After thirty years in Costa Rica, I can no longer deny it: My name is Don Mateo, and I am a coffee addict. It is my one and only drug of choice. You say there’s no beer? Nothing to fear! No ciggies? No biggie. We’re all out of ganj? No problem, mon. But tell me we are out of coffee, especially first thing in the morning, and a combination of anxiety and exhaustion immediately sets in.
My only thought is, “What time does the corner pulperia open?” And my day cannot really start until I hear and smell that first batch brewing in the coffeemaker.
My first taste of coffee was not until I was in my late 20s. I was working two jobs and had a 65 to 70 hour work week. I would drink a can of Jolt cola (their slogan, which I loved was– All the Sugar and Twice the Caffeine) between my two workplaces as a pick me up. Then one day a coworker who knew of my work schedule, observed my constant yawns and sunken, baggy eyes and suggested I try a cup of coffee on the morning break. Well–one occasional cup soon led to a daily cup, and before long I was hooked.
I loved everything about coffee, the look, the smell, the taste, the way it coursed through my system and set loose the dopamine in my brain. Soon one cup in the morning wasn’t enough. It was 2 cups in the morning, and one around lunch and a final cup mid-afternoon. My habit grew to at least a liter a day, which I have maintained since.
You could say that I am in the perfect place for a coffee addict. There are tens of thousands of addicts throughout the country just like me. My local pulperia offers over twenty different brands, and they are all of good to excellent quality. Costa Rica for a coffee addict is like Afghanistan for an opium addict or Colombia for a coke head or Appalachia for a meth head–the product is everywhere and use is widespread, and always encouraged by the producers and sellers.
Now of course, I don’t mean to lump coffee in with these other nefarious and deadly products. Coffee is a benign–dare I say– beneficial addiction. Here is some info from a study done by the highly respected Johns Hopkins School of Medicine– Coffee contains antioxidants that help to reduce internal inflammation and protect against disease; it is good for your liver; and it reduces your chances of getting colon cancer, Alzheimer’s and strokes, among other positive attributes. (This goes for decaf coffee as well, though for me decaf coffee makes about as much sense as ordering a rum punch and saying ‘Hold the rum’).
Of all the substances around to be addicted to, I am happy to say that I have picked the right one! Or maybe it picked me. At any rate, It is mid-afternoon as I write this, and I have my final cup of Joe for the day in hand. I am sipping it like I would a fine wine. This is a maintenance cup, and I want to make it last. I will then ride out the rest of the day until tomorrow morning– and then we start again.