• Charles

Enough coffee to float a business

Updated: Aug 15

In terms of diet, there are four nutritional groups that people actually need to get through the day: protein, carbohydrates, fats, and caffeine.

God, what would the world be like without caffeine? We’d simply never get anything done. Entire businesses would never have started without the animated conversation and hurried sketches on napkins, all achieved in double-time with a double espresso. If we had a coffee shortage, productivity would vanish and share prices would halve overnight. Half the empires of the world would have endured for years longer because coffee houses hadn't caused the eddies and swirls of life when pouring and mixing different ranks and positions of feudal hierarchies, allowing suspicious peons to drop from surreptitious eaves. Gossip would have been gabbled lazily over elderflower water and squashed fruit. And think how dull that would be.

I absolutely adore tea and coffee. Proper tea; proper coffee. If I couldn’t get hold of the strongest, richest coffee to start my day, by nine o’clock I started to suspect that it may be better to sling everything in the bin and put the rest off until tomorrow — unless, that is, the situation could be swiftly recovered with a particularly supreme Darjeeling. In previous posts I have discussed my passion for sourcing very best tools to inspire me to produce the best work I can. I bought the best piano I could find, I use my favourite fountain pen daily, and I recently became so fed up with the silly, embarrassingly naff shelving in my studio that I went out on my lunch break and bought a marvellous unit made from a rich and exotic Indonesian hardwood, with sumptuously deep shelves suitable for containing my enormous packages of crumbling, antique sheet music. And, by extension of this philosophy, I also believe that the quality of excellent work is proportional to the excellence of the coffee.

During the lockdown, things became far more relaxed, of course. I didn’t have to run about, burning through fuel like a Space X test flight and then shovelling in calories and caffeine in between jobs. Perhaps it just feels faster retrospectively than it really was, but I certainly never thought I’d ever feel like a swirl of Kefalonian honey gradually sinking into a bowl of yoghurt. Until lockdown. Now I understand the sensation perfectly. And then, in April, I ran out of coffee.

I’ll be honest: the first five days were among the most uncomfortable hours of my life, and that includes two occasions of being run over. It honestly took that much time just to get over the addiction, which was a surprise because the last time I tried to go without caffeine, I was my usual merry self within three days. But it’s quite hard to concentrate when you have a head full of bees, and work was somewhat challenging until, on the sixth day, the queen bee sought a new bonnet and the rest of the drones followed.

How did this earnest attempt to live caffeine-free proceed? Fine, actually — until I realised I couldn’t be bothered. I’ve proven to myself that I can be productive without caffeine, so now I can be mindful to drink these exquisite, sensational beverages purely for the flavour, on those occasions when simply nothing else will do. I do enjoy tea and coffee, but not every morning — or even every day — and paradoxically, I try not to drink them if I feel tired, because it means I won’t feel the need to flump down on something soft in the mid-afternoon.

I’ve realised that my ‘normal’ level of awakeness was in fact operating at thousands of Volts above what my wiring was designed to handle. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that I really can make more sense of my thoughts. Happily, whether this cognitive clarity percolates into my writing as well is somewhat doubtful.


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