My Run-in with an International Criminal Coffee Organization

In other words, why I don’t really drink coffee anymore


When I’m bored, I wander and when I wander, I stumble. Usually into trouble. That’s exactly what happened on boring summer day. I stumbled right into a coffee shop and bought myself a coffee. Buying the coffee didn’t get me into trouble. Joining an underground criminal coffee organization and the subsequent doom that transpired did get me into trouble.

*****

It’s just shy of 11:30 a.m. Eastern Standard Time and the scene at this coffee shop is exactly what I wanted. A muddle of people, all muddling about. This coffee shop isn’t just any coffee shop. It’s a coffee bar. The manic mingling and socially socializing was masked by the soft atmospheric sounds of calmness playing from the speakers and a tender wisp of air that danced through the foyer. Behind the rush of caffeinated patrons was the feint clinking sound of glasses being clinked and the “pssshhht” sound of brew being brewed.

I waddle through the crowd like a wind-up toy, robotically weaving through everyone and place my hands on the dark roasted counter. I smile at the barista. Baristas are a wealth of knowledge. If you listen long enough, they’ll always teach you a thing or two. More often than not, it’s something you don’t want to be educated in.

“Is it happy hour?” I ask the barista. “What?” She didn’t get my joke. I look at the menu, which is scribbled on a gigantic mirror with chalk marker. The overwhelming confusion of looking at myself looking confused, made the menu very hard to read. I don’t see “ice coffee” on the menu but I ask for it anyway. “I’ll have an ice coffee please,” I say still smiling. The entitled patron to my rear pokes me and says, “it’s called Kyoto-style cold brew, idiot.” “Thanks,” I say. I’m no coffee connoisseur but I’m smart enough to know it takes a connoisseur on a different subject to know that.

I see the barista go behind the counter to a beer tap and twist something. The whole place shakes violently as my cup slowly fills. I look around but no one seemed to notice, I guess everyone here has the shakes anyways. Coffee is doing what coffee does, caffeinating.

My coffee

“I asked for a coffee not a beer!” I say jokingly. “That’s four dollars please,” the barista says handing me my coffee. She didn’t get my joke. “Geesh, four dollars for a coffee?” I say taking a few extra dollars out of my wallet. “Yea this is Kyoto-style coffee, it’s carefully brewed, with a Japanese slow-drip cold coffee brewer, brewing a concentrate of patiently wrought coffee one drip at a time. The variable of lots of time, not lots of temperature, extracts a brew that’s more subtle and aromatic than any other cold brew method,” she condescendingly condescends.

“Wow one drip at a time? That must take forever,” I say. “I’m surprised you aren’t charging me $10 for this, what a deal!” She hands me the coffee as she gleans over and nods at a tall mysterious man.

I sit down next to this mysterious man, cherishing all the craftsmanship that went into my Kyoto-style cold brew. In my cherishing, a question strikes me. Why is beer more expensive than coffee? I’m no economist but an economist would say something like “it’s supply and demand” or “there’s no such thing as free lunch.” Well than Mr. Economist, isn’t there as much of a demand in the peak hours of the morning for coffee as there is during a late night for a beer? Those economics don’t make sense.

I look over to the mysterious man. Upon further inspection, he’s even more mysterious than my first impression calculated. From hat to boot he’s hidden beneath brown tweed and I can tell by his reticence that he’s up to no good. He’s not really drinking his coffee as much as he’s inspecting it. Using his straw to poke the ice cubes gently and then violently, scribbling furiously into his notebook. Seemingly recording every physical reaction like a scientist.

A scientist most certainly has a degree, maybe even a PhD. So he ought to have a thoughtful opinion. “Hey, have you ever wondered why coffee isn’t as expensive as beer?” I ask.

He looks at me and says, “There isn’t much time. The density of the cubes in this coffee is 1.054205 g/cm3, a 15% increase from only a week ago! Quickly we must go, come with me.”

In the excitement of it all, I grab my coffee and follow him. “So where are we going?” I say taking a sip from my coffee. “Don’t drink that,” he says slapping the coffee out of my hand. “Hey man, I paid four dollars for that!” I shout. “You’ll thank me later, that coffee is explosive,” he says.

I follow him several blocks. At each corner I ask, “What exactly do you mean my coffee is explosive?” To which he replies, “You’re asking too many questions!” I have only asked him one question, although I asked it several times over. So I suppose he’s right.

The graffiti coffee cup

We walk by a wholesale store with a large graffiti coffee cup spray-painted onto the brick outside the building. The cup is outlined in pink with a few initials scribbled below. I suspect this is where we are going but we walk past the entrance. Then, we walk past the second entrance. And then, the third. Finally, we arrive at the back entrance. The “I’m up to no good entrance.” The door has that same graffiti coffee cup spray-painted on it. We cautiously creep in and make our way through the produce section hiding behind banana stands and ducking behind tables of fruit. The mysterious man moves ahead, resting against a shelf of lettuce. He starts giving me tactical hand signals. I think they mean all clear so I begin to walk forward but he throws up his hands. “I said stay!” He shouts stuffing me under another produce table. A tubby beer deliveryman walks past. “Ok now we can go,” he says. We cautiously creep into the coffee section where there’s an enclosed array of shelves filled with bags of coffee beans and a large coffee grinder. He opens the lid of the coffee grinder and whispers, “C.U.P.”

The coffee beans avalanche onto the ground submerging us in a pool of aroma. The shelves unlock and twist, slowly turning and enclosing around us. The shelves slid in filling the ground floating us top of the coffee beans. For a second it’s fun but then then we begin to spin. Faster and faster. The floor beneath us drops slowly and we spin more violently, like a coffee grinder. We’re sucked down into the whirlpool of coffee beans, still spinning. I lose consciousness.

I wake up in a pile of freshly ground coffee. I wipe the coffee grinds off my eyes and open them, revealing a large underground lair. There’s hundreds of men and women wearing brown tweed suits. They are in assembly lines, polishing coffee cups and placing large brown cubes into them. Several scientist-looking scientist pour a black liquid into each cup. They all look up and everything pauses.

“Welcome to C.U.P.,” one of the scientists says in a thick accent. “You guys are the cops?” I ask. “No, C.U.P., it stands for Coffee Uranium Physics, a department of the Organization of Economic Blunders,” the mysterious man says from behind me. “What does a physics have to do with economics?” I ask. “For a long time the Organization of Economic Blunders has been working with C.U.P. to find a resolution to an economic blunder that must be stopped. It just so happened that you began questioning about that very blunder this morning.” He says. “And what is that?” I say. “You asked why coffee isn’t as expensive as beer. That question is our top priority for the Organization of Economic Blunders. Although, not many have faith in our cause, notably the government. The Bureau of Alcohol Rights or B.A.R. has been in the pockets of the government for years. They must be stopped. We recruited C.U.P. to create an experimental coffee that will demand action.” He explains.

“This is starting to sound like flimflam to me, so you’re a group of criminals creating mysterious uranium coffee?” I say.

“Yes, we believe you are the chosen one to carry out our mission. The government has been keeping a close watch on our activities and we’ve been looking for a ‘regular joe’ to activate our device without suspicion. Our coffee doomsday device will surely put things into perspective for you,” he says.

“Geppetto, bring out the coffee doomsday device,” he says.

A short wirer-y looking man wheels out a large gadget.

The coffee doomsday device
Image: Maori Sakai

It looks magnificent. It’s resting on a platform with a large spring base attached to a thermometer. The whole thing is intertwined by a bunch of gears and gauges. A windmill is spinning on its side and a light bulb on the top of the base flickers. There’s a large tubular pot with three gauges whizzing as the accordion spring beneath it breathes. Several small tubes are transporting black liquid into the pot. Protruding from the front is a long spout, dripping the black liquid into a coffee cup filled with brown cubes of ice. At the bottom is a lever, in a downward position. The label above it reads “coffee price.”

“It’s magnificent isn’t it?” The mysterious man says. “Yea it’s pretty cool, what does it do?” I ask. “Soon, you will find out. But first, let me ask you a few questions,” he says.

“Sure ok, shoot.” I say.

“What type of coffee do you drink? Black or with cream?” He asks.

“Medium.”

“That didn’t answer my question”

“Sorry.”

“How many cups do you drink a day?”

“One, only on Saturday.”

“Why is that?”

“It’s expensive.”

“How much do you spend on coffee?”

“Depends.”

“On what?”

“How expensive beer is that night.”

“So the price of beer and coffee are directly related?”

“Yea I mean if I’m drinking cheap beer or there’s a happy hour special that night I’ll splurge on a coffee but if I’m drinking classy or heavily that night, I gotta make some financial cuts in the A.M. Simple economics really.”

“Exactly right, you answered all of my questions correctly.”

“Ok so now let me explain this device to you. This machine produces coffee that will explode when sold at a cheap price. Once you press this detonator it will result in the explosion of nearly all the world’s coffee, causing a shortage, driving prices up. Simple economics. You see that’s why your coffee this morning was so dangerous it was $4, that’s far too cheap.” He says.

“I see, so you want to rest the fate of the world’s coffee solely on my shoulders?” I ask.

“Precisely,” he says.

“I’m in,”

He hands me the detonator and sends me on my way.

To this day I haven’t pressed it… I just don’t really drink coffee anymore.

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