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Suzanne Power: Far more to coffee highs than caffeine

IF I could get a job drinking coffee with friends I'd be the most dedicated worker in Ireland.

All my best decisions have been made around cappuccino. Even in my monastic days I drank decaf and spooned philosophy.

My close friend and I have a fantasy cafe: long sofas, ceiling to floor shelving for a book, art and music exchange, and endless refills. Our job is to have coffee with our customers and force muffins on them, made to her recipe. If they were made by me we'd be sued for dental treatment. Instructions, measuring, nah -- I like spontaneous.

My friend is the measured one. She turned to coffee after years of drinking alcohol. "If I'm going to be addicted to something, it might as well be good for me."

"Adrenaline shots from coffee beans?" I queried.

"Yes," she conceded. "But it's better than a hangover. I can't be a moderate person. It's never been me. I'll keep to caffeine highs."

Things my friend hates: judges, women who order cake and eat less than half of it, backstabbers and front-stabbers. For years she hid her gentleness by getting rat-arsed and being horrible, even to us, the people who loved her. But I've known her a long time, so I hung around for the good to win over the damage.

Now I have a fantasy business partner and real confidante. We do a great line in saving the world, once a month, and promise ourselves we'll do it more often. But once a month is the most we can manage. When our children are grown and gone we will open our equivalent of a gin palace, a coffee house that feels like a home.

Another good friend, well into her 80s, tells me her worst fear will be when there are no contemporaries left to share a mid-morning or early afternoon with. "You'll still have me to have coffee with," I reassured her.

"No," she shook her head. "It's the history that comes with the coffee. There's nothing like enjoying a cup with a person who's been alive for as long as you have been." I couldn't argue. There are five women in my life that I want to have old-times coffee with.

To me the coffee cup is the modern-day chalice, the one I offer to friends and they offer to me. We share our stories and add to each others', sip and listen and reveal.

All the most important things come up over coffee. There's an intimacy you don't get at the end of a mobile phone. Life's much better with an extra adrenaline shot running through your veins, for having taken a break, for having seen someone who knows and loves you and wants to know what you're up to, for having someone who made time for you and you for them.

I got a coffee-maker for my birthday. It's great but, like meals for one, there's a sadness about using it on my own. I prefer company with my beans. I prefer the talk, the history created by a shared cup of coffee.