Where I am again marginalized

So, Dave over at The World’s Fair has started a coffee mug meme, suggesting that “…it’s almost like it s an emblem of your character. As if the type of cup you use can offer insight into the sort of personality you are.

Or maybe not…”

He asks then:

1. Can you show us your coffee mug?
2. Can you comment on it? Do you think it reflects on your personality?
3. Do you have any interesting anecdotes resulting from coffee cup commentary?
3. Can you try to get others to comment on it?

1). I’d love to, but the problem is…

…I don’t have one. I don’t drink coffee, and anything I drink during the day I’m likely to bring to work in a bottle of some form (either pre-packaged or a plain washable tupperware-type liquid container). So, 2) therefore, in a blinding jump of logic, it must follow that I lack personality!

According to stats cited in this article on coffee drinking, more than half of Americans drink coffee everyday, and another 30% do so occasionally. Therefore, it’s weird being a non-coffee-drinker, non-beer-drinker in our society. Especially in science (though certainly not limited to it!), it seems to be the norm to have a coffee mug glued to your hand during the day (or at least, during the morning), and to need to order a beer anytime one goes out to socialize. Sometimes I think it would be more socially acceptable to tell a person I have 7 toes on my right foot* than to tell them I don’t drink coffee; I get many blank “does not compute” stares back to that comment.

The thing is, I just don’t like the taste of coffee. I really tried to get used to it in college (along with the beer thing–it was a shame to turn down so much free alcohol sometimes), but I could never get a taste for either. I suppose it’s just as well. I’ve never noticed any perceptible reaction to caffeine. I can drink a glass of soda or iced tea late at night and have no issues sleeping whatsoever, so caffeinated beverages have never really helped as a stimulant–quite unfortunate for an undergraduate who needed to stay up and work, alas, but good in the long run, as it’s kept me free of the “NEED COFFEE” morning affliction that many of my friends and colleagues suffer from. At the very least, it’s kept me away from worshiping the coffee pot, and a $5/day Starbucks habit.

(*I don’t! Just an illustration)

Image from http://www.mulliner.org/images/coffee_is_god.jpg

Comments

  1. #1 Michael E
    May 18, 2007

    But you miss out on the chance to enlighten yourself/feel offended by the pithy sayings of Starbux patrons.

  2. #2 Hairy Doctor Professor
    May 18, 2007

    Therefore, it’s weird being a non-coffee-drinker, non-beer-drinker in our society.

    No kidding. It’s nice to know there’s another one out there, though.

  3. #3 Brian Thompson
    May 18, 2007

    Being a Seattle native, I suppose its surprising to know a lot of people who don’t care for coffee. Its not a big deal, and who cares that you don’t participate in a meme that has no particular relevance to yourself? Memes are a dime a dozen, and fade from thought fairly quickly.

    To contrast your statement, I drink a lot of coffee. I also have a lot of coffee mugs/cups/thermoses (…thermi?), a small collection that takes nearly half of the cupboard space in my kitchen. Describing what’s “on” my coffee mug is pointless since I use so many.

  4. #4 Andrew Staroscik
    May 18, 2007

    OK. What does this say about me.
    The coffee mug sitting on my desk is white and has a Wet Labs logo on it. It was given to my PhD adviser by a vendor at a meeting 5 or so years ago. One day around that time I needed a new mug so I adopted it off of the spare mugs shelf in the office. I have been using it ever since. It even moved with me to my postdoc. I have no idea what Wet Labs makes (well OK, it is pretty easy to guess). If it broke or got lost I would be put out only as long as it took to find a new one.

  5. #5 MaxPolun
    May 18, 2007

    I don’t drink coffee either, but for the opposite reason, it makes me out-of-control hyper, I can’t get any work done if I can’t sit still for 5 minutes and my hands are shaking. The plus side, is that I seem to remember that over the long term coffee is no help, and is more expensive than water (my drink of choice during the day)

    I am a beer drinker though…

  6. #6 decrepitoldfool
    May 18, 2007

    weird isn’t not-drinking or drinking coffee; weird is attaching some existential importance to whether someone else does. Common, but weird.

  7. #7 Ed Yong
    May 18, 2007

    Tea is a much better caffeinated drink – like a kindly mother figure, nudging you awake. Coffee is the drink equivalent of a large man with hairy hands, hoisting you up by the lapels and shaking. Regardless, both drinks merely enable me to do stupid things at a much faster pace.

  8. #8 Mike the Mad Biologist
    May 18, 2007

    Here’s to scientists who are tough enough not to need coffee! Although what’s with the beer…

  9. #9 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    May 18, 2007

    I really tried to get used to it in college (along with the beer thing–it was a shame to turn down so much free alcohol sometimes), but I could never get a taste for either.

    Oh, but isn’t taste the sense where persons differ most? A lot of the genes associated with smell varies between individuals.

    You could have a problem with bitter tastes especially. I am like that, choosy with greens and liquors. When I refuse whiskey, people may find it odd. The upside could be that people who reacts to bitter seems to be less likely to become smokers. What a relief! :-)

    Coffee, which aroma is better than the bitter taste, I didn’t get until visiting the local roaster. They served high quality blends with a dollop of milk and sugar, and I have been hooked ever since. But as my taste changes over time I have been able to convert to drinking it as healthier black or espresso.

    Same things with beers, from “nasty stuff” to “delicious”. I can nowadays even drink high class czech bitter beer.

    Btw, I like uncolored designer glass, so that is my coffee cup design. Does that make me a naive “see through” type of personality? Naa, I don’t think the cup as much as its cleanliness and contents tells us of personality.

    Which would make me cold and empty, it seems. Excuse me while I go get a refill.

  10. #10 Zeno
    May 18, 2007

    Yeah, it’s odd in the non-beer-drinker club. I’m the only person in my math dept who doesn’t drink any alcohol in any form (beer, wine, whatever). Fortunately, this has minimal impact at school, where drinking booze is frowned upon.

    Quite a bit of coffee gets drunk, however, and I drink coffee only occasionally — and always heavily buffered with heaps of sugar and cream (which I’ve been told makes it not-really-coffee anymore). I find that I tolerate coffee best on cold mornings. I never drink it later in the day.

  11. #11 victoria
    May 18, 2007

    I was diagnosed as a celiac before I was legal to drink beer, and coffee is one of the few things I just cannot stand the taste of. So I’m right with you on the no-coffee, no-beer thing. I do love (herbal) tea, though, and I do have a favorite “disappearing bill of rights” mug that I got as a gift a while back. (I get my caffeine from RED BULL).

  12. #12 victoria
    May 18, 2007

    I was diagnosed as a celiac before I was legal to drink beer, and coffee is one of the few things I just cannot stand the taste of. So I’m right with you on the no-coffee, no-beer thing. I do love (herbal) tea, though, and I do have a favorite “disappearing bill of rights” mug that I got as a gift a while back. (I get my caffeine from RED BULL).

  13. #13 Anne-Marie
    May 18, 2007

    I guess I am kind of the opposite, I LOVE coffee and drink it all the time but am on a strictly no-caffeine regimen (I used to consume tons of it, to the point that it led to heart palpitations, now I have been “clean” for over two years). I also hate the taste of beer, though. This post reminds me of another recent blog post (can’t remember whose, sorry) on diet sodas and how some people taste aspartame differently than others, the genetics of taste perception are definitely interesting.

  14. #14 Jennifer Ouellette
    May 18, 2007

    Like Tara, I’ve just never been able to acquire a taste for coffee. Sure, the sugary Starbucks varieties of cappuccino and latte are palatable, but generally, I get the tea lattes (chai and green tea), with soy, because I can’t eat a lot of dairy either. Beer? It’s okay, but not the first alcoholic beverage I’ll order. I prefer wine or a well-made cocktail. However, I love diet Coke, though, which is just as bad a habit.

    Taste perception is a funny thing. I respond poorly to olives, for example, and the smell of fresh tomatos will actually make me nauseous (once, as a child, my mom decided I needed to overcome my aversion and forced me to eat one, with predictably disastrous results). But boil the hell out of a tomato and puree it, adding spices (basil, oregano), and I’m just fine. Inexplicable….

  15. #15 Ed Yong
    May 18, 2007

    “You could have a problem with bitter tastes especially. I am like that, choosy with greens and liquors. When I refuse whiskey, people may find it odd. The upside could be that people who reacts to bitter seems to be less likely to become smokers. What a relief! :-)”

    You may well have a genetic aversion to PTC, a chemical that either tastes very bitter or of nothing at all.

    As Torbjorn points out, this bitter sensitivity does make people less likely to be smokers. But it could also put them off healthy diets, since many vegetables also have bitter tastes. Jennie Cockroft at the University of Leeds is studying the links between the PTC-sensing gene, dietary choices and cancer risk. (Can’t link to the page for some reason)

  16. #16 Stephen
    May 18, 2007

    I never acquired a taste for coffee. But i used to drink about a half gallon of Mt. Dew a day. That is, until i discovered that caffeine gives me arthritis. When i gave it up, i switched to Sprite. Two weeks into the switch, i discovered that i don’t really like Sprite. What i really want is the caffeine. But it’s much easier to get to sleep at night now, easier to wake up in the morning, and perversely, i’m more energetic during the day without it.

    Fortunately, at about the eleven month mark into abstinence, my symptoms vanished. A year or two later, i fell off the wagon, and it was another eleven months of abstinence.

    Now one can get a fix in donuts and even soap. I really needed that.

  17. #17 Tara C. Smith
    May 18, 2007

    Yeah, some of it is probably the bitter taste thing, because I also don’t like the bitter vegetables, and don’t like the coffee taste even when combined with chocolate or something sweeter. Maybe that’s why I’ve never been able to become a wine snob either; too many of them just taste terrible to me, or leave that bitter aftertaste.

  18. #18 speedwell
    May 18, 2007

    Just some data points from my experience…

    I know I taste PTC (we tested this in school back when).

    I hate beer. I drink coffee but can’t manage it without cream and sugar. I can drink iced tea, but not hot tea, without any additives. I despise all non-sugar sweeteners unless they are sugar alcohols (polyols). I can’t eat stevia at all because the bitterness accompanies and overpowers the sweetness.

    I like most bitter vegetables, but can’t eat much of them before the bitterness gets overwhelming. I tried bitter melon at an Indian restaurant last month and wanted to crawl under the table and scrub my mouth out with my napkin.

  19. #19 llewelly
    May 18, 2007

    I drank neither coffee nor beer until I was 27, as the varieties I was introduced to before that time were abominable (to me) . After that a brother introduced me to a number of local (to the Wasatch front, where I lived at the time) roasting companies and breweries, which I liked. Compared to other things, like spending my teens and twenties as an atheist in a mostly Mormon family, or being a non-libertarian at a software development company, or heck, wearing second-hand clothes, the left-outedness I got from drinking neither coffee or beer seems trivial. (Don’t assume ‘Utah’ means no coffee or beer – I was mostly in Salt Lake, which has plenty of coffee and beer drinkers, and I went to the University of Utah, which a higher concentration of coffee and beer drinkers.)

    Coffee (ignoring everything but the roasted beans and the water) comes in a huge variety of flavours, and there are some I find abominable (Folgers, Maxwell house, Starbucks). So if someone insists on going to starbucks, I decline coffee. Beyond that, company coffee makers are usually too poorly maintained for me to abide by. (And I hate the warming plates on so many coffee makers. They ruin coffee if left on too long.) Same for beer – I can’t abide by bud, coors, PBR, fosters (which I’m convinced Australians export because it’s so bad it’s not legal to sell, store, or dump in Australia), so there are times when I end up with the left-outedness anyway. In fact, people seem more offended when I inform them that I drink coffee and beer, but not the sort (they hear ‘swill’) they do.

    All my coffee mugs and beer mugs are hand-thrown (by me). They are mostly earth tones on the outside (partly because I leave the bottom half unglazed on the outside, and partly because lots of reliable, stable cone 10 glazes are earth tones), with pretty blues and reds on the inside. However I presently don’t use either for coffee, as I currently have a housemate that can’t abide by the aroma of coffee, and for the most part, I’m (currently – not always) too cheap to buy coffee from shops.

  20. #20 Chris
    May 18, 2007

    I can’t stand coffee or beer, either; I never knew there were genetic differences in what people could taste. Interesting.

    I have had a caffeinated soft-drink habit, though, which is why I now watch my caffeine intake very carefully. And my alcohol intake (I can tolerate some wines and mixed drinks).

    Which vegetables are the bitter ones? I’ve either never eaten them or didn’t notice. (I’ve never liked eggplant, but I wouldn’t describe it as bitter exactly – I don’t know what it is that I dislike about it, I just do.)

  21. #21 Katie
    May 18, 2007

    I can’t drink coffee. When I was a teenager I decided briefly that I loved it, then one night drank an entire pot of black coffee, spent the rest of the night lying awake trembling and wanting to vomit but unable to, and gave myself an aversion that has not gone away since. I can’t even stand the smell of it anymore. Sometimes I drink tea for caffeine-stimulation, but recently I’ve stopped even doing that because it makes me so nervous and agitated and then I’m even less functional than I am when I’m sleepy. I have a strong aversion to bitter tastes, which is why I find it really hard to eat enough vegetables, and I hate beer and I’m *extremely* bothered (to the point of insanity, kind of) by the smell of cigarette smoke. I’m also addicted to Diet Coke. Tastes are interesting.

  22. #22 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    May 18, 2007

    Which vegetables are the bitter ones?

    For example raw carrots, parsnips, cabbages, cauliflowers, kale, et cetera. Many of these taste reasonable sweet and nice after cooking, though.

    Actually, the PTC connection seems to fit me personally. I found this:

    PTC (phenylthiocarbamide or phenylthiourea) is a harmless chemical that resides in several members of the Brassica family of plants, a family which includes cabbages, brussel sprouts and kale. Most people detect a strong bitterness when they taste PTC.

    A minority of the population, however, cannot taste PTC at all. “Taste blindness” for PTC occurs least frequently in American Indian and African populations. About 30% of Europeans and 40% of Western Indians also inherit PTC taste blindness.

    ( http://www.knowledgene.com/public/view.php3?db=gene_school&uid=44 )

  23. #23 Drugmonkey
    May 19, 2007

    er, folks? hate to break it to you. beer, coffee? they both taste bad. really. They smell bad too. the only reason you think they taste good and savor that aroma now is because you learned to associate that (bad) taste with the great drug effect you felt. you little addicts, you!

  24. #24 Theron
    May 19, 2007

    People who need coffee are drug addicts. We don’t think of it as a drug addiction because the social consequences of this addiction are quite mild or non-existent for most people. But it is a drug addiction. Stop drinking caffeine, and after a few days, you won’t need it to get going in the morning any more.

  25. #25 Dale
    May 20, 2007

    I don’t drink coffee either. But I have two coffee mugs on my desk; one for guests and one for pencils and pens.

  26. #26 idlemind
    May 20, 2007

    You don’t need to drink coffee out of a mug — any liquid or semisolid works. (I even make and eat instant oatmeal out of one when I’m in a hurry — mugs and microwave ovens go great together.) It’s a cup with a handle: very utilitarian.

    I used to drink coffee out of a 500ml pyrex beaker with a handle on it called a “mugger” (a bit like this), but colleagues starting referring to it as a “specimen jar” when I began using it for iced tea.

  27. #27 Tara C. Smith
    May 21, 2007

    Yeah, I realize you can use it for other beverages, but I’m one of those people who takes a quart of fluid to work in the morning and sips on it during the day. Coffee mugs hold, what, maybe 12 ounces? I know they have giant ones too, but those get a bit hard to handle. So, yeah, not much use for me.

  28. #28 Peter Barber
    May 29, 2007

    I wonder if drinking coffee is a form of zoopharmacognosy (what a wonderful word!), the tendency of many animals to self-medicate with non-food plants or other substances. The plants selected are invariably bitter, and many have been found to contain pharmacologically active substances which would have helped resolve the ailments of the animals observed eating them. If feeling mentally sluggish can be categorised as an ailment, then drinking coffee is not an addiction, but simply self-medication!

    Or maybe I’m just a Java junkie, rationalising my habit!

  29. #29 Kevin
    May 29, 2007

    I must be PTC-Blind. I like Brussels Sprouts, Kale, and Mustard Greens, and (most) beer tastes great to me. I find the flavors of horehound, yarrow, and willow bark intriguing, but I’m guessing those each have their own alkaloids, so that’s probably not PTC-related. I like the taste of coffee if it has sugar in it, but it makes me jittery and irritable, so I use my mug to make tea. No sugar, unless it’s flavored tea, like Earl Grey.

    So no on the coffee, yes on the mug, and I tend to use non-white mugs so I don’t feel the need to clean them as often, which definitely says something about me.