My Caffeine Addiction, Family Traditions, And Genetics

My Keurig doesn’t quite cut it in the morning. I’m sure the caffeine output is the same as any other coffee maker, and the coffee is outstandingly average, but every morning something is missing. It may be sleek, modern, and convenient for the college student cooking for one, but it’s too quiet.

The hiss and gurgle of a pot of coffee make me think of my dad. In my house, the coffee maker stays quiet and tucked away on the back counter weekdays, my father out the door long before my brothers and I would even think of stirring. My mother, a tea drinker, allows the whistle of the teakettle to satisfy the strange human craving for something warm in the morning.

Although I didn’t really start drinking coffee until high school (and didn’t develop a full-fledged caffeine dependence until college), the ritual of coffee was always pleasing to me. In my house, the smell of coffee wafting through the air meant Saturday mornings, sausage, and soccer games. But it also meant Dad and the promise of the adventures that only seem to happen when the days are open and the whole family is together.

Turns out, ritual is not solely to blame for my physical dependence on caffeine. A new study led by Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital researchers shows that genetics may also be to blame. The study was published in Molecular Psychiatry on Tuesday looked at 120,000 regular coffee consumers and identified six loci associated with habitual coffee consumption.

These genes weren’t related to taste buds, either. Rather, they were primarily genes linked to the stimulating effects caffeine causes or metabolism. The faster a person is able to metabolize caffeine, the more likely they are to be a heavy caffeine drinker. The more of these loci a person has, the more likely they are to be heavy caffeine consumers.

While the implications of the study have yet to be determined, when the study popped up in the headlines it made me take note. Scientific proof of something that I had always assumed was ingrained by habit always makes me pause and think.

No matter how minor or common coffee drinking may seem, a tiny sliver of me had an identity crisis. Does the genetic evidence negate my situation in a tradition? Maybe. But not enough that I’m willing to disassociate even so trivial from a ritual that has taken place for years before I came around.

The old coffee maker on my countertop at home creaks and groans as it starts to heat up the water, almost as if it is as begrudging being awake and beginning to work just as much as its bleary-eyed owner. Mechanical clicks whirr inside of it, too loud for any modern appliance but not enough to cause alarm, it just means the coffeemaker is getting to work. The water winds itself through the grounds, emitting a babble to let the impatient caffeine addict know that its coffee is on its way into the awaiting empty mug.

The coffee is finally welcomed into the pot with a satisfying hiss and the gradual minimization of sound that occurs when liquid slowly fills an empty vessel.

Best accompanied by the rustle of the newspaper and a barking dog, this little strain of caffeinated music is the sound track of weekends at home.

It is the sound of my childhood, in a way.

Despite owning my own coffee maker, having the money to fund my designer coffee cravings at the closest Starbucks, working the same hours as him this summer, the trusty old coffee maker offers something none of those other things can—mediocre coffee and memories of my dad.

Featured Image Courtesy of MorgueFile 

About Maggie Powers 29 Articles
Maggie Powers was the 2015 Managing Editor. She is forever indebted to The Heights for sparking her love of design, sweatshirts with thumbholes, and making her realize she should have been professional and used her real name Regan all along.