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September, 2012 Issue

In This Issue

9 online articles from this issue. Next


The Laff Guru - You Don't Know Jack About The Magic Beanstalk!

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The Laff Guru's logo with Talking About My Generation

"Complex, cherry-and-chocolate notes with hints of flowers and brandy. Delicate, smoothly bright acidity; soft, silky mouthfeel. Flavor maintains a gentle persistence in the sweet but drying finish."

If you are guessing these are the words of a wine snob (with a nose so high in the air he would drown in the rain) you are not even close.

This highbrow critic is appraising...a cup of coffee.

Whether you call it morning mud, liquid lighting, a cup of jolt, or bean juice, the soaring popularity of this beverage (that has been enjoyed for centuries without such hyperbole) now has coffee snobs talking about it in the same flowery terms once reserved for fine wine.

COFFEE FACT #1: Coffee means wine!

As I write this I am sipping a cup of coffee, not a good cup of coffee either, despite being in a very good hotel. Decades ago four-star hotels were the first to add in-room coffee makers as one of the amenities to attract guests, soon cheap hotels followed suit, and then many expensive hotels removed their coffee makers and made room service coffee (at up to $20.00 a pot) the only option. Which is why my cup of coffee is not very good, because I'm too cheap to pay that much for a beverage that until somewhat recently never cost more than a buck a cup. So, I travel with instant coffee, and when necessary "brew" it using hot tap water from the bathroom sink. I believe some coffee tastes better than others but the worst coffee tastes better than nothing.

COFFEE FACT #2: Instant coffee was invented by George Washington!

As you've already deducted, I am not a coffee snob, but that is not to say I am not a fan. To me coffee is like sex; the worst I've ever had was still good enough. In fact, perhaps I prefer coffee to sex, because I can go a day without sex.

When I was growing up there was no such thing as a coffee snob because there was only two types to choose from: regular or decaf (with unlimited FREE refills). Now Starbucks offers over 87,000 different coffee combination possibilities, so if I tried a different one each day it would take me over 238 years to find my favorite, and at that age I probably wouldn't remember it anyway. Not to mention with an average price of three dollars a cup, it would cost me way over a quarter-million dollars to find my preference.

COFFEE FACT #3: Coffee is cherry juice!

Coffee has become big business, with the aforementioned Starbucks raking in 7.53 BILLION DOLLARS in gross profits a year from their almost twenty thousand locations in fifty-nine countries. They employ 137,000 people (twice the population of Greenland) with that number growing rapidly (since 1987, they have opened 2-3 new stores daily!) They don't sell small, medium or large, but "tall, grande or venti"; their 31oz "trenta" cup holds more than your stomach (at 916 milliliters compared to the average stomach capacity of only 900 milliliters).

On the corner near my home in Manhattan I can choose to get my morning cup of java from Starbucks or go across the street to a family owned deli. At Starbucks my coffee will be served in a cup with a logo that makes a fashion statement. At the deli no one will look at me like I'm a simpleton because all I want is a plain cup of coffee. My decision is a no-brainer, because the deli charges fifty cents and Starbucks five times as much (and if I was really concerned with fashion statements I would simply buy an empty Starbucks cup and pour deli coffee in it).

COFFEE FACT #4: The most expensive coffee in the world is crap!

I have enjoyed coffee in each of the twenty-three countries I have performed in and although I'm clearly not a qualified critic I will share my experiences: The first Espresso machine was introduced in 1822 by the French, but it was the Italians who later perfected it. In Italy, espresso is considered so essential to daily life that the price is regulated by the government. They even put it in chocolate candy and call it "Pocket Coffee" (after eating one I looked like Charlie Sheen on a cocaine binge).

Greek coffee tastes like Turkish coffee and Turkish coffee tastes like mud. Old Greek women claim to be able to read your future by looking at the thick sludge that is left in your cup. But both the Greeks and the Turks love the stuff (in the 16th century, Turkish women could divorce their husbands if the man failed to keep his family's pot filled with coffee).

Americans also love their Joe, consuming 3 cups a day on average (and importing a third of the world's coffee production) but not as much as Scandinavians, who drink almost three times as much. After spending time in Norway, Denmark, and Sweden, I understand why; their winter months have 19 hours of darkness a day and that can make you sleepy.

The White House serves the best coffee I've ever tasted, which sounds like I'm boasting I had a cup with the President, but actually I had it on a coffee plantation on the island of Kona, Hawaii (the only state that grows coffee) which supplies the White House kitchens.

COFFEE FACT # 5: Coffee was discovered by a dancing goat!

Coffee's popularity, price, status has changed so much in my lifetime I am frightened with what its future holds. Confucius said, "Study the past, if you would divine the future." So here are some facts on coffee's past.

FACT #1: Coffee means wine!
The word "coffee" entered the English language in 1598 via Italian word caffé, which in return is derived from Turkish kahve that came into being via Arabic qahwa, a truncation of qahhwat al-bun meaning wine of the bean. When it first arrived in Europe it was known as Arabian Wine.

FACT #2: Instant coffee was invented by George Washington!
Well, not the George Washington you're thinking of, but George C. Washington, a Belgian who lived in Guatemala. In 1906, he invented the first instant coffee and called it "Red-E-Coffee."

FACT #3: Coffee is cherry juice!
Contrary to popular belief, coffee does not grow in plain brown beans; it comes from a tree or bush that bears cherry fruit. The coffee "bean" is the seed within the cherry.

FACT #4: The most expensive coffee in the world is crap!
Selling for over $600 a pound ($50 per cup) "Kopi Luwak" is the most expensive coffee in the world. It is made in Indonesia from coffee beans that are eaten, partly digested and then defecated by a weasel-like animal called the Asian palm civet. Supposedly, the internal digestion adds a unique flavor to the beans, which are collected from the animal's feces and sold to the ultra-rich.

FACT # 5: Coffee was discovered by a dancing goat!
Legend has it that in 9th-century Ethiopia a young goat herder awoke in the middle of the night to find his goats dancing around after they ate the cherries from the coffee tree. The next day he tried it for himself and found himself dancing into the wee hours of the night with the goats. A wondering monk passed by, found out what happened, word got out, and mornings have not been the same since.

COFFEE FACT #6: I'll start each of my remaining days with a cup in hand. The Coffee Revolution has begun and I am a just prisoner of war.

Steven Kent McFarlin has been described by the press as a "campus entertainment icon." He offers two great events at one great low price, and has been voted "Campus Comic of the Year" (LaffGuru.com) and the "Campus Performer of the Year" (TalkingAboutMyGeneration.com). His credits include over fifty TV appearances, including: Showtime, Good Morning America, and The Late Show. He is represented by GP College Entertainment.