Robert St. John column 11-16-07

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 24, 2007

St. John Finds himself in morning beverage minority

I do not drink coffee.

I wish that I drank coffee. I would love to be referred to as a coffee drinker. “There goes Robert,” they would say. “He’s a coffee drinker.”

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I think it would be cool to sit in a coffee shop and sip some type of mocha concoction and read the New York Times. On occasion I would order an exotic frappe-something-or-other. At Christmas I would order the Holiday Blend, at Valentine’s the White-Chocolate Blend, and on Millard Fillmore’s birthday, I would order the Millard Blend— a Fillmorchino.

Maybe I would order a “tall coffee” even though “tall” is the smallest size. In my mind’s eye, I see myself saying, “I would like a TALL mocha-frappe something.” And I look cool saying it.

“Grande” is a medium-sized coffee. Saying “grande” is not as hip as saying “tall.” It seems that a word such as “grande” should refer to the largest size available. Not so. “Venti” is the largest sized coffee available.

Venti sounds like a foreign car, not a beverage size. If I was a coffee drinker, and I drank a lot of coffee, I would not order a venti or a grande. I would order a tall and go back for refills, often.

On second thought, if I was a coffee drinker, I don’t think I would want my coffee to be mocha’ed or frappe’d or Millard’ed. I wouldn’t want any flavoring in my coffee. No caramel or vanilla or pumpkin— just coffee-flavored coffee.

If I were not in a coffee shop, I would order black coffee. There is something manly about ordering a “black coffee.” No sugar, no cream, no foamy stuff, just a cup of three-hours-hold, sitting-on-the-hot-plate, hot-as-a-McDonald’s-lawsuit, sitting-next-to-the-microwave-at-the-convenience-store, pours-like-maple-syrup black coffee.

I want to be that guy— the black-coffee-drinking guy— who holds a small (or tall) non-eco friendly, un-biodegradable Styrofoam cup of bitter, burn-your-tongue-while-it-warms-your-buns black coffee.

I am not that guy. I drink Coke Zero. Coke Zero is not as manly as a cup of black coffee, though the can is black. I like that. I used to drink a lot of Diet Coke. The Diet Coke can is silver. Silver is not as manly as black.

I drink from a black can. I drink it cold. No cream, no sugar, just Coke Zero, black, straight out of the can. I am not hip or cool.

In our society, non-coffee drinkers are discriminated against. I am a member of the morning-beverage minority. It’s true. It’s brutal, and it’s not fair. The next time you attend a breakfast meeting, check out the beverage offerings— black coffee, decaffeinated coffee (both stored in very cool space-age designed air pots), and a pitcher of ice water. No soft drinks. Ever.

Try asking for a soft drink at the average morning business meeting and then watch the all-out scramble to find a beverage. After 20 frantic minutes, they’ll return to the table with a leftover Tab that has been sitting in the back of the break room fridge from the days when cigarettes were still being advertised on television.

Most coffee shops don’t even sell soft drinks. They offer crazy mango-papaya concoctions, and over-priced water, but no soft drinks. The baristas look down their noses at any poor slob who would not drink coffee.

Coffee servers even get cool names: Baristas. Who serves the members of the morning-beverage minority? Soda jerks.

I want to be a coffee drinker when I grow up. I want to sit in the coffee shop and drink a steaming tall cup of un-mocha’ed, non-frappe’d, black coffee. Until then, I’ll be a card-carrying member of the morning-beverage minority.

(Robert St.John is an author, chef, restaurateur, and world-class eater. He is the author of six books including the newly released Southern Seasons. He can be reached at )