When I was 15, I started brewing coffee with my mother’s Melitta Drip Coffee Maker. I learned by watching her. She would carefully take out a filter and line the plastic cone that sat on top of a glass carafe. The coffee dripped very slowly and seemed to take a long, long time to brew.
It smelled amazing. I watched in utter fascination. Then, I started taking sips when she wasn’t looking. We never had a conversation about whether I should drink coffee or not. I just started making and drinking coffee---all day long, and into the night.
Coffee made me feel better, more alive, and more focused. When I started drinking coffee, I became a better student, a better friend, a better big sister, a better daughter. Still, I assumed that on some level I was harming my health. I secretly feared that one day if I didn’t stop in time, my obsession with coffee would catch up with me. Like my friends who smoked cigarettes or went out drinking, I treated my penchant for Maxwell House like a vice.
Little did I know that two decades letter, researchers would celebrate coffee as a health-enhancing beverage. When I first heard the good news, it made perfect sense to me. Previously, coffee was assumed to have negative effects on health, but in fact, many of the studies on which those assumptions were based were flawed, mainly because they failed to factor out other health habits, such as cigarette smoking. Twenty years ago who would have thought that large-scale coffee-drinking would take hold with such intensity in the United States? Where would we be without cafés? Who would we be now, culturally, if there was no Starbucks or Peete’s or local independent coffee house? Where would we go? The coffeehouse/café tradition, which goes back to the Middle East and Europe, first took hold in the United States more than 100 years ago mainly in large cities. It continues to evolve and influence the physical and social rhythms of our lives. Despite all of the ambiguity about the role of coffee in our society, and the occasional hand-wringing about its effect on health---all available evidence shows that coffee is overwhelmingly good for us physically, psychologically, and socially.