People think that I’m strange when I tell them I’ve never tasted coffee. I’ve never tasted beer either but that’s an entirely different story. When I was in the Air Force, people would ask me how I could survive without coffee. Others wonder how I can start my day without coffee or how I can stay up so late at night. But then crack addicts probably wonder how I can go through the day without a hit.

Growing up I saw many adults who couldn’t function without that first cup or two of coffee in the morning. I decided that I didn’t need that dependency, so I never tried it. Of course most coffee drinkers will argue that it isn’t an addiction. I smile at their naiveté. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that when some regular coffee drinkers are suddenly deprived of their morning fix, they suffer from headaches, fatigue and depression and are unable to function at their usual level of efficiency. Students may be unable to learn and writers may not be able to write. You can see many of these people at Starbucks. Our college library now has a coffee bar selling Starbucks coffee. Business at the library is now booming – or at least their coffee sales is booming.

Coffee is not a new beverage in the history of mankind, and can be traced back to at least 1000 years B.C. But the first real concerted effort at making coffee a popular drink in the U.S. began with the Boston Tea Party in 1773 when they tried to make drinking coffee a patriotic duty. Then prohibition in 1920 caused many people to switch to coffee. But it was during the great depression of the 1930’s that coffee, one of the cheapest and most available drinks, became established as a prominent part of American life.

Starbucks has subsequently taken this inexpensive, addictive beverage, and made it a social phenomenon by giving it fancy names and charging exorbitant prices for it. I remember when people either drank their coffee black or with cream or milk. Then decaffeinated coffee made its debut. Although invented in 1903, and first appearing under the brand name "Sanka" ("sans caffeine"), it didn’t really become all that popular until the 1980’s when non-chemical methods of decaffeination became more common.

I still remember when tall was associated with big. A tall building was usually a big building, and a tall drink was a big drink. Not at Starbucks. I was recently persuaded by a visiting friend to join her at Starbucks -- my first visit ever to a Starbucks. I ordered a “tall” hot chocolate, thinking it was a big cup, but it came in a container that was about the size a nurse would give me for a urine sample. It turns out that I should have ordered a grande hot chocolate in order to get a large one. Starbuck’s marketing has made tall, small. That should make midgets happy. I’ll have the grande condoms please.

Starbucks has taken the basic idea of coffee with milk and called it all sorts of exotic sounding names, depending on how much milk, whether the milk is foam or not, and whatever else is added besides coffee. Evidently if you make something sound expensive and sophisticated, you can sell it for ten times what it’s worth and get away with it – especially to addicts and social status-seekers. (Sorry folks, but what other explanation can there be?)

I decided to try and understand this marketing ploy and started asking questions. It turns out that espresso, as I suspected all along, is just coffee that has been brewed under high-pressure and thus is thicker than regular coffee. Like liquor, it is measured in shots of 1-2 ounces each. You can buy a Jura Capresso Impressa Z6 Espresso Machine for about $3600 from Whole Latte Love, but to do so you would need a whole latte money and a distorted value system.

If you add milk to your espresso, it becomes cappuccino, except that some of the milk needs to be foam. It takes a lot less milk by volume if you make it into foam, so the cost of the ingredients goes down as the foam increases. Thus a cappuccino should be cheaper than an espresso. The percentage of milk, milk foam, and coffee (espresso) determines whether your cappuccino becomes a caffé latte or not. A latté is only one-third espresso and two-thirds steamed milk, so it should be really cheap. Latte is also a computer text language intended to replace HTML, although Latte is now being replaced by Blatte – a better language for transforming text. People who developed these things probably drink too much coffee.

There is caffé latte, which is half milk, half milk foam, and a little bit of espresso. You can also can get a “dry” capppucino, which means it has more foam and less milk. The dryer your cappucino is, the less milk and more foam you get, and the more money Starbucks makes on it. But if you spill it in your lap, it won’t seem very dry.

Caffé macchiato is simply espresso with a tiny bit of steamed milk on top, and latte macchiato is the opposite of caffé macchiato, having a small bit of espresso added to the top of lots of steamed milk. Starbucks adds a bit of caramel sauce to their latte macchiato and calls it “Caramel Macchiato.” Café Mocha is similar to café latte but with a bit of chocolate added. And so on and so on ....

I was recently in a "coffee" establishment in Columbus, Ohio where they sell coffee beans and lots of expensive coffee griders, coffee pots, espresso machines, and many coffee-related equipment that I could not identify. I was visiting friends who drove 30 minutes, one way, to buy their coffee there. The store had 120 different types of coffee beans "for the discriminating coffee drinker." More accurate would be "so coffee addicts can appear sophisticated." If marijuana was legal, they would probably have 120 different kinds of pot. I can see a number of varieties of organic pot being popular.

George Carlin said it best. "The more complicated the Starbucks order, the bigger the asshole. If you walk into a Starbucks and order a "decaf grande, half-soy, half-low fat, iced vanilla, double-shot, gingerbread cappuccino, extra dry, light ice, with one Sweet-n'-Low and one NutraSweet, Oooh, you're a huge asshole."

If you are in Moscow, you can order “кофеий с молоком” and sound sophisticated, save a lot of money, and have coffee with milk. And in China you can order 咖啡用牛奶 but then you’d have to pronounce it. I could go on with this nonsense, but it’s almost 4:30 a.m. and I've not had my Geritol – which, by the way, is cheaper than espresso and a lot better for you. And it is pronounced Geritol everywhere in the world.