It’s hard to imagine that 240 years ago, American colonists drank tea — not sweet tea, but English tea.
That awful habit was about to change.
It all started when a few good men dumped a bunch of English tea into Boston Harbor on Dec. 16, 1773. Pretty soon, other Americans decided they didn’t want to be colonists anymore. They didn’t like it that a parliament in England, in which they had no representation, was taxing their tea. So they switched to coffee and went to war with what was then the greatest military power in the world.
Well, there are some details I’m leaving out, but the gist of it all is we drink coffee today because of the American Revolution. It’s my patriotic service, then, to pour that morning cup of joe. I suppose there were other imported foods and spices we learned to live without during the Revolution. Coffee, though, had to be the game changer.
According to the National Coffee Association, by the time of the Civil War, coffee was entwined with military life and remains so even today. Both sides depended on coffee to get the troops up in the morning and keep them moving throughout the day.
In the South, chicory roots were baked and ground, and then used to replace or add to coffee, which was scarce by the war’s end. To this day, several Louisiana or French-style coffee brands include chicory. It was, in fact, the coffee I was weaned on.
My daddy, a career Marine, could not start his day without a cup of Luzianne coffee. He drank it black, no sugar. I was 5 years old when he started taking my brother and me hunting, but we kept falling asleep on the deer stand. That’s not a good thing to do when your deer stand is 12 feet up in the crook of tree, so he started letting us take a thermos filled with his coffee — only we added milk and sugar.
I was ready to go hunting on the coldest winter mornings. About 13 years later, I was prepared for Army life, which, like the Marine Corps, depended on coffee to wake up the troops. Army “mess halls” didn’t serve Luzianne coffee, but it was strong enough to make you think so. In fact, you didn’t want to leave the spoon in the morning brew too long, or it might dissolve.
Coffee was the first thing I got when I entered the chow line every morning. From what I see of today’s troops, coffee remains an important part of the day. I think that makes coffee an important part of our national security. We don’t want those who guard us to fall asleep on their watch.
By the way, I’ve been talking about real coffee, not that old “freeze-dried” or decaf stuff promoted as coffee. I remember hearing someone compare decaffeinated coffee to no-octane gasoline. He said it doesn’t get your motor going. I agree.
Coffee certainly is a learned taste — a taste that some folks never learn, so they drink hot tea or other stuff. That’s fine. I don’t expect everybody to eat what I eat or drink what I drink.
Also, I love my morning cup of coffee, but I’m not into $8 cups of mocha latte that only remotely taste like coffee. The folks who like that stuff are welcome to it.
Lots of reports have concluded sugar is better for you than sugar substitutes, which all seem to shorten the life span of laboratory rats. Maybe they should market the stuff as rat poison.
Coffee creamers are not without problems, either. I prefer evaporated milk or half-and-half, and according to Livestrong.com, natural creamers are better for me than dry, non-dairy coffee creamers, which are filled with hydrogenated oils. These trans fats can lead to more heart attacks and a stroke.
My doctors told me to limit myself to one large cup of coffee a day, and I comply — sorta. It is a rather tall cup, though. I hope they don’t ask me to give up coffee altogether. Even old soldiers can’t afford to fall asleep on our watch.