Imagine a world without coffee. Or, more specifically, imagine your world without coffee. Chilling isn’t it?

But how different would things actually be? Some of us would pick a different drink in the mornings. Some of us might look elsewhere for those mild hits that coffee provides. Some of us would even have different jobs. On the whole, when you think about it, things wouldn’t really be that different. (BTW did any of you see Fringe? Remember the alternative universe where coffee was as valuable as gold…?)

Yet, coffee plays such a huge role in most of our lives. It’s the drink that gets the world to work, the drink that keeps us going, the drink that can genuinely be the highlight of an otherwise banal day. It’s more than a habit: it’s a culture; an artform; a necessity. (It’s also a business, of course, but let’s not get vulgar here.)

I wonder sometimes how much of our coffee love is derived from the ritual, rather than the drink itself. I won’t deny that I love a cup of decent coffee (and I looovvvve a cup of great coffee) but it’s almost exclusively something I reserve particular times of the day. When I get to work the first thing I do is to go and get my coffee–the working day just doesn’t feel right, in fact it can barely even start, until I get my coffee. At weekends I’ll usually save it for a late morning treat, sometimes after the shopping’s been done, sometimes as an incentive to actually go and do the shopping (though my wife now makes better coffee than most of the local cafes anyway). Either way it has its place in the day.

Other drinks just don’t have the same structure. Tea I’ll drink almost anytime (though I confess to having decaf in the evening as I like to be able to sleep at night). Beer (and wine) I’ll usually avoid drinking too early, but otherwise it comes down to whenever I fancy one. I’ll enjoy the occasional Coke if the day is really, really hot and the Coke is really, really cold. I’ll drink water when I’m thirsty, and that’s about it.

This article on (see item #1) makes me wonder if we have been conditioned in some manner to invest in coffee as a ritual pursuit. After all, there’s more money to be made if people habitually buy a coffee each morning as part of going-to-work instead of just buying one on the days they feel like one. There’s a whole business to be built around positioning coffee as the centrepiece of social gatherings and, even, business meetings. There are habits to be formed and profits to be made.

But … I don’t really mind that. Sure, coffee is expensive, but it gives people pleasure. Sure, there are too many coffee chains (and too many corporations making ridiculous sums of money out of them) but in this day and age I think people need a good excuse to get together in person.

So, maybe buy your beans from a local roaster, and choose an independent cafe over a chain, but most of all – enjoy your coffee. If it makes your day a little brighter then it’s something to be embraced.