Coffee and work. Work and coffee. David Crookes, in a great piece for the British Independent, “Thirsty Work: The coffee shop as office,” makes the connection:
The bond between coffee and work is strong. It has long been the staple drink for employees in offices, leading to rather wired workers but ones with alert brains ready to tackle the tasks of the day. Ever since American chair manufacturer Barcalounger became the first company to allow employees a coffee break in 1902, such a breather has grown to become an integral part of the working day on both sides of the pond.
Perhaps hell hath no fury like a late convert, but I didn’t pick up the coffee habit until my mid-30s. Now, that morning cup is a staple, typically followed by 1 or 2 more later in the day. And if I’m working late into the night, on occasion I brew up a pot to give me a needed jolt.
By conventional standards, I’m not a super-charged coffee drinker, but I confess to being hooked on the stuff. The effect of coffee is both physical and psychological in a way that a strong tea or energy drink like Red Bull simply can’t pull off. It tells me to start the day, push through the day, or work into the wee hours.
Hey, we’re part of a tradition!
As Crookes notes, the coffee-and-work connection goes way back:
When Edward Lloyd opened a rather modest London coffee shop in 1688, it became known for more than just its delicious hot black liquid. Large numbers of merchants, shipowners and insurance brokers would stop by, not only to relax and socialise but to trade.
The coffee shop quickly developed into the perfect place to obtain marine insurance and its reputation grew to the point where its influence continues to this day. Only now we know it as Lloyd’s of London.
Writers and coffee
Coffee seems to be especially associated with writers. Crookes invokes J.K. Rowling, Marina Fiorato, Ernest Hemingway, Henrik Ibsen, and Malcolm Gladwell as examples of writers drawn to cafes and coffee shops to do their work.
In popular fiction, I’ve noticed how many mystery and suspense novel writers create protagonists who are hooked on coffee — by the gallons. The late Stieg Larsson, author of the wildly popular Millenium trilogy (starting with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), must’ve been addicted, because investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist — one of his major characters — seems to brew up a pot of coffee in every scene!
To justify the habit, I’ll close with a reference to the possible health benefits of coffee, including decreased risk of certain cancers and less susceptibility to depression. Just type “coffee health benefits” into Google and you’ll see!