When did it all begin? When did we humans first have the strange idea that you can eat and drink while walking? Was it during the time we learned to produce Linear Ware and smelt metal? It started with unspeakable coffee shops. At the beginning we female authors sneered at the transformation of literary cafes into uncomfortable barstool coffee hubs, too uncomfortable even for a short stay. As with the invention of the automobile we thought: That will never take hold!
Being handed the first paper cup we felt like we were in the isolation ward of a church hospital. Coffee and tea in paper cups! We thought about the loss of flavour – sacrilege for a connoisseur! Flavour is a landscape, distance, foreign lands and their sun, their water, their flowers, captured in the specific flavour of the region where a certain coffee or tea grows. As with good wine, in the coffee flavour we taste the world that surrounds the fruit. The tea’s soul, the coffee’s soul is its flavour.
Just put a sippy-cup lid on it so we can sip while sitting despite early aging! Simply degrading. No, we were certain it wouldn’t catch on.
That was a time when the art of living had meaning, when people yearned for India and the idea of idleness was a key factor of fulfilment. Lifestyle is different from artful living; longing for India is not tantamount to a yoga retreat in Goa; idleness isn’t Netflix; and the flavour of coffee is not a new robusta variety you taste along with the paper cup.
Now we know. We were proven wrong. Both with the automobile and life on the go. Coffee to-go spread, as so many strange things do in Germany, like Pegida, where one persists in thinking: No way, that’ll play itself out, it’s silly!
I used to sit in the sun-kissed garden of a literary cafe where I would write my book, and the old trees on Fasanenstrasse were teaming with sparrows. They would land on my table and hop across the keyboard.
43,000 trees are cut down every year to produce paper cups for German to-go drinkers, who then hold them in their hands for 15 minutes. 15 minutes!
How slowly time used to pass while sitting and sipping, thinking and writing. 43,000 trees – that’s too much for me! Trees in which birds once nested, where we sought shade in the summer, under which we loved one another. For more than 15 minutes.
Producing these paper cups requires 1.5 billion litres of water. I can’t even fathom that. I found the conversion for the water requirement for 32,000 people in Germany per year in a reliable source. For 15 minutes.
I went up Teuefelsberg, above Teufelssee – on the weekend you can see very far across the city, if somewhere in the grey of Berlin a bit of spring is springing, a leaf, a blade of grass, if there is a dusting of light green in the Grunewald. Going up the hill I walked past paper cups. I sat next to paper cups in the scraggly yellow grass, and watched people drinking from paper cups behind me as they beheld nature, stroked their dogs and threw their paper cups away. In the bare bushes: more obscene cups. It was a dreadful sight. Sometimes nature is hard to bear when it is for its life in the city. I went home, afflicted. On the S-Bahn tracks: paper cups that had most likely thrown themselves down there out of despair regarding their short, useless existence. In the garbage cans there was no more room. An urban nomad was groping around beneath them for bottles.
320,000 cups an hour. In the hour I am writing this. Per day by the time I go to bed: 7.5 million cups in Germany.
And people continue walking around with their paper cups like the spoils of a hunt, a hunt for performance, for enhanced performance, for an enlivening buzz after a long long night. Our brain delights in manipulating us. The sense of pleasure that comes from the mini-high has to be quickly repeated. Approximately two hours after the pleasure it slows our circulation down again, inducing a mini-withdrawal. Our brain possesses us, tempting us with things we think we need.
We cannot always see through its machinations. We often think we can influence its work!
The coffee’s effect is waning. Fatigue sets in. Yawning. Headache. First a bit of chocolate. No help. Something else that’s sweet. Blood sugar yo-yoing. Sweets make you fat. Coffee, so we think, doesn’t. So we have another cup, and drink it on the go to save time. Before yoga, after yoga, on the way to work, on the way home, on the way to the movies, in the car, in the train, while walking, in the bus, in the movies, everywhere.
From a therapeutic perspective it should be added that our digestion doesn’t like us wandering around when ingesting. Our stomach does not have eyes! It regards the swinging and squashing as rather perilous. It doesn’t see that we’re sucking on our cups in the car or on our bikes. It only senses that everything is moving and that agitates it. As a precaution it goes ahead and releases more acid. You never know! In motion the intestines also become disoriented. They only work right when we let the rest of our body relax, that goes for the mind, too. Then it gets enough blood and attention and checks up on what has showed up throughout the day, boggling at all the air and acid.
Where there’s coffee in to-go cups there is usually much more you can scoff down on the go: fatty, sweet, non-perishable. Wraps and cheesecake, waffles and ciabatta rolls, vegan sushi rolls and fried Greek tomato bread.
Non-drip for your carsharing ride.
No peace of mind!
Food you’ve eaten under stress stays a lot longer in your stomach, so you don’t need as much. Some foods to-go have been chopped to a pulp so all you have to do is swallow them. And the smart blogs go on showcasing that as detoxifying. However, Chinese and Indian medicine, which we call alternative medicine, maintain that all food that is not consumed sitting in a peaceful atmosphere stresses the digestive system, creating poison due to an inability to digest. And that isn’t detoxifying; it’s the lack of peace and consciousness that causes the release of cortisol. It makes you fat and strains digestion via a disproportionate interplay of absorption, release of digestive juices, peristalsis and evacuation processes. Quality of sleep is the first red alert for digestion we’ve made sluggish by being on the go! Waking up at 4 AM with a furry feeling on your tongue, sleep-onset insomnia due to bloating, or waking up feeling hungover – these are all signs of weak digestion and a restless life.
Luckily there’s an easy solution!
Sit and eat.
Or drink coffee from the thermos on the weekend with friends in the park on a picnic blanket while discussing how to save the world. We won’t exactly be able to change it, but we can change ourselves.