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Let Me Get My Fix

If you want my coffee, come and take it out of my cold, dead hands.

In 1883, the food scientists at Coca-Cola convened. The agenda item to discuss: whether to revise their award-winning secret recipe. They showed up to work, met in a boardroom with a long, solid oak table, and conversed casually. With a mouth half-full of croissant, one scientist said to the other, “Should we probably not be putting cocaine in our cola?”

After a long pause and a stare out the window, the other scientist looked earnestly at the first and said, “You’re fired. You have until the end of the day to empty your desk.”

Good riddance. That guy sucked.

It would not be another 20 years until Tijuana tango powder was removed from a drink meant for children.

Of course we would never do that in this day and age! Can you believe a company would put such an addictive drug in a mass-produced product?

Bam bam in cola is a no-no. Caffeine in coffee is a Tuesday.

Thank your favorite star sign that caffeine is legal. According to Drive Research, 74% of Americans drink coffee every day. God bless America.

What would happen if the world collectively stopped cultivating, producing, and selling coffee?

Imagine the entire world, metaphorically, as a stack of bricks in the shape of an upside down pyramid that’s precariously perched on a single keystone. If removed, that single keystone would create an avalanche and send all of society into calamity. That keystone is, you guessed it, 100% arabica coffee.

Arguably, there is only one thing worse than Americans not being able to grind some beans in the morning and start their day. That is if one day some Harry-Potter looking dork blasts out of his cubicle down into the streets to announce that Microsoft Excel hasn’t been calculating correctly for 40 years.

Atlas shrugged. Nay, he shook the planet. Give the man his go-go motor oil.

How do you think we raised the minimum working age and still blew the brakes off Europe for the last couple hundred years? That’s right. Bean juice. Statistically speaking, a caffeinated 18-year old can work three times as fast as two Victorian eight year olds in a textile mill.

When you put a little bit of that Columbian diesel in my mug, I’m not gonna lie, I feel butterflies below the belt. Makes my knees buckle and my upper lip sweat. Especially a nitro cold brew. 98 octane fuel, baby. Starbucks isn’t legally allowed to sell you a venti nitro cold brew because they’re afraid you’ll be too successful and rise up.

Do you know why they don’t have Starbucks in the jungle?

You might be thinking to yourself “because it’s fraught with operational risk and there’s no serviceable addressable market.

Silence, nerd.

They don’t have Starbucks in the jungle because if the local ape population got their opposable foot thumbs on coffee a.k.a. black-gold java, they would be in charge.

That’s right. The only reason why human beings are at the top of the food chain is because we figured out how to brew coffee before the fish people from Atlantis did.

Oh yeah man that’s too bad, fish people would be dope. Once again, the reader is always wrong. Do you really want to be sending your work deliverables at three o’clock in the morning to a 6-foot-tall koi fish? I thought not.

Think about it. Have you ever seen a dog drive a car? Follow-up question: have you ever seen a dog drink an Americano? Interesting that the answer to both of these questions is…no.

(PSA: Dump your coffee in the garbage can. If it goes down the wrong pipe we might have tadpoles—with serious demands—crawling out the sewer drains.)

Wow, he really likes his coffee, huh?

First off, I’d like to start by saying I can quit anytime I want. Seriously.

The reader may be thinking to themselves, Well then why don’t you start today?

Why don’t you get your nosy ass out of my business? Who the hell reads the newspaper anymore? This newspaper is my domain. Be gone.

I will defend my habit, though.

I would argue that I’m a product of my environment… and major corporations… and the University. It’s their fault for pushing coffee at every street corner. Also, I’m a very simple man. If you show me an advertisement for something enough times, I will buy it!

This begs a bigger question, sweet reader. Is it morally bankrupt that businesses or even *cough* the Spangler coffee bar *cough* can sell us a habit-forming product?


Alex Mazzaferro (MBA ’25) is from Chicago. He graduated from the University of Alabama in 2019. Prior to HBS, he worked in strategy and ventures.

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