Can coffee cause memory loss?

If not for it, Chennai would probably refuse to wake up. And if not for it, the city would’ve lost out on its characteristic flavour.

Chennai loves its coffee with a passion, and it loves it hot and strong. And it’s no surprise that a majority of the city folk dismiss a recent claim by researchers which says that its consumption might hinder short-term recall. The research has stated that the caffeine in coffee made it harder for people to find a word that they already knew — the ‘tip-of-the-tongue’ phenomenon.

“Thanks, but no thanks,” say Chennaiites to such studies that threaten to distance them from their morning must-haves.

Starts off actor Parthiban, “I’m pretty sure coffee drinkers will be ready to conveniently forget this study! We all need a minus in life, the lack of which will lead to frustration (and, it has been proven by doctors). Since I don’t drink or smoke, coffee is my minus and I need it. In fact, I’m sure that a majority of people reading this article are doing so over a cuppa!”

HR professional R Prasad simply laughs off even the suggestion of giving up drinking his energy booster. “I’ve been drinking coffee ever since I was a kid and I’ve managed to ace my way through spelling bees and quiz competitions, where instant recall of answers is important. At the cost of sounding conceited, I’d say I’m proof enough that this study might not be very accurate.”

Choreographer Karun Raman says matter-of-factly, “Study or no study, I will never give up drinking coffee; I simply cannot do without it! It wakes me up and keeps me on the move. It gives a great start to my mornings and is a part of my daily routine.”

Indeed, the south, Chennai in particular, has a strong legacy in coffee. For many, childhood memories are replete with the smells of freshly roasted, ground and brewed coffee, complemented by the rustle of newspapers and the hustle-bustle of early morning activity. Singer Chinamayi reminisces, “When I was a kid, my grandparents used to roast and grind their own coffee. The aroma was magical. And in the earlier days, coffee was ground in small shops and you could decide how much chicory would go into it. Things have changed so much now, with all these ready-made coffee powders.”

Even with the current crop of teeny boppers and yuppies, coffee is a requisite; whether it is for hanging out on a lazy afternoon, cramming for an exam or meeting deadlines.

Student Swathy Krishnan gushes, “I cannot do without at least five cups of coffee a day! I find it very hard to study without my daily dose of coffee. I thrive on it, especially during exams. And besides, if not for it, over what would people meet, bond and have relaxed conversations?”

Surprisingly, despite the overwhelming popularity of swanky coffee houses and their deliciously frothy cappuccinos, most Chennaiites prefer their degree kaapi any day. Parthiban smiles, “Strong Mylapore maami degree coffee is my favourite,” while Swathy muses, “I don’t think anything can give you the instant kind of kick that decoction coffee gives.”

Coffee, apart from being a way of life for many, is also an addiction. In fact, Parthiban and Chinmayi are on a self-confessed coffee de-addcition programme. “If I were to choose between coffee and memory, I’ll have memory please — I’ll have it hot and strong!” pipes Chinmayi.

But not everyone is ready to give up their coffee as easily like Swathy, who refutes, “Like all things nice (read wine, cheese and chocolates), coffee too has found two schools of thought when it comes to the health department. It’s up to you to decide which one to subscribe to.”

And at that, we’ll leave them to debate; all day long if need be. By the way, coffee anyone?

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