Why I Can’t Live without Coffee


See the results from Rodale.com’s organic coffee taste test here!

Whenever I give a speech and talk about local versus organic, I joke about how, being from Pennsylvania, I am totally against local when it comes to my coffee. Here’s the truth: I’M NOT JOKING! Don’t get between me and my coffee, or you might end up hurt.

I need coffee to survive. Yes, I am an addict. But so far, reading every study on the topic, I have not found a single health reason why I might need to give it up. It seems to protect me from everything from diabetes to mental decline. It certainly feels like it protects me from mental decline, twice a day, in the morning and the afternoon. Once, I gave it up. It was my first job after college, and for some reason I thought giving up coffee was the right thing to do. My boss made me start drinking it again. It turns out when I don’t have coffee, I lose all ability to hold a conversation. I float away in a sea of solitary thinking.

I drink it black. Always have and always will. That’s just how we did it growing up. Yes, I remember starting at home when I was an early teen. There was no cream in our house that I recall. Back then, I think my mother bought Maxwell House or Folger’s. But here is one of my favorite memories of all time….

I was 6 years old and my grandmother, Anna Rodale, took me to New York City for the weekend. We drove in her tan Cadillac. Right before the toll, when you get to the challenging part that leads to the tunnel, she pulled over to the side of the road on the highway. She got out of the car, wearing a tan tailored suit, a mink coat, and sneakers. She popped the trunk and pulled out a beautiful basket with a lid. In that basket was a thermos of black coffee. Linen napkins. China cups and saucers. She poured us each a cup of coffee. We drank. And she drove on. I can still hear the delicate clink of china cups on saucers, mixed with the smell of leaded gasoline highway exhaust and the aroma of coffee. I think her brand was Chock Full O’ Nuts, which, when I moved out on my own years later, came to represent the ultimate in sophistication for me. Later, in her New York apartment, which I still stay in today, I remember getting a horrible headache and then throwing up. That was my introduction to a lifelong addiction.

When did coffee become gourmet? I don’t quite remember. Perhaps the mid-’80s or early 1990s. And then, finally, you could get it organic. I’ve been ordering coffee from the same place in Vermont for about 10 years (I think they have changed ownership a few times). Every month I get a box of fresh-ground, organic coffee from Brown and Jenkins. Over the years I’ve tried coffee from all different regions—Columbian, Sumatran, Guatemalan, Kenyan, Mexican—but I have finally comfortably settled on my favorite: Peruvian. It’s soft, smooth, and rich. Not bitter. I love it dearly.

Every morning I have three cups—china cups, in a nod to my grandmother. (And it has to be before I’ve brushed my teeth and gotten dressed!) My favorite thing is to sit outside on a comfy couch and think while I drink. I think about my day, what I need to accomplish, and maybe, what I will write in this blog. Once the coffee kicks in, I am ready to go!

By the way, I make it in a Rowenta Jasper Morris CT80 thermal coffeemaker with a stainless steel carafe—which, thankfully, never breaks. I’ve had the same coffeemaker for five years and love, love, love it.

And every afternoon I have one or two more cups—depending on where I am and the size of the cup. If I am traveling I will go to Starbucks and get their iced coffee with extra ice. I think their blend is made to be mixed with cream and sugar. Fortunately, at work we get organic coffee, too.

So as you can see, I’m a bit particular about and partial to my coffee. And it’s the last thing I would ever give up.

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21 Responses to Why I Can’t Live without Coffee

  1. robin October 8, 2010 at 7:51 am #



    coffee makes everything better~ from your liver to your life story ; )))

  2. Alina October 8, 2010 at 8:18 am #

    oh, Maria. Thank you for that post. your story about your grandmother is beautiful! I have coffee maker that grinds the coffee before brewing and the smell of fresh coffee is one of the biggest pleasures of the day!

  3. Jeff October 8, 2010 at 8:41 am #

    You have no idea how much I resonate with your attempt to quit!

    Coffee is a religious experience for me, and each morning is another encounter with the divine.

    I tried to quit one time, but Tammy (my colleague and counter-part) made me have a cup by Noon.

  4. Dr. Ayala October 8, 2010 at 9:08 am #

    Why quit? We’re also addicted to love, friendship and showers. In all the years coffee’s been studied very little has come up to cause concern with drinking coffee in moderation. Quite the contrary.

    During my years in the neonatal intensive care unit I mused on the fact that we give caffeine intravenously to the tiniest of premature babies – it helps prevent breathing stoppages that they’re prone to – if caffeine’s safe enough in high doses for a two pound preemie it’s safe enough in moderation for me. I love my espresso!

  5. Donna October 8, 2010 at 9:33 am #

    Good morning Maria. Love this post! I did not start drinking coffee until my thirties (about 10 years ago) and am sad at all those lost years that were spent drinking tea and Diet Coke ;- } Thank you for sharing the memory of your first coffee experience with your grandmother, that was fabulous. We have been “organic” for only 6 months now and are still trying out new brands on everything from coffee to toothpaste so I am looking forward to trying the coffee from Brown and Jenkins. Thank you!

  6. Alina October 8, 2010 at 9:58 am #

    Oh, what an interesting information Dr Ayala! I have never heard that, that’s fascinating. Maybe that’s why my son (13 y.o.) loves coffee?
    By the way, coffee and cotton are two most pesticides sprayed crops in the world. All my friends – definitely keep asking for organic coffee. I keep asking at each drive through if I get there and if they don’t have it I get tea. It lets people know that organic is needed and wanted.

  7. Maya October 8, 2010 at 10:06 am #

    On the matter of coffee, I am absolutely my mother’s daughter!

  8. Shelbi October 8, 2010 at 10:28 am #

    What an awesome memory, in a unique and gloriously eccentric kind of way! Thanks for sharing! I can’t live without my triple espressos in the mornings! 🙂

  9. Doug October 8, 2010 at 10:37 am #

    Greetings – my introduction to coffee when growing up was a little less formal, but as memorable. At age 12 when hunting deer with my dad in the mountains of western Pennsylvania. Mid-morning dad pulled a mason jar from his coat and offered me a drink of nearly ice cold (with milk) Maxwell House coffee. I have been hooked ever since! Thanks for a great walk down memory lane.

  10. Hillary October 8, 2010 at 10:47 am #

    I have been drinking coffee since literally toddler-hood. My mom used to make me “coffee milk” which I’m sure was 9 parts milk and 1 part coffee. The addiction stuck and now I must also have 2-3 cups in the morning and at least one booster shot in the late afternoon. No apologies here, either!

    I take mine with half & half and sugar, so it has to be a rich, dark roast. My 2 absolute favorites are:

    Trader Joe’s organic, shade grown, fair trade dark roast
    Green Mountain Roasters organic French Roast

  11. Hillary October 8, 2010 at 10:48 am #

    Oh, Maria, did you ever go to the Chock Full O’Nuts restaurants in New York when you were younger? My grandmother used to take me and we’d get “nutty cheese” sandwiches, which were a divine concoction of cream cheese on date nut bread. With coffee, of course!

  12. Sarah October 8, 2010 at 11:06 am #

    My love of coffee started when I was about 5 years old. My mom used to drink her coffee, creamy and sweet, while she watched her soaps in the morning. She always, always left her cup on the end table with a sip or two left in the bottom. So, naturally, I tried it – ice cold and probably hours old- and loved it! From that day on I would wait for my mom to leave the room after her shows and I’d swig back that wonderful stuff that I didn’t even know the name of =) (Of course now I prefer it fresh!)

  13. Kim October 8, 2010 at 11:25 am #

    My husband has taken to roasting ours himself using a vintage “Poppery” air popcorn popper on our back porch. Truly fresh-roasted coffee is like entering another coffee dimension. We’re hooked.

  14. Rita October 8, 2010 at 11:59 am #

    I get heartburn after the first cup. Then I have my second! 🙂

  15. Donna in Delaware October 9, 2010 at 11:49 pm #

    I am a tea drinker. The only time I really drink coffee is when I am in Europe, Austria, Switzerland, Germany and Italy in particular. The coffee is great there. Coffee makes me thirsty (which is why the Austrians serve it with a small glass of water) and have NEVER done anything for me in terms of getting me “going” in the morning. I find that a nice 3 cups of green tea in the morning and herbal tea in the evening after meals does me well and relaxes me.

  16. Donna in Delaware October 9, 2010 at 11:50 pm #

    P.S. I do own an espresso machine which grinds and makes freshly brewed coffee for my dear coffee loving husband. Makes a good cup of Cappucino also.

  17. April Leigh October 11, 2010 at 6:01 am #

    BRAVO! A lady after my own heart! I tried giving coffee up, but at the recommendation of my doctor I started drinking it again. I did the banana and OJ in the morning and apple in the after noon substitute with exercise, but my brain never seemed to wake up. After 5 weeks had to go to my yearly and my blood pressure was so low it was as if I was rim sleeping. Got lecture from doc saying this other method was rubbish and start drinking coffee again. NOW! I am happy camper! Love coffee!

  18. Donald Cohen October 11, 2010 at 9:14 am #

    A wonderful story about the joys of coffee drinking! Like you and many others, I not only need the stimulation of the coffee but truly enjoy the experience of a GOOD cup of coffee. It is (still) one of the great daily experiences left to look forward to. My only comment is that you should strongly consider buying your roasted beans whole and grinding them daily. Makes for an even better coffee drinking experience!

  19. maria (farm country kitchen) October 11, 2010 at 9:48 am #

    Grinding beans in the morning is too loud and wakes up the whole house! I need a cup of coffee before I can handle the sound of grinding beans. But thanks for the suggestion, Donald.

  20. Donald Cohen October 11, 2010 at 11:13 am #

    Do it before everyone goes to bed the night before! 🙂

  21. Virginia May 2, 2012 at 8:07 pm #

    I’m like you too! I love my coffee. Some of my best memories are of early morning coffee prepared over a campfire. Now, I’m like Donald, I get the coffee ground the night before and all I have to do in the morning is press the button!

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