The Steamy Secrets of Success
Ed Miliband is my age and he's running the Labour Party. James Harding is my age and he's editing The Times. I always assumed that it was a lack of vision, skill and drive that's kept me toiling over features in the vicarage guest room, but now I realise where I went wrong: I was drinking the wrong hot beverages.
Coffee fuels the highest achievers, according to a survey, and 70 per cent of the country's top earners rate coffee over tea. This truth must have percolated through the national subconscious, for 45 per cent of adults questioned by the pollsters reckon coffee has a higher social status than a nice cup of tea.
Now they tell me! Of course, survey's sponsor, the coffee machine manufacturer Nespresso, has a vested interest in these findings. But I am already persuaded.
There is a raw machismo about the modern coffee experience. The team of invariably good-looking baristas operating a wall of formidable machines. The air of urgency as they lunge and thrust, unleashing hot white foam from one nozzle and a squirt of potent black from another. The roar and hiss and suction as those metallic beasts grind into action and the infectious despair should one fail to rise to the occasion.
Coffee making has become performance drama which the moistening of tea bag can never hope to emulate.
It's only natural that the testosterone that went into the making of an espresso should infuse the drinker. A cut-throat financier who brings hot chocolate to a business meeting may be exposing an appealing soft centre, but I would doubt their ruthlessness in storming the world's stock markets. A double espresso, on the other hand, is a power tool.
We women especially should be wary. A herbal infusion is a social adhesive in civilized circles, but the chief executive who delves in her handbag for a peppermint tea bag within London's Square Mile will compromise her pheromones in a Y-chromosone battleground.
It just so happens that Nespresso is plugging a new 'flagship boutique' in London's Regent St, but these happily timed findings are not telling us anything we didn't know already. A colleague admits that he feels embarrassed sucking the straw of his little carton of orange juice while the pin-stripes on his commuter train neck cappuccinos. A friend uses his Rhett Butler mug when he makes his morning coffee and its Scarlett O'Hara twin for afternoon tea. And a respondent to my quick Twitter survey declares that people who order a double-espresso scare her slightly – 'even more so when they actually drink it.'
Small wonder, then, that those who consider themselves ambitious drink 1.5 times more coffee than we gentler souls, according to the poll. Or that 78 per cent of high earners deem strong coffee a necessity to propel them up the career ladder. And you won't fool potential new clients with a lily-livered latte - it's espresso and macchiato for three quarters of those at the top.
There is, however, a malicious comfort. A report by US scientists published in the must-read journal Circulation Heart Failure this week shows that, while two uncool lattes a day reduce the risk of heart failure and Type 2 diabetes, more than four strong coffees a day can be dangerous.
So those of us who have not yet sipped our way to the top just need to bide our time. All that espresso-fuelled machismo will burn out early, whereupon we can storm the city board rooms with our packs of PG Tips.