Re: Coffee and Tea

📅 2023-03-05

As a regular drinker of both coffee and tea, I am compelled to present a contrasting view.

The thing is, there are fundamental differences in people's tastes both physiologically and mentally. There are supertasters who can discern small nuances and may be overwhelmed by some flavors, and people have a multitude of positive and negative memories and emotional associations related to food and drinks.

But in spite of the wisdom of the ancient Romans, I will carry on.

There's no disputing that the actual taste of coffee is bitter and I surmise that few people enjoy bitter flavors (though some do!). In practice, much depends on the roasting, storage, and brewing of the coffee beans. A freshly ground light roast can be quite light on the bitterness.

Personally, my main attractions to coffee are 1) the smell, and 2) caffeine. A big part of the enjoyment is breathing in the fragrance while drinking. I tend to add a bit of milk to coffee to reduce the bitterness, but the smell is largely unaffected by any cream or milk added.

(As a side note, one should definitely experiment with different types of milk in coffee. I used to go with fat-free milk only, but after trying more creamy varieties I found that the rounder profile of, say, milk with 3% fat is far nicer.)

When it comes to caffeine, it is sometimes a useful tool for suspending tiredness or helping with mental focus. As a programmer I find it can be a nice booster, although nothing compared to just getting a good night’s sleep. Generally speaking, there are differences in people's caffeine sensitivity and tolerance. Coffee drinkers are probably a self-selected bunch in that they are able to gain positive outcomes from the caffeine. But as with all drugs, one has to stay mindful of the usage. The buildup of tolerance over time needs to be managed, and one has to weather the potential side effects of withdrawal when limiting intake.

I like the smell of coffee enough to forgo the caffeine and drink decaf. Of course, if you consider how decaffeination is achieved, decaf is a total abomination to anyone who appreciates good coffee. Nevertheless, the experience of drinking a hot coffee-like beverage is quite pleasant when one is over the day’s caffeine limit.

While I sometimes drink white or green tea, I tend to prefer the more coffee-like black teas. The classic English breakfast is a staple in our household. For me, tea is basically a low-caffeinated version of coffee. I largely don't find the actual flavor of the tea leaf that appealing... This probably disqualifies me as a true tea drinker. 🙂

A bit like with tabs vs. spaces in source files, I think there's unnecessary snobbery when it comes to drinking hot beverages with or without augmentations like milk or sugar. I have a feeling that compared to coffee drinkers, there are more “tea snobs” who care deeply about not augmenting the drink with anything. It could be that many varieties of tea just have a subtler flavor and are more palatable as-is. There’s also a long and rich history when it comes to tea, and one may feel an attachment to the tradition and the ceremonial aspects. When it comes to coffee, it is still coffee whether you modulate it with a dash of milk, sweeten it with sugar or syrup, or even augment it with extra flavors like cardemom or vanilla. In any case, the drink is for one's own personal enjoyment according to one's tastes. There's no need for judging others or feeling superior.

Summa summarum: Generalizations about people’s tastes and motives are pretty futile. I recommend finding the beverage that pleases oneself the most and optimizing the experience to one's own preferences.

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