Tom Shillue: Latest coffee study is nonsense – leave my morning ritual alone!

Once again science is promising to improve our lives.

After an exhaustive study, scientists tell us that the best time to drink coffee might NOT actually be first thing in the morning but actually an hour after you wake up. This is because in the hour after you wake up, your body’s production of cortisol is at one of its three daily peaks. This mysterious cortisol is known as the “alertness hormone,” so in order to achieve maximum alertness, we should delay the intake of caffeine, according to researchers. Which researchers? The kind who like to tell us what to do.

So I’m to understand that having a cup of coffee an hour after I want it is going to give me more "bang-for-the-buck" in terms of "get-up-and-go?” To that I have to ask, so what? What am I, a machine? I’m not a productivity exercise, I’m a man. I like to wake, then make, then drink a cup of coffee. I do it before I shower, before I brush, before I look in the mirror and say “Good morning, Tom! It’s going to be a great day!”

My daily coffee ritual is just that – a ritual. I grind the beans, boil the water, carefully pour the water over the grounds, smell the aroma, pour the beautiful dark liquid into my glass cup, and then I behold may work, before moving in for the sip. It's a won­derful part of my day.

So, now I’m told – “you're doing it wrong, Tom.” That I should change my behavior to get more “benefit.” But the assumption is that the main benefit from a morning coffee is medicinal, that coffee is a delivery system for alertness and productivity. Is that really what it is for most people?

Maybe for these wizards in the lab for whom everything can be reduced to data, but not for most of us. If that were the case, why wouldn’t we all just take a pill in the morning and be done with it?

This is coming from someone who is an admittedly a productivity freak. I love having a system, and plotting the different ways to make my workday more efficient. But it’s important for me to separate mere “tasks” from “joys.”

Coffee is a joyous part of my day. I wouldn't give it up for a more efficient "kick'. That’s why I like to make it myself and drink it from a real cup (ceramic is fine, but glass is my preferred vessel) and not a paper one.

In today’s world our goal should not be to find more ways to be productive, but more moments in which we can be deliberate and mindful.

In my experience, there is not an issue I’ve ever dealt with that hasn’t been tackled by the musical theater composers of the Great American Songbook, so let’s turn to the lyrics of an old song by Kander and Ebb called “Coffee in a Cardboard Cup,” which expresses my sentiments perfectly:

THE TROUBLE WITH THE WORLD TODAY

IT SEEMS TO ME

IS COFFEE IN A CARDBOARD CUP...

...THE TROUBLE WITH THE WORLD TODAY

IT`S PLAIN TO SEE

IS EV`RYTHING IS HURRY UP:

IT`S ALL BECOME LOONEY TUNES

WITH SUGAR PACKS AND PLASTIC SPOONS

AND `COFFEE IN A CARDBOARD CUP!

Well said, gentlemen! Now, I’ll ask the scientists to leave my morning coffee ritual alone.