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An Informal Poll: Coffee Drinkers

If it weren’t for coffee, much of the research that gets done today wouldn’t get done. Or so I am led to believe based on the reverence people seem to have for the sacred bean. Frankly, I’d trade a cup of coffee for a good night’s sleep. Hell, I’d trade a cup of coffee for pretty much anything. That’s because I don’t drink coffee. That sound you hear is from all the coffee drinkers (yourself included, probably) letting out a gasp as they wonder how someone can function without a chugging liquid caffeine.

I don’t really have a secret. I just never got addicted — to coffee or caffeine. I’ve limited my caffeine intake to the occasional piece of chocolate, and now I feel like a social outcast within academic circles. Even my non-coffee drinking advisor keeps himself well caffeinated with an endless supply of Coca-Cola products. Thankfully, I still imbibe vast quantities of alcohol, the lubricant for both scientific and flirtatious discourse. But pounding a sixer of Natty Light doesn’t go over so well in the lab, unlike the ubiquitous coffee mugs and doubled-up cups with cardboard sheaths to protect your delicate hands from hot-hot heat generated by your favorite bean grinder’s blend.

So what’s a non-coffee drinker to do when everyone around him drinks the brew like it’s going out of style? And don’t say tea; it’s just caffeine in different packaging. I tried drinking tea at a seminar once and had a head-ache for the rest of the afternoon. I’m not bothered by the coffee, but by the ceremony surrounding the whole process. I feel left out — like I don’t belong — when it’s time to grind the beans or brew a pot. And “getting a cup of coffee” has become synonymous with “an informal conversation”. Can I just talk to you for a little while without your circadian crutch?

Anyway, this is my long winded way of asking you whether you drink coffee or not. If you do, are non-coffee drinkers like an exotic creature to you? If not, do you feel ostracized by the caffeine-o-philes?

Comments

  1. #1 Dave Munger
    September 26, 2006

    I drink coffee — and eat chocolate, nearly every day. However, it’s fine with me if others don’t. Perhaps it’s because I live in the south, where many people don’t drink coffee.

    I’d suggest you just drink water. You can even put it in a coffee mug, if you like. The thermal coffee mug is great for keeping water cool. My students used to think I was always drinking coffee, but about half the time I was actually drinking water.

  2. #2 Rasmus
    September 26, 2006

    I don’t, and like you, I prefer a good night’s sleep. The whole social thing can get a bit frustrating, but the most irritating thing is when coffee-drinkers tell me that I’m going to drink it eventually.

  3. #3 Yttrai
    September 26, 2006

    I drink coffee about twice a week, usually just before or after lunch. Its always a social event – i only drink coffee by myself when i’ve had a long, hard day and i need to go out and be social after work. In grad school, however, i drank around a pot a day. I don’t miss it that badly; when i started riding my bike to work every day i found i didn’t need coffee on those days. Eventually that turned into not needing it hardly at all.

    I agree with the above advice: when you join your colleagues for a “coffee” break, do what most of us do and drink herbal non-caff tea, or water, or sugar-free drink mix, or whatever. Its more of a hydration break than a caffeination break, since we can’t drink or eat in lab at all.

  4. #4 coturnix
    September 26, 2006

    I am a notorious cocacolic. Coffeee – occasionally at home, as a special ceremony of fixing Turkish coffee for special guests.

  5. #5 Jess
    September 26, 2006

    I have never had trouble with “getting a cup of coffee” with someone who doesn’t drink coffee. (Incidentally, at my school it was shorthand for “lesbian dating,” as in “oh my god, she asked me to get a cup of coffee!” *squeal*) You can always go to a coffeeshop (or the break room) with someone who isn’t drinking the same thing you are. The problem is trying to find a way to “go out for a drink” with people who don’t drink… the bar environment is a lot less forgiving of alternative drink choices.

    I guess my point is, I have friends who abstain from various things, and coffee is the least problematic. I drink it all the time, though, for the semiotics as much as anything.

  6. #6 Craig Pennington
    September 26, 2006

    I drink a lot of coffee, but not every time I get up. The fridge is near the coffee machine & I keep water in there. I often will get water instead on the coffee run. Definitely useful for the “hey, you’re the local expert on X, I have a problem …” conversations.

  7. #7 Pedro Beltrao
    September 26, 2006

    ahhhh coffee :) during the university I used coffee to get an extra kick to study before the exams. It worked wonderfully because I did not drink any during the rest of the year (we had around 2months a year of exams). After I started the PhD it became basically necessary. Now if I don’t drink it I get a lot less productive. One interesting side effect is that I can sleep a lot longer at night if I just don’t drink any coffee during the day. I think I just reset some wake state to a different basal level.

  8. #8 Kevin W. Parker
    September 26, 2006

    When I told my new primary care physician that I didn’t drink coffee, he immediately retorted, “And you call yourself a computer programmer!?”

  9. #9 chris
    September 26, 2006

    I started as a teen and have never looked back. It’s not really a problem with the non-imbibers in my lab – although they’re a small minority. I’ve noticed that many seem to prefer hot water in the winter, which has always seemed strange to me. Hot chocolate is another option.

    Grabbing coffee is ultimately about having a break and/or picking someone’s brains – the coffee itself is largely circumstantial. I agree with Jess, though: having drinks, also a metaphor for picking a local expert’s brain, is much harder with abstainers than coffee.

    I guess I’m just lucky that most of my lab takes both their coffee and alcohol seriously. Mark of great scientists, that is :-)

  10. #10 cfeagans [Hot Cup of Joe]
    September 26, 2006

    I like coffee so much, I named my blog after it! I’m 40 years old and its my one vice -and one with no side effects that I can’t live with (I’ve naturally low blood pressure). I simply cannot start my day without a cup and recent research indicates that a couple of cups of coffee improves short-term memory.

    A hot cup of joe… the aromatic smell of fresh brew… I can drink it all day and still get a full 4-6 hours of sleep each night :)

  11. #11 afarensis
    September 26, 2006

    I don’t drink coffee, I take it intraveniously – the i.v. stretches from my arm to the coffee plant in Venezuela…

  12. #12 Laurence Powers
    September 26, 2006

    I gave up caffeine last week. I made the mistake of going cold turkey, which days of headaches caused me to regret. The first thing I noticed was that my productivity increased. I get a lot more done now. I think coffee can be used an excuse to put something for a while, ‘once Ive had my coffee’, ‘after my next coffee’.

    My (30 year old) brother has never drunk coffee. He regularly goes out clubbing until 5am, has 2 hours sleep and gets up and goes to work for 10 hour shift. He was part of the reason I gave up, I had a hunch it just wasn’t really necessary or beneficial in the whole, and so far my experience of abstination has proved my hunch correct.

  13. #13 Winawer
    September 26, 2006

    I don’t drink coffee or alochol, and I have to say that of the two, the latter has been by far the most problematic socially. Nobody cares that I don’t drink coffee, but considering how much informal science gets done over beer, teetotaling may actually be having a detrimental effect on my graduate career.

  14. #14 John McKay
    September 26, 2006

    I’m an addict. I drink coffee every day and get headaches by noon if I don’t. The caffeine addiction wasn’t what led me to coffee, I just like hot drinks. Tea, coffee, cocoa, toddies, I drink them all in different seasons. In my twneties I drank about ten cups a day; now I drink fewer than three, but I feel naked without my cup. Most of the day it’s full of water.

    One other note, I’ve been subject to migraines since I was eight and caffeine is the only thing that’s effective on the pain. Whenever my wife sees me acting in a manner that indicates a migraine coming on, she puts me to bed and fixes me a big cup of very strong coffee to ease the pain.

  15. #15 The Ridger, FCD
    September 26, 2006

    Well, I drink coffee. Lots of it – four or five cups a day… at work. Less on the weekends. I have never had any trouble sleeping, and when I’ve been somewhere where I didn’t get coffee, I haven’t slept more, either. :-)

    However, I don’t care whether people drink it or not – I have friends who don’t (some drink tea, some Coke, some nothing caffeinated). Maybe this is because “let’s get a cup of coffee” doesn’t come up at work – I drink it in my office.

  16. #16 Dennis
    September 26, 2006

    Try putting that natty light in your coffee mug and see if anyone notices.

  17. #17 rehana
    September 26, 2006

    Caffeine’s never seemed to do anything for me except give me a withdrawal headache if I drink it several days in a row and then stop. I’ve mostly stayed away from it since I discovered that, which led to giving up soda because it’s such a pain to find caffeine-free stuff. Most of my friends drink either caffeinated soda or coffee, but they aren’t too bothered that I don’t. I’m more bothered when they complain about needing a fix or assume I know where Starbucks is.

  18. #18 charmayne paul
    September 26, 2006

    Yep, need at least a cup a day – but it has to be the proper stuff (not from a tin or jar, blahhhh~_*)

    Inhaling freshly ground beans is healthy – apparenely has antioxidants similar to green-tea, according to my co-pilot.

  19. #19 David Ng
    September 26, 2006

    I need a cup every morning, with like seven missisippi’s of sugar. This is a relatively new thing though – well, since having kids anyway.

  20. #20 sya
    September 27, 2006

    I usually don’t drink coffee. And if I do drink it, it’s always limited to the mornings–otherwise I’ll be up until 4AM the next day. I usually don’t drink alcohol either–which really sucks during social events, but what can one do? I think I should just start replacing the alcohol with seltzer water in all those beer bottles…

  21. #21 MissPrism
    September 27, 2006

    I’m far more of a tea person. I love the smell of coffee, but only drink it to conform, or if I really need a kick in the brain.

    Could you drink herbal tea, or is that too hippie?

  22. #22 wond3r1
    September 28, 2006

    I’ve always found that hot chocolate makes for a decent substitute for coffee or tea, it avoids the caffeine while maintaining the social side of the tea break.

  23. #23 TJones
    September 28, 2006

    I love my coffee, but regularly swear it off for months at a time. I do like herbal teas with honey as a substitute, but you’ve got to find the right taste for you. My favorite actually helps me sleep, big bonus but I can’t drink it at work.

  24. #24 Joan S.
    February 14, 2007

    My husband and I split a pot of coffee every morning and before dinner every evening. Been doin’ this for about 25 yrs. now. Never any problem sleeping. It’s our “time for us.” It’s almost like our own little ritual–only one of our 3 grown kids are coffee drinkers.

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