Coffee ritual as the very acme and pitch of elegance

Here is an extract from Anne Fadiman’s latest book of essays, where she talks about the delights of coffee, the rituals of drinking it, and and the socio-literary-economic-historic-and-scientific meditations that the word coffee, caffeine, and coffee houses evoke:

When I was a sophomore in college, I drank coffee nearly every evening with my friends Peter and Alex. Even though the coffee was canned; even though the milk was stolen from the dining hall and refrigerated on the windowsill of my friends’ dormitory room, where it was diluted by snow and adulterated by soot; even though Alex’s scuzzy one-burner hot plate looked as if it might electrocute us at any moment; and even though we washed our batterie de cuisine in the bathroom sink and let it air-dry on a pile of paper towels next to the toilet – even though Dunster F-13 was, in short, not exactly Escoffier’s kitchen, we considered our nightly coffee ritual the very acme and pitch of elegance.

A must-read piece; link via Exonintron.

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3 Responses to “Coffee ritual as the very acme and pitch of elegance”

  1. Sheila Says:

    Coffee puts the system under the strain of metabolizing a deadly acid-forming drug, depositing its insoluble cellulose, which cements the wall of the liver, causing this vital organ to swell to twice its proper size. In addition, coffee is heavily sprayed. (Ninety-two pesticides are applied to its leaves.) Diuretic properties of caffeine cause potassium and other minerals to be flushed from the body.

    All this fear went away when I quit, and it was a book that inspired me to do it called The Truth About Caffeine by Marina Kushner. There are five things I liked about this book:

    1) It details–thoroughly–the ways in which caffeine may damage your health.

    2) It reveals the damage that coffee does to the environment. Specifically, coffee was once grown in the shade, so that trees were left in place. Then sun coffee was introduced, allowing greater yields but contributing to the destruction of rain forests. I haven’t seen this mentioned anywhere else.

    3) It explains how best to go off coffee. This is important. If you try cold turkey, as most people probably do, the withdrawal symptoms will likely drive you right back to coffee.

    4) Helped me find a great resource for the latest studies at

    5) Also, if you drink decaf you won’t want to miss this special free report on the dangers of decaf available at

  2. taralasch Says:

    Hi, the Guardian review is very amusing, thanks for posting the link. I first got interested in the history of coffee, cocoa and spices when I read a book by a German historian named Wolfgang Schivelbusch, where he describes how those things enter the European market and goes on to argue that coffee is the oil of capitalist souls, while cocoa contributes to Europe’s bon vivant — or decadent — existence. It’s a marvellous book, reads like a novel, extremely insightful, highly recommend it. Read on!



  3. Guru Says:

    Dear Tara,

    Thanks for stopping by, the comment and the pointers. I assume you are talking about Schivelbusch’s Tastes of paradise. I will add it to my to be read pile.


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