You might think that New York would be the last place on earth to reject a new trend. But the launch of a pop-up coffee shop selling exclusively decaf drinks has hit a nerve with the city.
The Swiss Water Coffee Studio has opened a temporary coffee shop in Manhattan for one week, selling an array of coffees minus the caffeine. And the backlash has been so ugly you’d think it was serving its drinks in mugs made of tiny kitten skulls.
One article wrote about the pop-up under the headline, “Try Not to Scream.” Another called it “the first sign of the cultural apocalypse.” One journalist quipped that the live music accompaniment at the pop-up will be more stimulating than the "fake coffee drinks".
Another journalist placated critics by pointing out that the company responsible for the monstrosity is “housed in a gas station facing imminent demolition”. And you thought food and drink couldn't get any more controversial than a £2.50 bowl of cereal served by bearded twins in Shoreditch.
Sadly, there would probably be a similar reaction to a caffeine-less cafe in Britain. We’re obsessed with the stuff. Coffee drinkers this side of the pond drink approximately 70 million cups of coffee every day, and two thirds of us buy coffee drinks when we’re out and about.
Perhaps I'm alone, and I think I am, in wondering what the appeal is about something that sends the body into a frenzy every time you drink it, and gives you a blinding headache when you don’t.
I should probably admit that I'm extremely sensitive to the stuff - but since cutting caffeinated drinks out of my diet, I haven't noticed any difference. I can still get things done, and keep my eyes open for hours at a time.
But my problem with coffee runs deeper than its physiological effects. The pop-up coffee shop outrage has highlighted an issue that has been going unnoticed for too long now. I’m talking about caffeine snobbery.
We should move towards more decaf-friendly coffee shops so we can clamp down on the deep-rooted attitude that the more caffeine you consume, the cooler you are.
There’s a stigma attached to drinking decaf coffee, as this backlash shows. But there’s nothing impressive about having your head buried in a latte until 11am, nor is there anything particularly admirable about needing five espressos a day before you can start to resemble a human being.
There are plenty of things that help to keep us awake – breathing, staying upright, not walking in front of traffic – but we’ve convinced ourselves we need a constant coffee buzz to help us do something evolution has made us pretty adept at already. We’re not giving ourselves enough credit here.
It’s about time we put down the espresso, and saw that the really cool people are the ones that put up with your moaning about needing caffeine, without any help from a mind-altering substance. We’re the real heroes.
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