Coffee really could in fact be a lifesaver

Mike Brantley

Coffee really could in fact be a lifesaver

It's been a classic love story, really.

I'll never forget the moment we met. An early winter storm had blown into the area and paralyzed the state from here to Raleigh.

We had a baby daughter to worry about, so I kept our generator running. This required me to go outside, add fuel, kick the machine, and curse every three hours or so.

A 12-hour cycle of this resulted in me being unable to get warm. My wife got that special glint in her eye, and I lifted my eyebrows knowingly. She moved closer, leaned forward and whispered in my ear.

"Here, try some coffee."

But I don't like coffee.

"It's good and it will get you warm. Or, you might die."

I did not have a good past with coffee. I'd tried it growing up once or twice, each time lured in by the tantalizing aroma. However, knowing only sweet tea and soft drinks as beverages, and never drinking anything hot, I just couldn't make myself like it.

Plus, a relative who shall remain anonymous used to always tell me that coffee would make you ugly. When I questioned this, he would list off numerous beauty-impaired people we knew -- they were all coffee drinkers.

I felt with what I had to work with, I couldn't take any chances. So I stayed off coffee.

That cup Kristi offered was passable once she added around a pound of sugar.

The next day, we were able to get out and went to a Dunkin Donuts and I got a cup with generous amounts of cream and sugar.

Things really took off when a new couple moved to Rocky Mount and opened a little coffee shop called Via Cappuccino at Englewood Square. The owners were great folks, often had live music and made something called a VC Mocha. It was vanilla and caramel and mocha and steamed milk mixed into the coffee.

Via became a regular stop for us, and then one day, John, one of the owners made an outrageous proposition.

"Mike, you have to try this new thing. Frozen coffee."

That sounds disgusting. Please just make my VC. My hands are shaking. Hurry.

"Seriously dude, you'll love it. I'm going to make you one."

People pour cold coffee down the drain, John. Please just make my coffee before Hulk get angry.

"I'll tell you what: if you don't like it, I'll make you whatever you want for free."

John knew his customers.

The man handed me what amounted to a milkshake with caffeine. It was cold and smooth and I could feel it coursing through my body. I was addicted by this point.

Things escalated and Kristi and I got a decent coffee pot for Christmas, and started cutting corners on less important items like diapers and meat so that we could get better quality coffee.

And we had it every morning.

Then, a friend introduced me to something called a French Press. Naturally, with French being in the name, I was skeptical. I asked if I would start dropping my rifle or giving up easily.

It was magical.

It seemed an art to pour that hot water over the specially ground beans and let them sit before pushing the plunger down. It was the filet mignon of coffee, without the unsettling raw meat aftertaste.

But then I got sick, and one of the doctors in a long line of doctors told me I had to stop drinking coffee.

For a while, I couldn't tell if I was having withdrawals or getting sicker. It turned out it was some of both.

I casually mentioned this to one of my specialists one day.

"Someone told you that you couldn't have coffee? Why would they say that?"

Because they are a soulless, evil man who hates his patients?

"I don't know about that. You can have coffee, just ease up on the sugar."

That was a medical moment not unlike the time Kramer saved someone's life in the operating room when he spilled a Junior Mint into the surgical opening.

One thing that got me through long nights in the hospital was my wife rolling me in a wheelchair to the Starbucks in the lobby. Starbucks is my favorite.

Last year on a follow up, when I was quizzed about my diet, something else magical happened when I mentioned I drank coffee, and bragged that I had eliminated sugar completely.

One specialist told me coffee was really good for the liver. I looked at the nurse. Nurses know stuff. She nodded. Later, she told me to drink lots of coffee. Another doctor later in the day told me the same thing.

The only way that dream could have gotten better was if they had told me to make sure to eat a pound of thick cut bacon at least once a day. I'm still waiting for the research on that one.

Over time, I've come to love crazy things like iced coffee. I like drinks with fancy names that make me feel weird when I say the words to the cashier.

A mixed drink at my house -- my toddy, if you will -- is a coffee on the rocks with a shot of flavored syrup and milk (2 percent, of course).

I can't believe how a terrible sounding idea like iced coffee can be so good.

I've recently discovered something called a Pour Over. I don't know how I missed that one for so long.

Kristi and I often plan trips around coffee shops in Greenville (Blackbeard's) or Wendell (41 North) or Raleigh (Cup of Joes). My sons and I complained daily about how long it took the new Starbucks to open in Rocky Mount.

As a matter of fact, we think our equally addicted daughter may have chosen N.C. State in large part because of Cup of Joes.

My 11-year-old was on his deathbed last week until I made a pot of Sumatra French Press. He was healed, although it is possible the z-pack helped as well. Your guess is as good as mine.

I've come a long way since that cold December night so long ago, when I fell in love with a bean. It's been half a day since my last drink, so it's time for another. Our relationship gets stronger every day.