I just love coffee. Truth be told, my coffee drinking represents my major source of my water intake. Another truth be told, I guess I’m not a “real” coffee drinker because I don’t like it black – I love my flavored creamers. I’ve drunk lots and lots of different coffee types and brands ranging from the major store brands to the Hawaiian and Costa Rican coffees to the Saudi coffee which is more like a tea/coffee combo (thank you Linda). My wife and I agree though on our favorite coffee; Doka Estates in Costa Rica, their peaberry roast. Can I tell the difference between the various roasts and brands? I just know what I like. Can I tell decaffeinated from ‘the real thing’? Not if it’s a great tasting decaf blend like Cafe Britt’s of Costa Rica.
I once worked with a couple of young guys though who claimed they could tell the difference between regular and decaffeinated coffee. Really? Let’s see….
This is my first story from my foundry years. I worked for a small family owned iron foundry from 1979 to 1987. I will have a number of stories from this time period as there were a number of characters and experiences worth recording from my days with H.P. Deuscher Foundry of Hamilton, Ohio.
When I worked there, the foundry was run primarily by two brothers and a cousin. One of the brothers was a VP and Treasurer. A very nice and respectable man, a stutterer, and a pretty intelligent individual, Earl had a heart attack at a fairly early age. I believe he was in his early 50’s, not yet ready to bite the big one so his heart attack was a message to slow down, to stress down. Among many changes, his doctor asked him to get off of caffeine. So in an act of solidarity, we all in the office area moved over to decaffeinated coffee in our coffee pot.
I wasn’t much of a coffee drinker back then. I had only begun and really I drank mostly to help keep warm in the wintertime. I couldn’t tell the difference between a regular cup of Joe or one without caffeine. Even today, if it’s a tasty decaf, I’m doubtful I could tell the difference. At the foundry, we had been off of the hard stuff for perhaps a month or two when my two buddies began chatting one morning about going out for some “real coffee”.
Rob Thompson was a son of Bob, our President. By profession, Rob was a stock trader, living in Chicago. Occasionally when Rob became a little disillusioned or bored with trading, he would come down to Hamilton, Ohio to live and work for his family at the foundry. I liked Rob a great deal. He had a good sense of humor and demonstrated respect to everyone he came in contact with.
Joe was my helper. Just in case he is still sensitive about this tale and accidentally stumbles upon my story, I’m keeping his last name private. Joe was two years younger than I and my sense was that he had taken a clerking position with us during a transition between high school and college. He was a smart kid and likable but was a tad sensitive when teased. A lot of teasing went on at the foundry, both in the office and out in the main operation. If you were one who displayed any weakness for teasing, well then you could expect more than your fair share of ribbing.
There was a coffee shop just down the street, Brewer’s Coffee Shop. Rob and Joe had had enough of the fake stuff, the decaf. So one Friday morning they began chatting out-loud that we all ought to go down the street to get some real coffee. Several of us replied that we really couldn’t tell the difference, so how could they? Both Rob and Joe described feeling a bit euphoric due to the intake of the wonderful legal substance called caffeine. We all thought it was a bunch of bull, but they swore that they could tell a difference. They both said that they would experience a feeling almost like a “high” and then would ‘come down’ when the drug wore off. (Right, I thought).
Rob and Joe were the most vocal pair in the office that day and they finally vowed to take a break to head over to Brewer’s. They were sick and tired of drinking our lame decaf and damn it, today they were going to enjoy a buzz! The mission – to satisfy their lust for caffeine by heading over to Brewer’s for a large cup of the real stuff to go. Out the door they went.
Well, if you’ve read a few of my earlier stories like burn em (read me) or What’s that Smell (read me), then you know I am not above a good practical joke at your expense. There were about 4 or 5 of us left in the office after our boys headed out the door. I picked up the phone and called Brewer’s. The phone was answered by a middle-aged sounding lady.
“Brewer’s Coffee Shop”.
Me – “hi there, this is Rob over at Deuscher Foundry. Do you guys have Sanka over there?”
“Sure, we have Sanka.”
Me – great! There are two young guys headed over your way right now and we’d like to play a joke on them. They’re going to order a couple of coffees to go. Can you see that they get Sanka and not “real coffee”? We want to make sure they get decaffeinated coffee. Can you do that for us? Do you need me to describe them to you?
“Are they cute?”
Me – um, yeah, I guess they’re cute. They’re both pretty young.
“Oh, we won’t miss them then, honey. We’ll make sure they get decaf, don’t you worry”
About 15-20 minutes later, our boys returned to the office, toting their large coffee cups and wearing smiles, bragging about how good the coffee tasted. All of us in the office were in on the secret so we let them go on and on about how good the coffee was and occasionally one of us would egg them on, making comments here and there about how we can’t tell the difference so we don’t think they could.
Eventually….it became time to move in for the kill. First though, I picked up the phone and called over to Brewer’s. I said – hi, this is Rob. Did our boys get Sanka?
Waitress – yes sir, I made it myself. You were right, they were cuties!
Ok, they got Sanka…thanks so much!
I had let 20 minutes or so go by after seeing Joe finish his cup of Joe. After all, he had to have time for ‘the drug’ to kick in, didn’t he?
So Joe….seriously…can you really tell the difference between the decaf we’ve been drinking and the real stuff you guys went and got?
“Yeah, I can”.
How ’bout you Rob?
“Yeah, I think so”.
Meanwhile, the rest of the office is listening in and trying to keep straight faces.
So I’m curious Joe, how can you tell? What are you feeling right now?
Joe – “It’s weird. It’s almost like being drunk or high. I feel a light buzz right now.”
This was too much to handle. I was smiling real big and others in the office were snickering out loud at this point. He then said, “what…what did you do?”
Me – “we couldn’t resist….we called over to Brewer’s and had them make Sanka for you guys”.
Joe – “no you didn’t”.
Me – yeah, we did.
About 20 seconds of silence from Joe went by and meanwhile we’re all having a good chuckle at his expense. Finally, he says – you’re just as bad as everyone else out there (a reference to the teasers in the factory).
Me – sorry Joe, we couldn’t resist after you and Rob went on and on about the ‘real coffee’ and all.
Then Joe and I walked out to the Lab where Rob was and Joe sprung the news on Rob. Rob started laughing. He loved a good joke and he knew he had been had and was guilty of raving about how good the real coffee was. He came back into the main office so everyone else could enjoy his embarrassment. He was laughing and congratulating us on the joke – “that’s a good one, maybe the best one of us have ever pulled”. (Joe however was not too happy – he didn’t enjoy being the brunt of the joke).
After a couple of days had gone by, Joe finally cooled off and laughed at himself. He admitted the Sanka Switch, (as it became known as), was a great prank. He said he felt embarrassed and was surprised because he really thought he could tell he difference. Then he laughed and told me that I better watch my ass. 🙂