Hey Coffee, I Love You

When you go on a climbing or backpacking trip and someone says, “I’ll bring the coffee,” do you secretly bring your own stash to supplement whatever they’re bringing, because you know you’re going to drink double the amount of coffee they think you’re going to drink, and then some? I do too. This is not a control issue; it is a coffee issue.

Do you like coffee? Do you LOVE coffee? How much? Of course, it is not quantifiable. It’s like saying you’re the “#1 Fan” of an NFL football team, which is, of course, not validated by any ranking system. If coffee were a football team, I would be that shirtless guy standing in the end zone stands with my entire body and head painted to match my team’s uniform, going completely batshit for all three televised hours, as if my actions could help my team win. Coffee fuels nearly everything I do in the outdoors, and 100% of the writing I do.

Sometimes I get headaches from not drinking enough coffee. When I am high up on a climbing route and I am calculating how much more time we have until the sun goes down, I perhaps should be worried about things like rappelling down in the dark. Instead I am anxious about more coffee. Will there be a coffee shop open on the way home? If not, where’s the closest convenience store? Will they have coffee, or do they stop making it in the late afternoon? I have several times before spent all day climbing in Eldorado Canyon, sweating my ass off in the sun, and immediately afterward rushed to the Eldorado Market to sit outside and two-fist Gatorade and coffee until I become less of a grizzly bear.

Halfway is all the further I can make it anywhere in the outdoors before I start thinking about my next cup of coffee. We’re at the top of the climb, all the scary leads are done and all we have to do is walk off or rappel down. We’re at the summit of a peak, and ready to turn around and start making our way back to the car. I am thinking about coffee. Where is the good shit, the check-up from the neck up. I am serious. Look at my face. Espresso, french press, drip, pourover. I must have it. I must have it now.

Some people hate Starbucks. I battle with this. Part of me thinks lots of Big Corporate things are bad, but a bigger part of me enjoys the fact that I can get a cup of strong coffee in many places in America that I couldn’t 20 years ago. Of course, on the road, I don’t mind truck stop coffee. It is not the best, but given no other options, I will drink the shit out of that shit. It reminds me a little bit of real coffee.

I have battled a couple addictions in life, and won handily. I am proud of this. I am addicted to coffee, and I am not going to battle it. I am going to embrace it. Last spring, I had stomach pains that my doctor said were either an ulcer or gastritis. He asked how much coffee I drank every day, and I told him, 32 to 40 ounces. He said I might think about decreasing my coffee consumption. I nodded and said OK while a little man inside me made a mean face at him and gave him the finger.

One time last summer when my friend Tommy and I got up hella early to do a climb in Tuolumne, we skipped breakfast, but I mixed together cold water, protein powder and Starbucks Via in a 14-ounce Nalgene bottle and chugged it on the drive to the trailhead. Tommy said he would rather skip coffee than drink cold coffee. I was like, What are you, some kind of savage.

My grandmother is 84 years old, and when we are together for the holidays, I will routinely make a pot of coffee at 7 p.m. after dinner. I ask my grandmother, Grandma, if I make some coffee, will you drink some? She has never said no. My grandmother is awesome.

I paid $9 for a single cup of Japanese siphon coffee a couple weeks ago. It was worth it. Believe it or not, some of the best coffee I’ve had in the western U.S. is at the Bellagio Buffet in Las Vegas. As my pal Jayson said to me, “Leonard, I’d pay 40 bucks just to drink coffee and eat dessert at the Bellagio.” I would too.

You know what the halfway point is on a Rim-to-Rim hike or run in the Grand Canyon? Some people would say the Colorado River, since it’s the bottom of the canyon. In my mind, it is Phantom Ranch, where a cup of not-that-bad coffee is $2. Of which I will pound two before continuing up to the South Rim. If each cup were $15, I would pay that at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, where coffee is an unexpected luxury and a privilege.




Coffee has a Facebook page. It is here if you want to Like it. If you don’t, I may have some issues trusting you. No offense. It’s not you, it’s coffee.


44 replies on “Hey Coffee, I Love You

  • Clayton

    Brendan, I love coffee too! Thanks for the Phantom Menu Pic. I was fortunate enough to work there 04-06 and loaded that coffe machine many, many times! Thanks for the memories.

  • Daniel Sullivan

    Ha, I had quite the chuckle over this post. I am in love with coffee as well. In college, I measured class by how many coffee I would need to drink (eh, this is a two coffee class including the walk). Now my fiance makes fun of me because I keep my jet boil, complete with french press, in my truck in case the off chance occurs where I break down heading over Loveland pass and need a cup of joe while I wait for a tow truck. Great post man.

  • James

    Perfect! I probably drink an embarrassing number of oz’s a day; rather not track it. It’s not only acceptable to me, I love it. I drink basically three things: water, coffee, & beer/wine. That’s it. No pop, no sports drink, no juice, kool-aid, you name it, only those three and I love it. My family doesn’t drink coffee and, truth be told, if you don’t drink coffee I think you’re kind of an alien. Xmas is always an adventure as I have to plan my coffee logistics. Of course, it’s not only Xmas at home, it’s generally everywhere I may be for more than a day’s time. “How and where am I going to get some coffee, dammit?” Awesome post!!!

      • Laura

        I require coffee in similar quantities to oxygen. Love it, love your post, and definitely interested in the protein powder recipe.

        • brendan

          2 packets Starbucks Via
          1 scoop EAS Whey protein powder, chocolate (but I think any protein powder will do)
          12 ounces water
          -Combine ingredients in Nalgene water bottle.
          -Chug as fast as possible, moving the mixture past your taste buds and into your stomach as quickly as possible.
          -I am not saying this tastes good.

          • Zach

            The coffee protein mix is best done with any cold coffee, vanilla whey protein and add milk to taste. Pretty much my breakfast every morning, delicious! Vanilla protein is the key tho, tried it with chocolate and just didn’t taste right. Also, shaker bottles are clutch for getting rid of the chunkiness.

            But then again, you don’t have milk while on the road or trail, haha.

  • Jayson

    This is the single best piece of writing I have read in such a long time. Your doctor doesn’t know squat, lay off the coffee, he’s on crack and you need to find another physician. Your friend Tommy needs to be coffee-boarded with some medium-roast kona. Just sayin.

  • Meghan

    Last fall, my friend and I backpacked a section of the AT. My friend wanted to use every minute of time that I was in the Southeast, so she bought/packed all of the food/drink and gave me a feed bag to load in my backpack between the airport and trailhead. At 11pm, at the trailhead, in the rain, before I would go anywhere, I made her show me the coffee so I knew there was enough to survive 100 wild miles. Without it, I would have otherwise died.

    It is a coffee issue we all share, yes. It’s not like it’s meth or something, though. 😉

  • Jill

    Oh my gosh, Brendan, are you kidding? I never trust anyone else with the coffee. I travel with my french press and coffee stash everywhere I go. Case in point: last week I didn’t bring it – was staying in a civilized city and all – but my host DIDN’T HAVE A COFFEE MAKER. I was so screwed but for the Royal Robbins booth. Lessson: learned.

    Coffee makes everything better. My little coffee kit is worth every ounce of extra weight to carry. Sometimes the only thing that drives me to bed to sleep is the thought that the sooner I sleep, the sooner I can wake up and have coffee.

    Starbucks, though – no. I don’t consider that to be coffee, and, since it’s everywhere, I carry my own.

    You will like Alaska. There is a drive-through coffee stand on every corner and in every town there are at least three. We love our coffee up here. It’s a shared obsession.

    I must really love coffee because this is a long-ass response to your post.

  • Marc Lindenbach

    Imagine my discontent when upon reaching the Phantom Ranch in the wee hours of the morning (6am, maybe) during our R2R2R that Phantom Ranch was not yet open, and it would end up being another 9 hours before I’d have my next brew.

      • Clayton

        I happen to know, that if you arrive that early, you can go to the side window and get coffee, depending on the mood of the breakfast cook.They arrive between 2-3am to start cooking. Just keep it on the DL..Tips will get you a long way, and hey it’s not like you have another choice:)

  • Will

    40 – 56 ounces of coffee a day is what got me through grad school. Now I’m more of a 16 – 24 ounce a day man, but anything less than 12 is an abomination. Just reading this has given me a headache, and I will need to go forage for coffee immediately.


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  • William O. B'Livion

    Might I suggest a small stash of Chocolate Covered Espresso beans?

    Ooohhh..Now here’s a product idea. Instead of peanuts in the middle put espresso beans. That way the chocolate doesn’t melt in the bag.

  • EJ

    I am already conspiring to find out what brand of coffee the Bellagio serves. Nothing as delectable or comforting or pleasurable as a hot sweet smooth cuppa joe. I’ve toured local and Northwestern java joints in search of the best capp (Amante locally, Java Bean in Seattle). I returned from Spain searching for the perfect cafe con leche (not found yet). I’ve gone from buying an occasional good cup as a treat, to a French press (because it lets more natural oils through than bleached paper), to a two cup Mokka pot by Bialetti…in search of crema, still. I recall all the little discoveries inbetween like tasting Illy the first time. Did you know Lander has a drip bar just off Main?

  • Robi Pochapin

    May I humbly suggest my favorite business ever. Sweet Maria’s. A great resource for all things coffee.

  • Chris Hill

    Brilliant writing as ever Brendan! And now, like everyone else here, I am going to have to go get me a cup =)

  • matt sides

    I’m at work at a coffee shop right now (yes I’m slacking a bit if you can’t tell). Just had two cups and a double shot, but your inspiring me to get more.

  • George Vaughan

    “We have but a months rations remaining… …But we still have a large sack of coffee.” -John Wesley Powell

  • Jarita

    Thanks for the post. I am a great coffee lover. I wants drink coffee at any time. Relax time, I am sitting on balcony with espresso coffee. After getting coffee. I ma really more fresh.

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