I just remember sitting in the back of the car and watching the ice melt. Everyone around me was bouncing up and down to the song on the radio and going on about tomorrow’s plans, while I sat there, my cup of iced espresso still full to the brim.
My cousins had discarded their now-empty hot chocolate containers from Starbucks all over the car. Why had I decided to go with coffee instead? It sounded cool, glamorous, grown up. Upon reaching the house, I discretely made my way to the bathroom, and hurriedly spilled the bitter, downright undrinkable liquid down the toilet.
That was my first experience with coffee.
Very little changed over the years. In the lead up to my school’s annual 5-kilometer race, I had done immeasurable research on how I could make myself run faster, longer, and harder than I had ever run before. Not being content with merely giving my legs a run out every now and again, I discovered that people had cited caffeine as something that gave them a boost during physical activity.
I left my mug of coffee untouched the morning of the race, alongside an empty sugar bowl whose contents lay in the mug of black liquid beside it. No amount of sweetness could manage to reach a compromise with my taste buds, which were resolved in their decision: No coffee. Not then, not now.
Eventually, like so many other mindless teenagers out there, I began to think it was trendy to be sipping on ice-blended coffees from Starbucks. The cream, sugar, and — let’s be honest — lack of actual coffee in those drinks had me tossing them down my esophagus with pleasure. Of course, that didn’t count as me coming to like coffee; I could easily drink three of them and then take a nap. To say there was caffeine in that would be like telling me a slice of pizza was a vegetable.
You can understand why then, it’s so difficult for me to come to terms with the fact that I now need coffee to start my day.
Not want. Need.
I still find coffee as bitter and undrinkable as I did when I was a child. I still grimace when I taste it, and I still wash out my mouth after doing so. Yet if I don’t have it every morning, I go through the rest of the day with this strange unsettled feeling, like I’ve forgotten something.
Caffeine has me well and truly hooked. I’d describe as being a drug, but that’s not entirely true. Could I live without it? Easily. So why have it every morning then?
When I first moved to England with its oh-so-lovely weather, I started consuming a lot of hot chocolate. As expected, I bloated. Fast. Being fairly health conscious, I tried to find a healthier alternative to warm myself up. I tried green tea, and found it just as rancid as I did coffee. Then one day, I walked into a café, and for some strange reason, ordered a double espresso.
As I drank it, my taste buds screamed out in protest: I thought we were done with this nonsense! I wouldn’t say I sipped it so much as I threw it into the back of my mouth, trying to taste as little of it as possible.
I shook my head, laughing at my foolishness. I hated it, just like I had all those years ago. And yet, over the course of the next hour or so, I couldn’t believe what was happening. In a class that I usually have to ask to be excused from, just to ensure I don’t completely snooze off on my desk, I was wide awake, without even a hint of drowsiness.
That was the beginning of me becoming a coffee addict. It wasn’t that I couldn’t put up with the sleepiness that lingered on throughout the morning, it’s that I was now aware that the feeling was a choice. I was now aware that there was something I could do to combat it… Besides the healthier, far more logical option of clocking in a few more hours of sleep the night before (ain’t nobody got time for that).
Nowadays, I take my coffee like I would a big pill. I make sure to add only a little water when I make it. Not because I like it strong, but because I want to get it over and done with as quickly as possible. I close my eyes, hold my nose and cringe.
Every morning, without fail.