Drinking Nescafé: How Strong Is Your Caffeine Addiction?

Today I bought a giant can of Nescafé just to get the free sugar bowl that came with it. We already have a whole set of mugs I acquired the same way. My husband thinks I’m crazy and he keeps hiding the mugs in the deepest recess of the kitchen cupboard. But I like the mugs. I am genuinely thrilled by our new sugar bowl. It’s a cheery red and says Nescafé across the top. I like the stuff and I like Nescafé.

Credit: Flickr | Al-Anood~

You all think I’m crazy now. I mean, it’s not just instant coffee, it’s mediocre instant coffee made by a giant conglomerate. Some people will argue it’s the most disgusting coffee on earth. Why, exactly, would I want it to decorate my kitchen?

The thing is, Nescafé is a symbol for me. When I started my aid career, I didn’t drink coffee at all. It was bitter and unpleasant and I usually got enough sleep that I didn’t need the caffeine. Then I moved overseas for my first aid job, and now I don’t just drink coffee. I drink Nescafé. And I LIKE it. It might be the most disgusting coffee on earth, but it’s available everywhere. You’re never without caffeine if you can tolerate Nescafé.

Every single time a health official, a nurse, a community member or a colleague breaks out the coffee to welcome their American guest, I can pick up my cup and keep a smile on my face. Every cold morning in a guesthouse with no heat, Nescafé can keep me warm and alert. In the beginning I needed cream and sugar. Now I can drink it black. Because I learned to do that. Because this is my life now.

I don’t drag coffee beans around in my suitcase. I don’t grind my own anything. I drink Nescafé, because I’ve spent 12 of the last 15 years in places where the water gives you giardia. Because I wanted this career so badly I took an internship that left me too poor for Coca-Cola or tomatoes. I’m not a visitor. I can’t be carrying all my creature comforts with me. I live here – in Ashgabat, in Tashkent, in Cairo, in Dushanbe. I’m an aid worker. So I drink Nescafé.


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Alanna Shaikh, MPH

Alanna Shaikh is a global health professional currently based in Baku, Azerbaijan. She has managed projects all over the world on health, livelihoods, education, and emergency relief. Her technical specialties include health system strengthening, service integration, and behavior change.

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