Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Coffee Haters Come Around

If you like coffee (or if you are considering the habit), you will appreciate this clever series of napkin sketches by Christoph Niemann in The New York Times ("Coffee," Dec. 3, 2008).

He illustrates his journey into the appreciation of the dark alternative to glorious tea.

I began drinking tea around the age of ten. Each week, when my parents came home with the groceries, one of my exciting rituals (aside from picking the crunchberries out of the Captain Crunch and eating the heal of the fresh rye bread) was breaking open the Red Rose Tea box, discovering which porcelain animal figurine it contained, and then burying my nose in the tea bags and inhaling the exotic aroma (yes, gross). Tea was also the family heritage. To drink it several times a day was to affirm my deep satisfaction with being Scottish.

When I entered the pastoral ministry at age 35, however, I decided that I had to start drinking coffee, or at least develop a tolerance for it. It was simply unacceptable to go into the corner tavern in Walker, Iowa, and order tea. The waitress looks at you funny. Then she goes into the back and blows the dust off a box of tea bags. Then she doesn't quite know what to do with them. She puts a bag in small coffee cup and pours hot water over it, and you think to yourself, "I'm paying for this?," or "This is not a drink."

Therefore, coffee.

Niemann shares his own experience:

At 17 I still suffered from coffee schizophrenia: I loved the concept of coffee, but resented the taste. I decided to cure myself through auto-hazing. Around that time, my parents took me on my first trip to Paris. We arrived by train early in the morning and went straight to a little cafe. I ordered a large café au lait and forced down the entire bowl. It worked. Since then I have enjoyed coffee pretty much every day.
And there's much more.

"Christoph Niemann's illustrations have appeared on the covers of The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times Magazine and American Illustration. He is the author of two children's books, "The Pet Dragon," which teaches Chinese characters to young readers, and "The Police Cloud." His Web site is"

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