When I headed off to college, I was not a coffee drinker. My parents both drank coffee and I had occasionally had a cup from my father’s thermos when we were working outside or hunting, but it wasn’t something that I had learned to like. My first work study job in college was opening the college library, which meant that I had only fifteen minutes for breakfast. The cafeteria opened 15 minutes before the library and I would be waiting when they opened the line, get my plate of eggs and potatoes and get a quick bite before heading across to the library. Coffee wasn’t my tradition, but breakfast was. We always got a hearty breakfast in the home where I was raised. If, on occasion, we left the house before breakfast, we’d stop by a local 24-hour diner for a good breakfast before heading off to whatever job was set for the day. The exception was when I delivered newspapers, which was a time when I rushed off to deliver the papers and came home to a hot breakfast after completing my route.

Not a big fan of coffee, I did enjoy hot chocolate. Early in my freshman year of college I obtained a used coffee pot that could be used to heat water in my room and kept a box of packets of instant hot chocolate in my desk. The practice of making a pot of hot chocolate combined with my earlier habit of reading in bed, however, proved to not work. No I didn’t take the hot chocolate to bed. It was just that if I sipped the cup and then laid down on my bed to read, I would quickly go to sleep and I needed to be alert and focused when reading. And college represented a boost in the amount of reading that was required. I discovered that a cup of coffee would keep me alert and able to complete my work and it wasn’t long before a pound of coffee was a staple in my dorm room. Coffee also became part of my breakfast routine.

I quickly formed a habit that I kept for decades: making coffee first thing in the morning. In college, I usually filled the pot with water the night before so that all I had to do was to plug it in and within a few minutes there was a steaming cup ready to sip as I prepared for the day.

I’ve always been an early riser and so when we married it was natural for me to be the one to make the morning coffee. In the early years of our marriage my wife didn’t drink coffee, and she started drinking gradually and often didn’t drink coffee with breakfast. Over the years, however, her habits shifted and soon it was pleasant to have it ready when she got up. Later we obtained an inexpensive espresso machine, followed by a quality espresso pump and I gravitated to pulling shots for my coffee beverages in addition to brewing coffee in our drip machine.

By the time I was in my fifties, it wasn’t uncommon for me to have three or four double shot espresso drinks a day and be carrying around a cup of brewed coffee most of the rest of the time. From time to time, I would think that I needed to cut back and would do so and even would give up coffee entirely for a few days, which always resulted in withdrawal headaches and I would soon abandon my efforts to go caffeine free.

Then one day I had an episode of ventricular arrhythmia while I was at my doctor’s office for a routine physical. My blood pressure wasn’t where it should have been either. I had never previously experienced high blood pressure. I was a regular blood and platelet donor and had my blood pressure checked regularly and believed myself to have a very healthy heart. The incident at the doctor’s office resulted in a series of tests including wearing a holder monitor and and echocardiogram.

I decided it was time for a change in lifestyle and gave up caffeine. I switched to decaffeinated coffee, limited myself to one decaf espresso drink per day and allowed myself to have a couple of cups of decaf tea in the afternoon and evening. I switched to drinking plain water at most of my meals and between meals.

That’s way more personal information than anyone needs to know about me, but the change was remarkably easy. I still make coffee as part of my morning routine, though I do so after I have written my blog. I prepare a pot in our drip machine so the coffee will be ready shortly after my wife rises. It is a familiar and comfortable routine.

The rituals of sharing coffee are deeply ingrained in our society. As a pastor I have found that sitting down for a cup of coffee with parishioners to be a very valuable format for sharing faith and listening to the concerns of my community. I still occasionally find myself in settings where coffee is simply assumed. People don’t ask whether or not you want coffee, they just serve it and it seems almost rude to refuse. I still drink an occasional cup when the setting makes refusal awkward. There are, however, many settings where decaf or an alternative beverage is readily available. Slowly I am learning that it isn’t the coffee that makes for the fellowship. It is the people and the practice of taking time to sit and listen. The coffee is an extra. Our church still serves only caffeinated beverages - both coffee and tea - during its Sunday fellowship hour. Those of use who refrain usually sit without a beverage or get a glass of water. I suspect that the practice will shift. Churches are often a bit slow to respond to change and the number of people who don’t drink caffeinated beverages is small.

So I’m off to prepare for my day. Among the routines will be making a pot of coffee - a practice that is a part of nearly every house in the neighborhood, I suspect. I think I’ll have orange juice with my breakfast.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!