I have been a coffee drinker since my first exams at the university. Apparently, this is quite a common time to become one. You struggle through long hours and try to desperately stay awake by what ever means you can come up with. – The ‘eternal darkness’ surrounding you during most of the academic year in the Nordic countries is tiring as it is, making you want to curl up in the sofa and hibernate through the cold season.
I never used to like coffee. When I was a teenager and visited my maternal grandparents, who lived near by, they would always ask before offering my usual cup of tea, “So have you learnt to drink coffee yet?” It seemed to be assumed obvious, that nobody would inherently like coffee; you had to ‘learn’ to like it.
When I had my first cup of coffee, it kept me up whole night. Years later that’s just a distant memory; I could drink the whole pot and it would only result in heart burn, palpitations and a headache. Though, those things do keep you awake better than a caffeine rush. I remember reading recently from somewhere, that most of coffee’s alertness inducing effect is in fact, just placebo.
You can imagine the idea of a perfect cappuccino and Plato would have agreed.
Over the years I have finally come to the conclusion that the idea of coffee is more enjoyable than actual coffee itself. On a cold morning, when I wait for a train, the hot paper cup warms my hands pleasantly. The smell is comforting. If I really concentrate on the taste and complex flavours of the coffee on my tongue, do I like it? – Not really. Most of the time I don’t even finish my drink. It isn’t just coffee, though, it’s many things. Long time ago I considered a luscious hot chocolate as a treat I’d allow to myself as a reward after completing a piece of course work or an exam. On my way home I’d stop outside the coffee shop, stare through the windows for a few seconds and then decide otherwise; I didn’t fancy the reward after all. The idea of the reward had been enough.
When I was in my mid-teens, I had a serious weight problem. According to my BMI, I was almost morbidly obese. I eventually tackled comfort eating by suddenly realising, that eating was actually not comforting at all. I’d feel so guilty in advance that I didn’t enjoy what I was eating, so I stopped. There was just no point at all in having a double chocolate muffin if it was going to make me miserable in advance, during and after eating it. As a result, I lost a lot of weight. If ideas had no power the advertising industry wouldn’t be doing so well. My wardrobe is bursting from clothes that I like the idea of myself in, but don’t actually wear. We all have a powerful sensory memory. I can recall the smell of my granny’s perfume from my childhood just as well as I can reminisce in how my old English sheepdog’s rough fur felt against my fingertips, when I pushed them through her long hair.
I haven’t had a coffee for a month now and I don’t miss it. Instead, I have regularly enjoyed the idea and memory of the smell of coffee. It has made me equally satisfied. In the world where we are bombarded by advertisements and what we are supposed to want and need, I think we’d all benefit from concentrating on ideas more.