My Morning Cup features the coffee rituals that most of us have. People from all walks of life — from US senators to ballplayers, subway drivers to college professors — have submitted entries that will run each day.
Here, we reached Mininder Kocher, an orthopedic surgeon at Boston Children’s Hospital , by e-mail.
Mininder Kocher, 47
Orthopedic surgeon at Boston Children’s Hospital and professor at Harvard Medical School
Describe your coffee routine. Where do you frequent, what do you like?
I love my morning coffee ritual. I typically get up at 5:15 a.m. and put on a pot of coffee. I like to grind whole beans — Peet’s French Roast or Major Dickason’s Blend and we have a Cuisinart programmable drip coffee maker. I then go down to our barn to do morning barn chores — let the animals out, muck the stalls, drop down hay, and put out the grain and water. It’s my solace — for 45 minutes, I’m not a dad or a doc, just a simple farmer. I then come back up to the house at 6 a.m. to the aroma of fresh brewed coffee. I have a big thick coffee mug from Lou’s Cafe in Hanover, N.H., that keeps my coffee warm as I get ready and then wake up the kids for school. My wife likes having the coffee already made for her as we prepare for the craziness of getting five kids out the door for school.
Make or buy?
In the afternoon, I will buy coffee for the team of fellows, residents, and medical students that are working with me either in the clinic or the operating room. We are all starting to fade around 2-3 p.m. from a busy clinic or OR [operating room] schedule. Some coffee really picks up our productivity and morale. We will send one of the medical students across the street from the hospital to Starbucks with a drink order. I usually take a grande Pike Place with a little nonfat milk but it is interesting to see what everyone orders. You can tell a lot about a resident from their Starbucks coffee order — low maintenance or high maintenance.
Iced or hot?
I like hot coffee. The hotter, the better. I have not warmed to ice coffee — I like iced tea better in hot weather.
Where do you drink it? Seated or on the go?
We are usually on the go at the hospital and the days can be long. In clinic, you can catch some time to sip your coffee when looking at a patient’s X-rays or MRI in the workroom. There are no drinks in the operating room, but we usually have 15 minutes or so between cases in the break room to drink and talk about our plan for the upcoming case.
How many more cups the rest of the day?
Usually it’s just the cup in the morning after barn chores and the afternoon pick-me-up. Sometimes I will have a cup in the evening if I am fading and need to help the kids with homework or have a conference call. I think I have developed a tolerance from such a crazy lack of sleep schedule when I was an intern and resident (up all night every other or every third night) that I can have a cup of coffee in the evening and have no trouble falling asleep.
How much coffee is too much coffee?
I think like most things related to health, too much coffee can be bad for you, but there is a convincing body of literature that a cup or two of coffee has beneficial health effects. Too much coffee happened for me while I was operating as a visiting professor in Florence, Italy. There were longer turnover times between cases in the operating room so the surgical team would go down to the cafe and drink an espresso between cases and talk. After five or six espressos from the Nespresso machine, I found myself jittery ... The morale of the story was don’t try to keep up with Italian surgeons drinking espresso.
What’s your stance on decaf?
Not intentionally. When I was in medical school, I did a rotation in the cardiac unit. I had only just begun drinking coffee but all of a sudden the coffee wasn’t keeping me up. I was worried that I was building up an immunity to caffeine until one of the nurses clued me in that coffee on the cardiac unit is decaf! The best coffee in the hospital is usually in radiology. They drink a lot of coffee while they review images all day in a dark, warm room.
Describe the most memorable cup of coffee you’ve ever had.
My most memorable cup of coffee I’ve ever had was actually my first cup. I remember it well — it was first year of medical school. We were all baffled by renal physiology. The kidney is really complex with electrolytes coming and going based on charges and different locations in the tubules. We were going to have a lecture by a famous nephrologist that was supposed to make it all crystal clear. I fell asleep and missed it. I was vexed until a classmate, who was a coffee aficionado and brought his own thermos of coffee every morning, gave me a cup. It was an epiphany and I think I was up for a whole week. However, to this day I still don’t understand the kidney.
This Q&A has been edited.
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