.
I got a 100 percent on that thing. However, the experience made me a little afraid of coffee. I didn't particularly like how I felt, even though it made me superhumanly productive. I was glad that I had used it to my advantage that night, but I rarely drank coffee after that. At the time, I didn't know about caffeine tolerance, and how repeated use of caffeine can dull the effects.
Withdrawal also becomes a real factor. Caffeine inhibits your brain's adenosine receptors, one of the neurochemicals responsible for tiredness. The more caffeine you take in, the more your brain tries to offset the drop in adenosine by producing even more adenosine, which leads to dependence and physical addiction in extreme cases. I didn't want to have to send myself to coffee rehab, so I reserved caffeine for those special nights when I felt like going into beast mode, but never too often.
At that point, I would binge drink—taste barely mattered. But my off-and-on, quick-and-dirty relationship with coffee changed completely last year. I lived in Woodbridge with my roommate, Adam Gayoso, who brought a $60 espresso machine with him from home. He and I began making some really bad espresso until we did some research, and then things started to improve. Then we did more research, and more, and more. With a few upgrades to our equipment, we were ready to open Two Gs Coffee, and went into full-time action this semester.
Now that I am a caffeine "dealer," I feel responsible to guide in the right direction anyone that I can. I don't think there's anything wrong with drinking coffee for its stimulant effects. However, I would encourage a person doing so to drink good coffee.
I now drink coffee primarily for the flavor, but if a decaf option for the same coffee were offered, I wouldn't take it. Like good wine that seems to leave you with a cleaner or somehow better drunkenness, I find the same to be true of good coffee and a caffeine buzz.
As I write this, I'm sitting here with a cup of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, brewed using a Hario V60 pour-over device, and a delightful buzz is starting to emerge on the edge of my senses. I am enjoying the fruitiness and mild acidity of these beans—the floral notes really come through well. Next time you have coffee, try to notice the floral flavors, the chocolate notes, the subtle vanilla, or whatever your cup may hold, and if you're going to drink coffee at all, just make sure it's the good stuff. If you're doing things right, coffee might even change your life.
Caffeine is a hell of a drug.
The author is a Columbia College senior majoring in economics. His is one of the co-founders of Two Gs Coffee. To see other pieces from this Scope, click here.
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