What is coffee?: An important philosophical inquiry

six white ceramic mugs

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After the basketball game we went to Beertown for calamari, french fries and a libation.

Naturally, talk turned to coffee.

A friend sitting to my left told us about a homemade brew he likes, which includes a gob of butter.

That’s revolting, I thought. Why would you drink that?

But I’m trying to say fewer horrible things aloud these days.

“I’m up to two or three coffees per day,” I said, blandly.

“I’m one of those people.”

There was a brief silence that implied: OK, well that’s fantastic. Thanks for sharing.

“I don’t like coffee at all,” said another pal, sitting across from the first and nursing what appeared to be a pilsener or an amber lager.

(I don’t know that much about beer.)

“I don’t either,” said our third companion, who was gradually downing a tall, frosted glass of Belgian wheat beer.

“It’s OK if you put lots of stuff in it,” I said.

“Then it’s not coffee.”

“Yeah it is,” I said, like a five-year-old on the playground at recess.

But when I woke up the next morning I realized he had a point.

You can definitely argue that coffee with cream and sugar in it is not coffee, but something else entirely.

This much I know for sure: A plain drink made by filtering water through coffee grounds is, in fact, coffee.

You cannot argue this still water, or that it’s lemonade or orange juice or Sambuca.

If you did, you’d be crazy. And despite appearances to the contrary, I’m not crazy.

You can add anything to coffee, but at a certain point it becomes a new thing.

A cafe mocha, for instance, is not coffee.

It’s a mixture of coffee and hot chocolate that so drastically dilutes the coffee it’s in its own category.

Also, an “Irish coffee,” which mixes coffee with Irish whiskey, sugar and cream, is technically a cocktail.

The question is, where do you draw the line?

Most people would say lattes are coffee, but the ratio of liquid to sugar and frothed milk makes this problematic.

Also, there is the matter of plain espresso.

Is this coffee, or a kind of Super Coffee due its strength and concentration?

Thankfully, we did not discuss any of this at Beertown.

We let the matter drop and moved on to the ethics of hunting coyotes and the merits and demerits of buying food at Wal Mart.

That is to say, the other guys did. I just kind of sat there, eating my french fries and sipping my beer and drifting in and out.

Years ago, when I was in university, I visited my paternal grandmother at her apartment.

Grandma Forrest is one of my favourite people of all time — extraordinarily kind, good-natured, philosophical and non-confrontational.

She is the kind of person who makes the world better simply by being in it.

There was a sign on a wall in her apartment that said something to the effect of:

You can either be right all the time, or you can have friends. I choose friends.

A wise woman, my grandmother is.

When I see her, it’s usually sometime between my second Double-Double of the day, and my third.

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