Harriet Walker: I think I'm dying, I tell my mum. 'You've had a coffee, haven't you?'

 

Share
Related Topics

If this columns reads a bit jittery, that's because I've discovered coffee. Not in the Marco Polo sense; more that I've only recently taken my place among the rest of the adults and been able to stomach it.

For years, my experience of coffee was a Nescafé freeze-dried decaf – "Three sugars and enough milk to turn it the colour of the hide of a fawn," I used to instruct my dad as a teenager, while he poured and stirred and carried patiently (no, I don't deserve him).

I've spent my life going into Starbucks and ordering a hot milk with vanilla syrup or a soy decaf latte – an existential void of a drink, as one friend called it – because anything stronger would bring me out in a cold sweat. I'd vibrate around the place, get all sicky-feeling and anxious, then lapse into an exhausted fugue. "I think I'm dying," I'd call my mum to let her know. "I'm worried about everything I've ever done and ever will do, and I'm scared of that man over there."

"You've had a coffee, haven't you?" She'd ask, as patient as my dad. Then she'd talk me down. She's done it in person, on email, over the phone – once as I sat on the front row of a fashion show waiting for it to start.

It has been my custom to try out a coffee once or twice a year, just to see if I can handle it yet. And until recently, I'd invariably end up crying, slumped in a corner. A friend once had to usher me out of a gallery in Barcelona on hands and knees before I fainted in there; she refers to it as "that time you had an espresso".

I've found it terribly annoying, because I genuinely like the taste of coffee – when there's loads of sugar in it (what I really mean is I like the coffee-flavour Revels) – and I'm as keen as the next idiot to be part of anything known colloquially as a "culture" that handsome men with beards like to talk about.

On the plus side, I was pleased to have found a genuine trendy intolerance. Dairy makes me itch but I love cheese, so I ignore that. I lie on planes about having a nut allergy so they give me the delicious pretzels instead. I once made up an allergy to shellfish because I was too shame-faced to admit I have the palate of a toddler and don't know what to do with all the claws. I regularly tell people that fish shuts my airways so I don't have to feel awkward about leaving it when somebody cooks me one of the little swimmy buggers.

But, intriguingly, something has kicked in this year – call it weight gain or excessive fatigue, or having eye bags big enough to store two caramel macchiatos in (each), or even eating enough bread to mop up an entire reservoir of coffee. I'm suddenly able to withstand the effect of caffeine. Sure, the perspiration is dripping off me right now and I keep looking over my shoulder, but there's no angina this time.

So out with all the 'erbal teas and the decaf Tetley (oh, the mockery I've endured for that over the years), and in with Diet Cokes before bedtime, chocolate so dark it's practically savoury, and one of those yuppie coffee machines that wheezes and squeals like a randy asthmatic when you pull its levers. I haven't actually bought one of these, partly because I like presenting myself as a coffee ingénue, a weird and rare social specimen with no cafetière and no idea whether it tastes burnt or not. And partly because I have only one area of storage in my kitchen and it's currently taken up by a juicer the size of a tractor that I used once and have become bored with.

Still, it's all terribly exciting, drinking coffee, because I'm assuming a role in a new hyperactive, trendily running-on-empty tribe. Everyone knows this is the best tribe, otherwise why do so many people go and work in the City? My drink of choice used to be a chai latte that everyone used to wrinkle their noses at (I still say YUM to all the haters). That wasn't the drink of a clammy world-conqueror! Pah, a drink for librarians! Now I take a Samoan dynamite blend served super-wet with a side of angst. And I feel like Caesar must have done when he first realised Casca wasn't about to give him a hug.

Perhaps I don't quite know what I'm talking about when it comes to coffee. The thing is, I do actually like the taste of decaffeinated Nescafé in the morning. But now I know I could just as easily have a flat white instead, I feel more myself, more of a social animal. Whatever: I just feel cooler.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

South Africa's race problem is less between black and white than between poor blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa

John Carlin
Queen Elizabeth II with members of the Order of Merit  

Either the Queen thinks that only one in 24 Britons are women, or her Order of Merit is appallingly backward

Janet Street-Porter
Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...