Javapocalypse – Can I Live Without Coffee?

I have a strange desire to grow my own coffee, just so that I can still get a cup if the world blows up.  I’m trying very hard to get out of my lifelong “are you ready if things go down the tubes?” mindset.  I think that it came from growing up in the 1980s, when everyone figured that the world was five minutes and a swig of vodka (or bourbon) from nuclear holocaust.  I’ll admit it- Red Dawn is still one of my favorite movies.

This begs the question though- what if I didn’t have access to coffee?

I know that some people are addicted to caffeine, the primary psychoactive alkaloid in coffee.  That’s not so much the case for me.  I actually drink decaf sometimes just because.  I’m more addicted to the habit of coffee- the warmth, the almost smoky aroma…

If you think about it, most of the other traditional hot drinks (tea, cocoa, etc.) are made from things that don’t grow in Achastapac.  Heck, most of them don’t grow anywhere in America except the most tropical areas.  I could mull some apple cider, but the spices used in mulling cider are also tropical.  I suppose I could drink hot cider, but it’s not anywhere near as yummy without the spices.

To make it worse, I really like a lot of tropical foods aside from coffee and spices- chocolate, pineapples, coconuts, bananas…  If the Global Grocery Grid went down tomorrow, I might never enjoy these foods again.  So now I’m not just wanting to grow coffee, but all of these other things that I like.

Okay, so the world isn’t likely to end anytime soon.  It’s good to be ready for disasters, but my desire to grow tropical foods goes a little far outside the realm of common sense preparedness.  It’s a little silly, really.

Then again, I think it’s a natural part of being human to want to control things in our lives that are important to us.  If pineapples are important to me, it’s only natural that I’d want to have control over a source of pineapples.  Yes, there’s a pineapple crown sitting in a glass of water on my table.  Hey, even at full size, they’re smaller than a coffee tree!

I guess the question really comes down to how important is coffee, or any of those other things for that matter?  Is it worth investing tens of thousands of dollars in a greenhouse to grow some Coffea Arabica bushes?  How about two or three times as much to accommodate some coconut palm trees?

Considering that I have yet to display a lot of success with simple vegetables like corn and carrots, the time and money I spend growing coffee plants might just be flushed down the metaphorical toilet.  Does it make sense for me to seriously invest in growing these things?

Not really.

So I guess that I can live without coffee.  Not that I want to, or that I’m likely to find myself unable to acquire it.  Now that I’ve made that decision, it gives me the freedom to pursue my interest in growing coffee from a purely recreational perspective.  If I decide to grow a coffee plant, it will be for fun, not because I’m afraid to run out of coffee.

Deciding that coffee is an optional luxury also allows me the liberty of feeling blessed to have it.  In the day-to-day drudgery, when it’s so hard to feel like I’m making progress, a nice cup of coffee can now help to remind me that we are living in abundance.  I can enjoy a tropical treat that has crossed countless miles and passed through the hands of many skilled workers.  Am I really a serf, confined to my “dungeon” (my office is in the basement)?  Not when I can enjoy foods that until recently were exclusive to the elite.

Of course, if I’m going to enjoy a coffee as a luxury, I guess that I’ll have to really work on treating it that way.  I really should get my coffee from Greenfield Coffee more regularly.  I’ve never had a latte anywhere else that is as good.  It’s the perfect temperature, it’s just the right balance of sweet and sour and bitter- without adding anything!

I know that some of the other coffee shops around here make stuff that is ridiculously bitter and sour, so I’m not sure if those shops have bad baristas or bad ingredients or both.  I found out that Greenfield Coffee uses Barrington Coffee’s espresso beans and High Lawn Farm whole milk, both of which are quality products, so I guess that’s part of it.

Darn, I think they just closed for the night.  I can’t get a latte now.

Anyway, I guess that the key here is that I need to treat coffee as the precious product it really is.  After all, the people who grow it are one of two kinds of people- actual serfs (the modern version) or small-time entrepreneurs who want to do the best they can for their families.  Since freedom is one of those things you don’t get to keep unless you give it to others, I need to work harder to buy coffee (and that other stuff) from the small-time free farmers and roasters instead of from MegaJoe and its feudal workforce.

That means buying “fair trade” (expensive) coffee from independent roasters (expensive).  Looking at the prices, it looks like the good coffee (good as in ethically, not always in taste) will cost me about one-and-a-half times as much as the fancy coffees (Green Mountain, Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, etc.) and more than twice as much as the cheap stuff (Folgers, Maxwell House, etc.).  For someone who is addicted to coffee and goes through a million cups a day, that’s probably not an option.

Considering that I average less than four “cups” a day, I can probably afford to do better.  Figuring that a six-ounce “cup” of coffee requires two tablespoons of grounds (0.36 ounces according to the experts), that’s about an ounce per three “cups” or 36 ounces per hundred “cups”.  The expensive “good” coffees sell for about $1.00 to $2.00 an ounce, so about a dollar or two to fill most travel mugs.

Considering that a large coffee (~20oz.) at Dunkin’ Donuts generally costs more than two dollars, the cost of brewing really fancy, locally roasted, fair trade coffee is comparable.  Sadly, I’ll probably still keep buying most of my coffee from Dunkin’ just because of the convenience factor.  That said, at least now I know that I can afford to brew the really “good” coffee.

Why?  Because I can live without coffee…

… if I really had to.