How We Reached Peak Coffee
Our caffeine addictions have become institutionalised. Teased into a hundred different forms - aerated, ground, filtered, dripped, foamed, iced - it has its own language. Each morning people queue grey and droopy for their daily dose of hyperactive sludge, as though they were participating in some nationwide public health programme. McDonalds are making signs explaining flat whites to children with the same sing song patience that you might once have used to teach them their ABCs.
It contains its own snobberies, hierarchies and fads. The fact that the preparation has become so elaborate, so personalised, that one human can attach 5 different signifying adjectives to one order: extra shot / skinny / soya / no foam / decaff, and no one will look at you with disgust shows how far the trend has come. It is as necessary as your doctor's prescription, a drug that is so ubiquitous it has become 100% situationally fluid. What other addictive substance can be acceptably consumed at 10am and 10pm (before breakfast and after dinner), taken during meetings, on Saturday with friends or with your family at the kitchen tables?
It is both innocently unassuming and deeply revealing - coffee has diversified and become sophisticated in ways that represent and cater for a whole class system of tastes and values. It is fuelling a frantic world where exhaustion is something to be denied and cheated. We lose patience with people who choose not to operate at a hyperactive frequency - the denial of this religious sect is in itself becoming a new, exotic social stand. Caffeine deniers have split away from the coffee worshippers on a quest to plumb the natural sources of adrenalin and energy that can be found in the world from exercise, sleep, nervousness - the natural gases and renewable sources hidden in the air pockets of ordinary days.
Coffee has become political, environmental, pop-cultural: it is the name of songs, the subject of fair-trade debates and taxes. It is global brand empires built up by Hollywood stars and torn down by tiny land-fill capsules. It is in the news, in our hands on the tube, pulsing through our system and serrating the edges of our temper.
In short - we have reached peaked coffee.
Written and illustrated by Jess Bird