Katy Guest: A tall skinny latte to go, then we'll crack world peace

Related Topics

It is one of life's most enraging paradoxes that the most stressful ritual of the day, purchasing the morning coffee, has to happen before one has had the morning coffee.

Just the merest sip of a small fresh latte might fortify the consumer to stand in a queuing system that was designed by a (non-British) minion of Satan and then grovel for caffeine from a three-headed Cerberus whose job it is to keep it from us at all costs as some sort of sick joke. Unfortunately, we have to grovel for it in a pre-caffeinated state.

Now, researchers at the University of Bristol have made matters worse, by showing scientifically that the morning coffee high is actually a figment of the imagination: 379 volunteers who valiantly forsook coffee for 16 hours were made no more alert by a caffeine pill than they were by a placebo, they revealed – the buggers. "Coffee doesn't give you a hit" was the headline. But buried at the end was what every heavy caffeine user secretly knows: the first coffee of the day is only a hit in that it temporarily relieves the effects of caffeine withdrawal. In this, coffee is much like cigarettes to a smoker, alcohol to an alcoholic, or heroin to a user. Hardcore coffee drinkers are just the same as any other addicts.

There can be no other explanation for the pathetic scenes that can be witnessed in coffee chains around the world on any weekday morning. Otherwise frugal individuals hand over real paper money for a lukewarm cup of bitter brown stuff that often tastes like sawdust and causes indigestion. All forms of humiliation are endured and expected.

At Upper Crust outlets on station concourses they like to tease the customer by slowly suggesting an upgrade – a muffin, a tasty sandwich, one of their delicious cakes – as the train inexorably approaches the platform and the customer pleads ever more desperately for her coffee fix. Marks & Spencer recently offered a latte for £1, until its tragic customers realised that they'd rather spend £1.95 in the efficient Pret A Manger over the road.

In this office there is a Byzantine double-queuing system, with coffee-retrieval rules so complex that they can only be understood by anyone with a degree in pure mathematics and have been known to make grown newspapermen weep.

If it were made this difficult for tea drinkers to buy a cuppa, they'd just wander off for a tin of pop instead. Only the tragic coffee addict is hopelessly entrapped enough to play the game.

I know coffee drinkers who concoct the most transparent excuses to get them near to their chosen drug. One otherwise active relative can't go shopping without needing "a little sit down" (in a coffee shop) every half an hour – much like the smoker who has to get out and "stretch the legs" (and the lungs) on long car journeys. Some of these people have the pre-coffee detoxification tremors worse than any alcoholic's.

Curiously, though, many of these people can also go whole weekends without coffee and not even think about it. And in this, the Bristol scientists are certainly right: the coffee hit is a construction of the mind. The morning commute makes a person need a coffee. The sight of all those other commuters manically sucking up their coffees makes a person need a coffee. And the torment of the coffee queue particularly makes a person need a coffee.

Caffeine, like any addiction, is a self-fulfilling prophecy, surrounded by rituals more complicated than even the addict understands. Just don't try to tell them that before they've had their morning coffee.

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

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

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
With an eye for strategy: Stephen Fry’s General Melchett and Rowan Atkinson’s Edmund Blackadder  

What Cameron really needs is to turn this into a khaki election

Matthew Norman
An Italian policeman stands guard as migrants eat while waiting at the port of Lampedusa to board a ferry bound for Porto Empedocle in Sicily. Authorities on the Italian island of Lampedusa struggled to cope with a huge influx of newly-arrived migrants as aid organisations warned the Libya crisis means thousands more could be on their way  

Migrant boat disaster: EU must commit funds to stop many more dying

Alistair Dawber
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own