Emer McLysaght: Please stop acting as if liking coffee is a personality trait

‘Don’t talk to me until I’ve had my first cup.’ Don’t talk to me, ever

I just want some respite from the assumptions that I’m at one with a cafetiere or can be trusted to order from a barista

I just want some respite from the assumptions that I’m at one with a cafetiere or can be trusted to order from a barista

 

I need people to stop talking to me about coffee. I need to no longer hear about good coffee or bad coffee or making ludicrous round trips to procure exceptional coffee.

I cannot sympathise with how they need at least two more coffees to make it through an impending task. I will not entertain a jokey “Don’t expect me to function until I’ve had my coffee” mug or framed Etsy print. I need the coffee chat to stop or, as God is my witness, I will phone The Hague.

It’s been a long 20 or so years since coffee culture first crept in and really took hold in Ireland. Coffee in Ireland in the 90s was Maxwell House, the sexy Nescafe Gold Blend ads and maybe a sachet of cappuccino for the elevenses if you were feeling fancy. Treat yourself to a little sprinkling out of the tiny packet of chocolate powder you cosmopolitan thing you!

With other culinary interests like beer or wine or cheese there’s usually a time and a place

Meanwhile, the friends on Friends in their Central Perk coffeehouse, the metastasisation of Starbucks and the powerful union of good internet and a good cup of joe gave rise to cafes and hangouts that weren’t just about teapots or pints. The hipsters fell head over heels for craft beers and then they grew up and needed something to grip in their fists while pushing buggies at 9am on a Sunday morning. A beer wouldn’t really do, so a tiny Americano was the answer.

The Instagram aesthetic was practically built on top of a see-through Starbucks cup. After all, coffee is the perfect shade of brown to make the rose gold of breakfast trays and the subtle nude of a fresh manicure pop. Before we knew it people were buying pyjamas with “Today’s good mood is sponsored by coffee” emblazoned on the front and trying to drive me into a homicidal rage.

Look, I get that people love coffee. The taste, the buzz, the smell, the ritual, the whole package. I don’t drink it myself, but I am partial to the aroma and would never turn down a Café Noir or a quadrant of coffee and walnut cake. My one exception is 12.15am at a wedding when I’m feeling bilious from the beef or salmon and know that I need to find the strength for at least another three hours of high intensity activity. Outside of that particular scenario though I go from year to year without a drop ever touching my lips.

In interrogating why the omnipresence of coffee culture raises my hackles so much I’ve had to admit that my ambivalence towards drinking a flat white is a key factor. It’s just that the chat never stops though. With other culinary interests like beer or wine or cheese there’s usually a time and a place. The coffee conversation assails you first thing in the morning with the “don’t talk to me until…” brigade who’ve adopted it as a personality trait, acting like a baby who needs a bocky of warm milk to soothe their cranks.

There’s also the assumption that everyone is into it. I’ve worked in offices where there were email threads about new coffee machines and visits by master roasters and lengthy meetings that could have been emails where the merits of the latest blend were top of the agenda. As a non-coffee drinker I felt persecuted and nearly got onto the union a few times about demanding a sparkling water tap. Sparkling water by the way is the go-to alternative for those of us who routinely accept suggestions of “meeting for a coffee”.

If I started queuing for 40 minutes for my Sunday morning Loop The Loop there might be an intervention

As a self-employed writer who meets for a lot of “coffees” I fear one of these days I’m simply going to float away into the Dublin sky like Charlie Bucket and his grandpa after finally going over the limit on the sparkling waters (No, I don’t drink tea either and yes maybe I am the problem).

In my defence, if I suggested having a Loop The Loop or talked about Loop The Loops with the same frequency that people go on about coffee people would set up separate WhatsApp groups so they could talk about my relentless obsession. If I started queuing for 40 minutes for my Sunday morning Loop The Loop there might be an intervention.

I appreciate that coffee is a booming business in this country, and I’m thrilled for them. I don’t want anyone to come galloping out of a converted horse box to accuse me of trying to bring down the industry. I just want some respite from the assumptions that I’m at one with a cafetiere or can be trusted to order from a barista.

Do I add the milk or..? Oh, adding milk would be a sacrilege, right, got it. And what about sugar? No, I might as well pour the coffee into a slurry pit, grand. And for your friend? A cold coffee with fourteen forms of sugar added and whipped cream? Perfect. And then just the sparkling water for me.