A conversation starter

A strong cup of coffee goes hand in hand with friendly gossip

Ken Fleming and Robert Robidoux meet every morning at the Golden Cavvy Restaurant and Lounge. They talk over the latest news, celebrate successes and pump each other up for hunting season. They've been friends for more than 40 years, and that's just part of their morning ritual.

Coffee is an essential part of that ritual, Fleming said.

"Tea and pop are not the same (as coffee)," Fleming said. "You can't drink as much tea."

Robidoux said it's just an enjoyable way to spend the morning, but Fleming wasn't so sure.

"I don't know if it's enjoyable. With the amount we drink, by the time we get through, it tastes like battery acid," Fleming said laughing.

Robidoux conceded, "It tastes like someone wrung their socks out."

Although Fleming said he doesn't require a kick from coffee in the morning, he drinks a lot of it.

"We probably shouldn't be drinking coffee the way we are because it's not exactly good for us," Fleming said.

Caffeine's effects on health have been widely studied with mixed results. Although an excess of the drug can be detrimental to mental health and bone density, the effects of moderate amounts are debated.

Excessive amounts of caffeine can lead to a fast heart rate, dehydration, nausea and vomiting, restlessness, anxiety, depression, tremors, and difficulty sleeping, according to the National Institutes of Health. Other studies cite beneficial effects on migraine headaches, alertness and productivity with moderate amounts of caffeine.

When coffee started to become more popular in Europe in the late 17th century, it was promoted as a cure for coughs and aches and a promoter of alertness and sobriety, said David Cowan, assistant professor of history at Yale.

"Coffee, tea and chocolate were promoted as healthy new drinks that would restore one's health," Cowan said.

A moderate amount of coffee is defined as three eight-ounce cups a day.

Mick Tucci, of Tucci Woodworks refuses to have a coffee maker at his shop which helps moderate his coffee intake. Despite his best efforts, though, he still makes the short walk to Serendipity's several times a day for a shot of brew.

The Chicago native said the shop has been a big plus to the community. He enjoys the atmosphere and that you can leave a dollar at the counter for your coffee without waiting in line. The people are another plus.

"I suffer from people deficit at the shop," Tucci said, adding that he enjoys bumping into friends at the shop.

Coffee shops have played an important role in business and politics since the first one opened in Britain in 1650, Cowan said.

The new shops were controversial, feared by some, welcomed by others.

"They were centers of learning for free and intelligent debate for promoters, and detractors said they were dens of sin," Cowan said, adding that by the early 1700s attempts to shut them down had largely subsided.

It's hard to imagine local coffee stops as dens of sin.

Sue Goodenow, literacy coordinator at Ridgeview Elementary School, said she meets with a group of women each Saturday morning to share conversation and coffee.

Goodenow said coffee isn't essential for the gatherings but added that she could think of one person who doesn't drink it.

Goodenow waits until 10 a.m. when the group gathers to indulge in her morning cup.

The group changes every week, but it's always a bonding time -- a time to share in one another's joys and sadness, she said.

"It's a fun time to have some girl talk," she said, which seems to fulfill the same purpose as other coffee talk around town.

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