John W. Pinkerton

For those of you under twenty, no, Starbucks did not invent coffee.   Coffee has been around since the 9th Century; however, Starbucks seems to have struck gold with their chain of stores: over 17,000 stores in 55 countries employing over 175,000.

I took a look at Starbuck’s espresso beverages menu: Caffè Americano, Caffè Latte, Caffè Mocha, Cappuccino, Caramel Macchiato, Cinnamon Dolce Latte, Espresso, Espresso Con Panna, Espresso Macchiato, Flavored Latte, Iced Caffè Americano, Iced Caffè Latte, Iced Caffè Mocha, Iced Caramel Macchiato, Iced Cinnamon Dolce Latte, Iced Flavored Latte, Iced Peppermint Mocha, Iced Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha, Iced Skinny Flavored Latte, Iced Skinny Mocha, Iced White Chocolate Mocha, Peppermint Mocha, Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha, Skinny Caramel Macchiato, Skinny Cinnamon Dolce Latte, Skinny Flavored Latte, Skinny Mocha, White Chocolate Mocha.

Holy-Moly-Crapoli, you need a darn Italian-Enlgish translator just to order a cup of coffee.

The following might be of some assistance to you if you ever stumble into a Starbucks with a caffeine need.  Espresso is a concentrated beverage brewed by forcing a small amount of nearly boiling water under pressure through finely ground coffee beans (a coffee pot on steroids). A latte (Italian) means espresso with steamed milk or soy (Soy, really?).  A caffe latte is espresso with hot milk with cocoa or chocolate added (I’d call that a chocolate milkshake).  A mocha is an espresso atop a hot chocolate.   A cappuccino is a coffee drink topped with micro-foamed milk.  Most of these drinks can involve things like shaved chocolate, raw sugar, cinnamon and other spices.  Macchiato simply means 'marked' or 'stained', and in the case of caffè macchiato, this means literally espresso stained/marked with milk.  Espresso con panna, which means espresso with cream in Italian, is a single or double shot of espresso topped with whipped cream.  Dolce means "sweet" in Italian and may refer to coffee drinks made with nonfat milk, and sugar-free syrups are now called “skinny.”  

I’ve only had coffee at a Starbucks once.  I was in a mall, and it was close to 4 O’clock, my coffee time.  I told the young man I wanted a cup of coffee.  He looked at me as though he were expecting me to say more.  After repeating my order of a plain cup of coffee, with a superior smile, he accommodated me.  After tasting their version of plain old coffee, I began to understand why they like to add milk and sugar and cinnamon and chocolate. 

Even if we’re not coffee drinkers, coffee seeps into our lives from many sources.  Songs are one source of seepage: “40 Cups of Coffee” (Tennessee Ernie Ford), “A Cup of Coffee” (Johnny Cash), “A Lonesome Cup of Coffee” (Mel Torme), “One More Cup of Coffee” (Bob Dylan), “Another Cup Of Coffee” and “Smoking Cigarettes and Drinking Coffee Blues” (Marty Robbins) to name a few.

Being a Bob Dylan fan, I arbitrarily decided to share first the lyrics to his song  about coffee with ya’ll.  Bob Dylan’s song has a refrain which is, “One more cup of coffee for the road / One more cup of coffee 'fore I go / To the valley below.”  Hmm, I guess Bob’s delivery improves the lyrics.  Marty Robbins  sang, “Smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee all night long / Wondering how a love so right could suddenly go wrong / There’s a lot of other people know the misery I go through / I got those smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee blues.”  Tennessee Ernie finished his song with “I drank forty cups of coffee / (Forty cups of coffee) / Forty cups of coffee / (Forty cups of coffee) / Forty cups of coffee / But I’m glad you finally came home.”  Hmm, “Sixteen Tons” was probably better.  Johnny Cash, of course, sang a morose view of coffee, “So this is it? / After all / We've been thru / We call it quits /And-a i'm about to / Wash my prints / Oh / The little i had left / He said it's over / And i could really go / For a cup of coffee / And an overdose.”  I don’t know why he called for an overdose nor why he didn’t capitalize “i”.

A friend of mine about my age complained that she was having trouble sleeping.  I knew that she drank a lot of coffee each day, and I asked her how many cups she consumed on average.  “Sixteen.”  Sixteen?  Could this possibly be the cause of her inability to sleep?  I suggested this to her and her response was, “No, I’ve always drank that much coffee every day for years.  I’ve never had trouble sleeping before.”  I was reminded of the river in Egypt.  A couple of weeks later, we were once again together.  I offered her a cup of coffee.  Surprisingly, she declined.  After some prodding, she confessed that, yes, the loss of sleep had been caused by her sixteen cups of coffee each day.

If I had wanted to be a smart aleck, I might have asked her if one of the following she found to be true about her sixteen cup a day habit:

You answer the door before people knock.

Juan Valdez named his donkey after you.

You speed walk in your sleep.

You haven't blinked since the last lunar eclipse.

You just completed another sweater and you don't know how to knit.

The nurse needs a scientific calculator to take your pulse.

Your eyes stay open when you sneeze.

You can jump-start your car without cables.

You walk twenty miles on your treadmill before you realize it's not plugged in.

Every shirt or blouse you own has a coffee stain on it.

Instant coffee takes too long.

You have a picture of your coffee mug on your coffee mug.

You think CPR stands for "Coffee Provides Resuscitation."

Charles Manson thinks you need to calm down.

Of course there have been poems written about coffee.  I found this one and will pass it on to you because, although not great writing, it sums up the need for coffee for lots of folks.


By Ted Helt, Jr.

A cup of coffee to start the day,

More civil and reserved.

A cup of coffee to face the race,

My sanity preserved.

My day begins quite early,

Much earlier than most.

Without my morning coffee,

I’d not make it to my post.

If you should chance upon me,

Before I’ve had my brew,

Don’t be alarmed if I should bite,

Upon your backside chew.

Tread softly should there be no Joe,

For my A.M. caffeine Fix.

I rely on it to calm my nerves,

And make me fit to mix.

You wouldn’t invade a Grizzly’s lair,

A wide berth he’d gain, from fear.

So please show me the same regard,

Until the coffee cart’s been here.

Coffee has many synonyms: battery acid, brew, forty weight, ink, jamocha, joe, mud, varnish remover, perk, as well as a number of more modern synonyms like cappuccino.

The coffee craze began with Kaldi, a 9th Century Ethiopian goatherd who observed his goats kicking up their heels after eating coffee beans from a tree.  Kaldi, apparently, wanted to kick up his heels also.  From Kaldi to Starbucks all around the world the need for coffee spread.

Of course there are a lot of jokes based on our coffee compulsion:

What do you call a cow who's just given birth? De-calf-inated! 

A lady came into the kitchen, sat down at the table, leaned forward, put her head in her hands and said to her husband, "Honey, I feel terrible! My head hurts, my back's killing me and my left breast just burns and burns."

He said "I'm gonna help you, Dear. I'll get you some

aspirins for the headache, I'll rub your back with Myoflex for the backache, and if you'll sit up and

get your breast out of the coffee, it'll stop burning!" 

A man went to his psychiatrist and said, "Every time

I drink my coffee, I get a stabbing pain in my right eye," the psychiatrist said, "well, have you tried taking the spoon out?" 

I always thought the coffee-houses of England were interesting places, places I’d like to have visited.  The first English coffee-house opened in 1652 in London.  By 1708, one square mile in the center of London had between five and six-hundred coffee shops.  That’s more than they have now, and they actually served coffee, not thinly disguised milkshakes.  The early coffee-houses served as offices, clubs, and post offices.  They served both business and social purposes.  Different coffee-houses attracted different clientele: the reason I thought they were interesting is because of those who frequented them: businessmen frequented  the Jamaican Coffee-house, Jonathan’s, Garraways, and Lloyd’s.  I know you’ve heard of Lloyd’s of London; well, Lloyd’s is where it started.  Authors, playwrights, and artists met at their own houses.  Writers met at about fifteen different establishments: Buttons (Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift), Dick’s, and St. George’s to name a few.  Poets and critics met at Will’s Coffeehouse, John Dryden and Dr. Johnson being two of its patrons.  Hogarth and Gainsborough met at Old Slaughter’s.  There was a coffee-house for every vocation and avocation.  Unfortunately, the coffee-house in England went into decline in the early 19th Century.

Probably the most pleasant place to have a cup of coffee in the  U. S. is the Cafe Du Monde on Decatur Street in New Orleans.  From the outdoor serving area, one has a direct view of Jackson Square and Saint Louis Cathedral and the bronze statue of Andrew Jackson and street vendors and street artists.  Coffee there is very relaxing and stimulating at once.  Its cafe au lait and powdered sugar covered beignets are world famous.  On the down side, its coffee is blended with chicory.  Chicory comes from the roots of the chicory plant then baked and ground and used as an additive to coffee.  Holy-moly, it’s bitter.  Try to get a cup from the Cafe without chicory.  Your taste buds will thank you.  Chicory probably explains the demitasse, a small cup (2-3 fluid oz.) used to serve coffee: your body can only stand a limited amount of chicory.

Locally in Somerville, there are lots of places to get a cup of coffee.  I think the Windmill Cafe is popular for a sit down and a cup.  The Dairy Queen is a prodigious gathering spot for the elderly coffee drinkers.  Of course you can get a paper cup of coffee at any of the quickstops.  My brother, bless his departed soul, was a big coffee drinker.  I don’t know if he ever owned a coffee pot.  I can’t live like that.  I prefer mine brewed at home.  At one time I consumed about ten cups a day.  I finally figured out that gnawing in my stomach was not caused by my fast-paced life but, rather, was caused by too much coffee consumption.  I cut it back to the perfect amount for me: two cups in the morning, two at four o’clock each afternoon.  The morning cups oil my gears for the coming day; the afternoon cups are a reward for living through the day.  Not a bad deal.


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