“I enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning more than I have ever enjoyed a beer at night.”

The above observation has become one of my oft-cited go-to mottoes, right up there with “Radio’s job is to sell records.” But I was a relative latecomer to the specific joy of java addiction. I didn’t start drinking coffee until I was 26 years old–specifically, on October 1, 1986. Before that? No. The very idea of drinking coffee was anathema to me.

I did like a cup of tea now and again. That interest began when I was just a kid in the ’60s, as I sipped the occasional cup of hot tea with milk and sugar–heavenly.  I liked sweetened ice tea, too, particularly sun tea, which I baked in a pitcher perched atop our picnic table in the back yard, the solar rays transmogrifying water and tea bags into something special and refreshing. Ah, sweet alchemy. Delicious!

Coffee did not interest me at all. I had sampled it, disliked its taste, and discarded the notion of ever drinking the stuff.

This disdain for the bracing nectar of the coffee bean continued as I went to college, and beyond. If I needed a light stimulant to help propel me through late-night study or writing sessions, I’d sip my tea and soldier on. In the early ’80s, when I was a college graduate with a beer in my hand and a song in my heart, I was openly scornful of the “coffee achievers” TV advertising campaign, which utilized pitchfolk like David BowieKurt Vonnegut Jr., and Heart‘s Ann and Nancy Wilson to tout the supposedly beneficial buzz of a cup o’ joe to goose one’s productivity. In 1985, when I was working a full-time day job in a record store at a downtown Buffalo shopping mall and a part-time night job at McDonald’s, I fortified my AM vigor with a balanced breakfast of a pizza pretzel and a large, caffeine-rich serving of Mountain Dew, courtesy of the Hot Sam stand located directly across from the record store’s entrance. Healthy? Possibly not. Rock ‘n’ roll? Yeah, we’ll go with that.

For dramatic purposes, the role of a 1985 Hot Sam clerk shall be played by Vanity. I’m alert now.

But in the fall of ’86, I was starting a new job, and its first shifts involved work in a warehouse setting, unloading trucks and attending training sessions. It was cold, it was early, and there was free coffee. October 1st, 1986. I started drinking coffee right then and there.

Although my consumption of coffee was driven by circumstance, I developed a taste for it. I preferred it sweet, though I dabbled in drinking black coffee for a year or two in the late ’80s. I eventually decided that I enjoyed my coffee too much to be willing to compromise on how I drank it: cream or creamer, and Sweet’N Low. That specific taste is what I have each and every morning.

I’m otherwise not terribly fussy about my coffee. I’m not a fan of Starbucks. I love Paul deLima, but rarely have the opportunity to drink it. I buy Chock Full O’ Nuts as my preferred brand to make at home in the morning, that choice inspired by writers Billy Miller and Miriam Linna in Kicks magazine, because why not? I used to grab an afternoon cup at a convenience store on work days, but now I’m usually a one-cup-a-day guy (though my cup is really a 20-ounce mug). 

And my morning mug of Chock Full O’ Nuts is one of the highlights of my day. There are times when I go to bed looking forward to the morning treat of my coffee. I still enjoy a beer at night, when I’m in the mood for it. But I enjoy my coffee even more.

Close up white coffee cup with heart shape latte art on wood table at cafe.

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