Sunday, August 14, 2022

Poison control

by ELENA JOHNSON/Coeur Voice Contributor
| May 11, 2022 1:00 AM

My coworker thinks it’s hilarious to call coffee poison.

Naturally, I’m offended. As an ex-barista, I know that talk is as factually false as it is totally tragic — someone who doesn’t like coffee is someone who’s never had a good cup. Call me an optimist, but I believe there’s a brew, beverage and blend out there for everyone. There’s plenty o’ beans in the sea …

But anyway, I had to admit defeat last weekend. After 12 or so cups in a row, it all started to taste poisonous. My insides were certainly aching like a witch’s brew was burbling and clawing at my stomach. Don’t tell my doctor, and don’t tell my coworker.

I was given every coffee lover’s dream side gig — a written roundup of eight different coffees. All free, too! That glorious start sent me on an instant high. Mountains of beans (OK, delivery boxes — but there were heaps of click-clacking beans inside!) arrived at the door. Most “samples” came full-sized. Sampler packs came in twos, threes and 20s.

These babies looked, smelled and sounded beautiful in my hands. Plus, every one of them was decaf — the perfect crime! An excuse to drink coffee ALL day. No jitters, no buzzing, no making yourself sick — because that’s just caffeine, which I wasn’t drinking.

I was flush with the seeds of good java waiting to happen. Too bad I was about to be flush with some acid reflux.

Turns out, you can get a stomach ache from a bunch of decaf. And, if you have a pretty sad digestive system like mine, it really doesn’t take much.

I tried to treat my now-suddenly-seems-gruesomely-underpaid gig like a wine tasting.

I sipped slightly, sliding as little over my tongue as possible.

I harvested whole cups for later.

I started to dump two cups at a time down the drain. (Call me One-Sip Winona Sue, because I will sort out the notes, body and ideal brewing method with a precise economy of dribbles. The hero no one needs.)

It barely worked. Or maybe it worked a lot. Who knows, I could have been at the ER if I had tried to give each cuppa and brew (it’s best to prepare beans using different methods to get a best sense of it — like cooking with a new spice) its due. Do they pump stomachs that have been assailed by atrocious amounts of java? Maybe they’d just give you a biscuit and a glass of water. You’d probably hear words like “melodramatic” and “waste of hospital time and resources” muttered under someone’s breath. But I’m no doctor.

Decaf coffee is a pretty wonderful thing. But it’s not magic, either.

Word to the wise — because I’m pretty sure everyone else is already wise to this — don’t drink coffee all day, even if it’s low-acid, decaffeinated joe. It may not be poison, but you might have to call poison control anyway if you do.

If you learn that lesson the hard way, however, use the age-old funny tummy remedy. Eat a banana. (It doubles as a decent palate cleanser between brews …)

• • •

Elena Johnson has learned her final coffee lesson, almost. She can be reached at

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