Credit: Celine Loup

Reader‘s archive is vast and varied, going back to 1971. Every day in Archive Dive, we’ll dig through and bring up some finds.

In 2012, Kevin Warwick, then 31, was among the 20 percent of American adults without a regular caffeine habit. He’d abstained since high school when “an obscene Mountain Dew intake . . . forced my cracked-out teenage brain to escape my skull and float off to distant neverlands.”

But that fall he decided to conduct a semicontrolled experiment to see if coffee had magical powers to increase his powers of concentration and make him a more productive worker without turning him into a nervous freak. For two weeks, he tracked his daily coffee consumption, slowly advancing from instant Folgers to Starbucks to the heady heights of Intelligentsia.

My longest and blankest stare at a coffee menu just happened. Big day. I eventually ask a barista for his recommendation for a novice coffee drinker, and he begins by repping the Flecha Roja Costa Rica, which I order before he even finishes his spiel. One week in and flavor deconstructions like “cherry, orangeade, and pomegranate up front with refreshing acidity and a long brown finish” haven’t started registering, so he can hold his breath. My palate is a few dozen car lengths shy of catching up to subtle hints of dark chocolate or jicama or lemongrass or whatever. Plus my tongue is a barren wasteland, scorched by near-boiling temperatures over the past week.

But by the end of the experiment, Warwick has learned to stop worrying and love the bean. On the way to enlightenment, he tours some of the city’s finest coffee establishments—all of which are still around—and learns a bit about why we’re all so damned addicted. Not that knowing what’s going on helps him stave off the inevitable.

I decide to settle into a groove that will allow me to rationalize my continued use of a “psychoactive substance” that only weeks earlier I considered unnecessary. Coffee helped me to think outside the stuffy confines of my long-familiar box. Or to, you know, not feel dead inside.

I’m comatose on the train and my thoughts are static, because I haven’t had coffee yet this morning. (Yes, I’m that dude now.) I walk briskly to Caffe Streets on Division, order a 12-ounce pour-over of Kenyan roast, sip on it, and stroll back to the Blue Line with a lazy ease. There’s a certain comfort in walking with a hot, steaming beverage in hand on a cold day. Plus I know I’m about to be made functional. The taste no longer reminds me of sweaty basketballs. It’s actually familiar. I want to drink this.