Dear Coffee

It’s nothing personal, I’m just done- it’s over.

I know everyone is going to to think I’m crazy breaking up with you- you’re as close to perfect as they get. You are idolised the world over from hipster haunts to fast food basics to the jar of instant in Mum’s cupboard. People cling to you in the mornings as if their lives depended on you (and they would swear they do). Endless memes have been created to praise your name. You even have your own international day of recognition this Sunday. Your fans have raised the standard of living for farmers and suppliers across the world. They’ve also raised the standards of taste and consistency- even I can tell the difference between franchise and something special and smile a sigh of appreciation!

We’ve made some great memories over the years, you and me. From that first choice at college between the 80c cup of burnt filter coffee or the €2 luxurious-by-comparison machine latte. Friendships were forged and opinions aired over those cups, even more so when management banned Paula the canteen lady from letting us take hot water for free. (We protested by bringing in a kettle and the makings of Irish Coffee and drinking it on the sly but it only lasted a day or so)

I even worked with you for a while. 6:30 early mornings sipping the first espressos of the day to make sure they were up to scratch (the second one always tasted less bitter after the shock of the first). The morning rush of remembering customers by order: two small americanos, small latte with half a shot, small cappuccino for here, large cappuccino (“really frothy”), cappuccino no chocolate, iced americano (even during winter). Three lattes per shift just to make it through- first with 3 sugars each before my body rebelled and reduced it to none (even now I can’t drink you with anything resembling sugar, even when you’re dark and bitter). I learned how to steam milk and create latte art: hearts and ferns and spiderwebs. That one guy would always try to interpret the ones that went wrong (the UPC symbol, half of batman).

You watched me stumble my way through London coffee culture in my own home- caught between the single espresso mokka-pot and the freshly ground Monmouth (I taught the latter to steam milk and he ended up doing it better than I ever did). I didn’t realise what all the fuss was about until I realised how awful coffee was treated in Ireland by comparison.

You watched me grow up. You saw me divert from the old-faithful-latte when the occasion called for it: my first iced-latte when it was 40 degrees in Boston, espressos in Marseille strong enough to walk on, the after dinner cup of tea replaced by the single espresso with the little speculoos biscuit. Once was enough for bullet proof coffee.

Then last year, we broke it off for a while. Honestly I didn’t think I’d be able to do it, forty days is a long time. I’m not gonna lie, the first three days were hell. My head pounded and my body cried out for you. But then, like all transitions, it changed. changed. Mornings were actually easier without you. I woke up clear-headed and ready (this has never happened, mornings are my nemesis). I had more energy than I ever remember having.

It wasn’t a clear cut break though. As much as I loved my new-found freedom I missed that dark, milky texture that only you have (herbal tea doesn’t cut it, even breakfast tea with milk isn’t the same). I did the unthinkable (I can still see Cheryll’s face when I told her the first time).

I started drinking decaf.

“What about the chemicals?!”

“But the caffeine is the best part!”

I didn’t care. It tasted just enough like you to provide the comfort without any strings attached. I could still hold my reusable coffee cup in public and people would think that I was ok, that I was one of them. I think that’s one of the worst things actually, how many of my friendships and relationships revolve around you. “Wanna go for a coffee?” “Would you like to come over for coffee?” There is no escaping you and I’m starting to resent it. At first people thought it was cute when I gave you up, “Oh, that’s nice!” while secretly wondering how long it would last. Then they started looking at me like there was something wrong, “How on earth can you survive without it?!” I got tired of being singled out for trying to do what was best for me.

On day forty-one I had one cup. I couldn’t sleep that night.

It was fine for a while again, but recently the sleepless nights have been getting more frequent and I’m done. I could easily blame it on you, tell you that you’ve changed: you’ve become more sophisticated, more refined, that I can’t keep up with your new friends. Part of that would be true. You have changed. But I’ve changed too. I want different things. I want my sanity back. I want the days of my life to be punctuated by something other than coffee. I don’t know what else they could be punctuated with but the not-knowing kind of excites me. I know you’ll be ok. You have so many other admirers, people who understand and love your many nuances and shades and flavours far better than I ever did. I know you’ll be happy without me and I wish you all the best.

So there it is, I’ve said it.

I’m leaving you.

No longer yours,

Aoife

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