01/31/2008

Ex-cop drinks 72 cups of coffee a day

By Micah Mertes
The Lincoln Journal Star

LINCOLN, Neb. — The 52-year-old veteran and ex-cop with the intimidating mustache is calm and soft-spoken as he chats with me at Crescent Moon Coffee, the only java house Ron Shepherd ever patrons.

Were the man not an anomaly of science, he wouldn't be this chill. He'd be jumpy from imbibing his triple depth charge: 20 ounces of dark-roast coffee topped off with a robust trio of espresso shots.

This is his second in the last hour.

Shepherd's got so much caffeine pulsing through his system, a regular coffee drinker would've Hulked out by now.

But he's no regular coffee drinker. A lot of caffeine - we're talking A LOT of caffeine - seems to have little effect on him.

During a visit to the cardiologist, Shepherd and his doctor determined he drinks the equivalent of 72 cups of regular coffee a day.

He visits his main supplier, Crescent Moon, every afternoon and downs an average of about three triple depth charges.

"We have our regulars," said Amanda Martison, a barista at Crescent Moon. "But he's pretty much the nuttiest one of the bunch. He's got to be our biggest coffee-holic."

Shepherd drinks coffee up to bedtime every night, and he can sleep just fine, he says. He doesn't bother with decaf, calling it useless:

"It's like alcohol-free scotch; it just doesn't make sense to me."

Every morning, he fills his half-gallon thermos with a bold blend and several espresso shots. This lasts until noon.

Then he makes more coffee.

"You'd be hard-pressed to find me without a cup of coffee in my hand," he says. "I just don't go anywhere without it."

Shepherd's hard-core coffee drinking started out of necessity.

He was in the Army, stationed in Thailand, and couldn't stand to drink the water, which was always lukewarm and had a metallic flavor. To kill the nasty taste and still get hydrated, Shepherd would make instant coffee.

And coffee's been a vital part of his life ever since: when he was working odd hours as a police officer in Oklahoma City; when he travels long, dark stretches of road for his job with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

His friends and family don't harp on him, not really. He said they've had time to get used to his addiction.

"I really just like the taste of coffee," he says. "I don't even think it's the surge of caffeine so much as it is just the stout taste. I don't really notice it doing anything bad to me."

Shepherd says all that coffee's never even made him the slightest bit anxious.

But what does his cardiologist think?

"He said it's an excessive amount of caffeine and that I should probably cut back. But I've never had a blood pressure issue, never had a heart issue.

"And I asked him, 'Is there a problem?' And he said 'No.' And then I told him, 'Well, if there's not a problem, what's the beef?'"

Shepherd laughs ruefully.

"People are going to read this, and they're going to think, 'This guy is an idiot. He's a junkie, and he doesn't even know it.'

"Let me just say that I wouldn't recommend anyone else drink this much coffee. But on the other hand, I don't want other people telling me that I drink too much. No, it would be too much for you. But not for me."
Copyright 2008 Lincoln Journal Star

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