James Lileks
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According to the latest data, 491 million cups of coffee are consumed daily in the United States. To help you understand this figure, the population of Minneapolis is roughly half a million, meaning that if we wanted to reach the daily quota for the entire country, we'd each need to drink 982 cups of coffee a day.

Of course, if we did that, visitors to our city would just hear a high-pitched buzzing sound and wonder where all the people were.

But would that make for a good coffee scene? Possibly. If you are wondering what a coffee scene is, well, it's a complex metric involving the number of little coffee shops, price of coffee, availability of pretentious roasts (this was picked by parrots, tempered in the digestive tract of a civet, roasted over a fire kindled with old-growth redwoods and hand-selected by a fourth-generation Bean Whisperer), number of people who own a coffeemaker, and so on.

So, how do we rank. Website wallethub.com surveyed the country, and put Minneapolis at (drum roll) No. 23. We're behind Jersey City, N.J.

Do you care? Well, maybe you do, but I don't. The only thing that matters to me is whether our coffee is good. And I think I speak for everyone when I say our coffee is, without a doubt, absolutely acceptable.

Of course, it depends on your coffee standards. If you grew up on church-basement coffee, you accepted translucent java into your life from an early age. I have no idea why they made transparent coffee. Possibly because you could drink it in a glass cup, and see outlaws galloping toward the farm from a distance.

"Sven, how about I should put in some more grounds this time? Make a pot with some real flavor?"

"No! It's a foolhardy thing to be slain in your own kitchen on a fine morning because they snuck in under cover of dark coffee."

Perhaps you prefer restaurant coffee, which once was notable not for its quality but its unstinting quantity. They left the pot. When the pot was dry, you waved it in the air and they brought another, because you were an American at Perkins, dang it.

This spoiled me for dealing with the outside world. When first I went to New York, I went to Chock Full o' Nuts in Herald Square and said, "I'd like a tepid cup of coffee with cream I didn't ask for, with a fourth of the total liquid volume sloshed into the saucer." At least that's what the waitress heard.

There were no free refills, of course. You soaked up the saucer-spillage with a napkin and stuck it twixt cheek-and-jowl like chewing tobacco.

Minnesota has the usual coffee variants: break-room brown bile that's been cooking on a hotplate since daybreak and has boiled down to a sludge you can apply with a knife. Gas-station coffee that will do the trick, except you have to drink it through a narrow aperture in a plastic lid that turns it into Satan's Plasma. Upscale overpriced chain coffee with 23,492 possible combinations of adulterating substances that turn it into liquid cake.

Let me put it like this: Think of coffee as a dog.

Old times: "I would like a dog." Clerk: "Here is a dog. Four dollars." And you had a dog!

Nowadays: "Extra large poochacino, with two pumps of Malamute, nonfat greyhound genes, goldendoodle-whipped fur, extra shot of beagle bark, with chihuahua yippy-sprinkles."

Barista: "Here is your abomination. Please use the terminal to buy it on credit at 23% interest."

Anyway. We can bring up our Coffee Scene score if you start drinking more coffee. If you drink even 500 cups a day, you stay up so long you're technically immortal.

james.lileks@startribune.com • 612-673-7858 • Twitter: @Lileks • facebook.com/james.lileks