Life without coffee?

“What would life be without coffee?” King Louis XV of France is said to have asked. “But, then, what is life even with coffee?” he added. Truer, or more apt, words for the present moment were never spoken, now usable as a kind of daily catechism. At a time when coffee remains one of the few things that the anxious sleeper can look forward to in the morning….giving as it does at least an illusion of recharge and a fresh start, the charge has invariably slipped away by the time the latest grim briefing comes…

This change is real, and is reflected in the numbers. As Jonathan Morris documents in his recent book, “Coffee: A Global History”, epicurean coffeehouses in the United States numbered in the hundreds in 1989, and in the tens of thousands by 2013. A lot of that is Starbucks, but not all. Roasters in Italy went from exporting twelve million kilograms of espresso in 1988 to more than a hundred and seventy million in 2015. Not surprisingly, the growth of a coffee culture has been trailed, and sometimes advanced, by a coffee literature, which arrived in predictable waves, each reflecting a thriving genre. First, we got a fan’s literature—“the little bean that changed the world”—with histories of coffee consumption and appreciations of coffee preparations. (The language of wine appreciation was adapted to coffee, especially a fixation on terroir—single origins, single estates, even micro lots.) Then came the gonzo, adventurer approach: the obsessive who gives up normal life to pursue coffee’s mysteries. And, finally, a moralizing literature that rehearsed a familiar lecture on the hidden cost of the addiction…

This is worth reading if you haven’t any problem with the worst of several styles of writing loved by The New Yorker. Never use 8 words in a sentence when you can use 38 (or more). See what I just did. It happens almost every paragraph.

I have been guilty of every fault I find in the article…including obscurant conclusions. But, RTFA. It is well recommended. And in The New Yorker, after all.

One thought on “Life without coffee?

  1. Wannabe Phytopathologist says:

    Coffee plants have a small but consistent core microbiome of fungi and bacteria (American Phytopathological Society) https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-04/aps-cph043020.php The finding that a number of highly abundant microbial species consistently persist in coffee is a remarkable one. As team member Adam Martin explains: “That the same species are found across a huge range of temperatures, precipitation, soil conditions, and light availability, is novel evidence of a core microbiome that actually exists in real-world conditions.”
    “Our results open the door for understanding if or how microbiomes can be managed in real-world cropping systems. Our work also leads to interesting questions on whether or not the flavor of our morning cup of coffee is influenced by the plant’s microbes.”
    See also “Root Endophytes of Coffee (Coffea arabica): Variation Across Climatic Gradients and Relationships with Functional Traits” published on February 20th in Phytobiomes Journal. https://apsjournals.apsnet.org/doi/10.1094/PBIOMES-04-19-0021-R

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