Coffee preference is black-and-white issue

Column by Craig Marshall Smith


I am surrounded by coffee babies, featherweights, and fraidy-cats.

How many times has this happened to me? Hundreds.

“Coffee, black,” I say to the waiter.

“Cream and sugar?”


“Room for creamy, foamy stuff, flavorings?”


“Skinny caramel latte-latte with a sprig?”


I drink coffee as black as asphalt, the way it should be. Cowboy coffee, detective coffee, no fooling around coffee, no standing in line for five minutes while it's tricked and teased and fluffed.

I am surrounded by coffee babies. Juan Valdez didn't go all over Columbia looking for the finest beans so you could turn your coffee into a damned float.

My girlfriend is a coffee baby. It's appalling. We're still in Phase One, when indiscretions are generally overlooked because, well, you figure it out.

When we move into Phases Two and Three, watch out.

She uses sugar, which is bad enough. Coffee needs to be semi-bitter, it's not a soft drink. If you want a soft drink, drink a soft drink.

She uses half and half, which completely ruins the color. Ruins it. Blands down the pitch.

These mutilations cut the flavor, the color, and the poetry of a cup of coffee. Coffee should be harsh, not a damned daisy.

Flavored coffees, I can't even write the words without shaking my head, are wrong. I insist on coffee, black, hot, meaningful, complex, erotic, and not some liquid Hallmark card. That's what you're drinking. A liquid Hallmark card.

Let me make an artist's comparison. Acrylic paints are for babies. Oil paints are for real artists. Don't even ask about watercolors.

These commercials where some homemaker is getting high on the aroma in her kitchen, it's all a lie. What does hot tan sugar water smell like? I guess maybe steaming Dr Pepper. That's exactly what you're drinking. Steaming Dr Pepper. Go get in line at one of those Starbuckies and ask for a Steaming Dr Pepper. They will know exactly what you mean.

You've heard that song, “Let's have another cup of coffee and let's have another piece of pie!” Irving Berlin. Great song. But let's get something straight, Irving didn't sit there and compose some junk like this: “Let's have another frappuccino and let's have another petite vanilla bean scone.” Come on.

I was in a hurry and thought I was in good shape. A little coffee shop in an old house in Littleton. I was second in line. I'd make it to class on time. The cute girl behind the counter said to the man in front of me, “How's your day so far? What about this rain? Huh? We need the moisture. We need the moisture. We need the moisture.” Man, am I tired of hearing that. If we need the moisture, we need the moisture.

The same person who says, “We need the moisture,” will say, “This cake is moist.” Geez. What's with all of the moisture? What else? “These mashed potatoes are moist. These beagles are moist.”

I'm second in line and they've had a chance to talk about the weather, and I'm thinking there's still hope. I was wrong. The dude's order took about three minutes, and I never heard the word “coffee” once. What's the point? They should have a line for coffee babies, and a line for the rest of us, who know what we're doing.

I ordered coffee once and the kid said, “Room for cream?” And I said, “Room for vodka.”

I got out of line and went to a vending machine in the school cafeteria. I punched the black coffee and got something that was very hot, very brown, and tasted like paint thinner. But I drank it. I'm not going to stand in line behind a coffee baby.

Coffee is supposed to be black. If it isn't black it isn't coffee.


Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at


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