Rich, complex, and delicious
April 5, 2010
by Ivan Raconteur

Some new products are beyond my comprehension.

One of these is the Le Whif coffee inhaler.

Developed by Harvard Professor of Biomedical Engineering David Edwards, the device promises “the kick of coffee without the cup.”

For those deficient in gracefulness or balance, the Le Whif also promises “coffee that never spills on your shirt.”

The product consists of a patented biodegradable dispenser that looks similar to a lipstick container.

The user places his lips on the tube and inhales, causing a shower of fine particles of coffee to rain down on his tongue.

There are about eight puffs per container, and each container holds about 100 milligrams of caffeine, about the same as a shot of espresso.

The coffee inhaler is marketed as a fun device, and a convenience for those who are too busy to stop for a cup of coffee.

It seems that people who are that busy might want to re-evaluate their priorities.

There may be some novelty value to this product, but I would rather have the real thing.

For the price of $3 each, or $8 for a box of three coffee inhalers, I would just as soon buy an actual cup of coffee, which is what I want in the first place, rather than something that is supposed to give me “the experience” of enjoying one.

Too often these days, people try to sell us illusion over substance, and we have to draw the line somewhere.

A shower of coffee particles on my tongue will never replace the bliss of a real cup of Joe.

Coffee, at its best, is rich, complex, and delicious.

Something tells me a coffee inhaler could never measure up to the smell of freshly-brewed coffee wafting across a campsite while I sit and watch the mist rise off the river on a Minnesota summer morning.

An inhaler can’t possibly warm one’s spirit on a gray and rainy afternoon the way a beaker of coffee can.

Under no circumstances will a plastic inhaler ever replace the camaraderie that comes from sharing a pot of good coffee with an old friend (or a new friend, come to that).

Inhalers will never thaw our bones after a morning of shoveling snow, or welcome us like the aroma of coffee that might greet one when entering the kitchen on a winter morning.

I concede that a coffee inhaler might replace some sort of coffee experience, but not the best type of coffee experience.

Coffee is more than a caffeine delivery vehicle (although this aspect is no doubt part of its appeal).

Coffee is a social institution.

Labor unions have fought to have coffee breaks inserted into the workday.

Coffee even has a cake named after it.

People around the world have been enjoying coffee since the 15th century, perhaps even longer.

There are various stories about how the love affair between people and this delightful beverage started.

My favorite is the one that describes how a shepherd (or rather, a goatherd) found his goats dancing joyously around a shrub with dark green leaves and bright red cherries, a sight that would cause anyone to stop and take notice.

He worked out that it was the cherries (which we know as coffee beans) that were causing this peculiar euphoria, so he sampled some himself to see what all the excitement was about.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Whether or not it is true, it is still a pretty good story.

Judging by the fact that people consume several hundred billion cups of java every year, it seems that a good percentage of the world’s population probably doesn’t care how coffee was discovered; they are just glad that it was.

I must confess, at the risk of being indelicate, that there is one area in which the new coffee inhalers could be of value.

They might help over-the-road truckers or other motorists on long road trips stay alert without requiring so many visits to roadside rest areas.

I have got to believe, however, that a spray of coffee powder on the tongue would eventually cause one to work up a powerful thirst, requiring one to consume copious amounts of some other liquid, which would, of course, defeat the purpose.

Coffee has come under attack in recent years. While it may have some beneficial components, Doctors still tell us to reduce our caffeine consumption, just as they want us to cut out anything else that is palatable or fun.

Still, for many of us, coffee is as important as it ever was. It enriches our lives, and makes some otherwise insufferable people bearable.

It brightens our mornings and warms our spirits. It can give us an attitude adjustment, an afternoon pick-me-up, or help us finish a late-night project on-deadline, and it is likely to continue doing so no matter what the medical community says.

Coffee inhalers may be a new way for some people to enjoy coffee, but for many of us, there is no reason to tamper with a beverage that is so nearly perfect just the way it is.