THE BLOG

They May Take Our Lives, But They'll Never Take Our Espresso Beans

09/05/2013 12:51 BST | Updated 08/07/2013 10:12 BST

My latest ex-pat dispatch from the Land of the Free concerns an outrageous impingement of, well, freedom - at least for those people who, like myself, are confessed espresso addicts.

While perusing the website of The Atlantic (to which I subscribe) I noticed that one of the top ten posts was this little gem on potential government regulation...not of firearms, which is the most contentious topic in American politics, but of caffeine.

The writer does a fine job of explaining why the FDA is thinking of investigating and regulating caffeinated products. Now, my own tipple of choice is not one of the synthetic caffeine drinks that contain enough of the stuff to kill a horse, but rather good ol' java. My wife thinks I love my Gaggia Classic and MDF grinder a little too much, and she's probably right. But the ability to get a double-shot pick-me-up with freshly roasted beans (thanks, Kansas City's finest, the Roasterie) without leaving the house is both a path to Re-Caffeination Happy Land and a welcome excuse to get my eyes off my laptop screen. And, while my meager skills won't get me an invite to the World Barista Championships any time soon, I enjoy the process of grinding, tamping and sipping.

Yes, I am an aspiring espresso geek who is too spoiled to have any hope of surviving another Great Depression. But hey, everyone needs a hobby, right, and I like it that mine is an unregulated one. At least for now.

The first indicator I encountered that my age old right to drink espresso might be under threat (there must be a section of the Bill of Rights or US Constitution that covers this, surely) was on a trip to California last year. I ordered a couple of iced Americanos at a Starbucks in San Diego and when the green-aproned employee called my name, I went up to collect my drink and my wife's. A sign on the counter diverted my eyes away from the awaiting Caffeine Delivery Mechanism (henceforth, CDM). A promo for a new seasonal coffee? Maybe some manner of sugary temptation to get me back to the till? Nope. Instead a terrifyingly-worded warning that the beverage I was about to consume contained a compound "known to the [Nanny] State of California to cause cancer and reproductive toxicity."

A while ago, a libertarian friend warned me that the Obama administration "is coming for whatever you're into next." My day of reckoning was upon me.

Once safely back in Kansas, where such hyper-interventionist, Prop 65 silliness is thankfully not entertained, I forgot about the overbearing sign, at least once I'd e-mailed a pic of it and a mocking caption to a few friends who share my love of the Good Bean and share my suspicion of over-regulation.

But the article from Mr. Hamblin at The Atlantic has reopened my worry vault. I salute his balanced reporting, but fret over future regulation from the federal government. Will I have to obtain a license to buy a pound of espresso beans? Sign a waiver before I pay? Start some kind of speakeasy where my friends and family can enjoy a cup o' Joe on my now-illegal equipment away from the ever-watchful gaze of Big Brother at the National Central Bureau for the Synergized Prevention of Caffeinated Enjoyment and Merriment?

Certainly, I think it's a crazy choice for parents to get their kids hooked on a daily diet of caffeinated beverages, whether those be in a can or a coffee pot. I'm certainly not giving double espressos to my three- and six-year-old sons because I don't think kids should consume more caffeine than is in the occasional piece of dark chocolate. Personally, I will also stick to the natural sources of caffeine - i.e. tea and coffee - instead of downing sickly sweet artificial CDMs (like the pretentious acronym?). But, to follow my friend's line of live-and-let-live thinking, it should remain a choice. If the US government starts meddling with this then, what, indeed, is next?

(Side note: In this fine book, David Liss describes better than anyone the sensation of caffeine hitting the nervous system. Just one of the many reasons to read his work).