Decaf? To Letterman, not worth a spill of beans

"Decaffeinated coffee . . . it's what they're drinking in hell!"

Since he returned from quintuple bypass surgery in February, David Letterman has relentlessly dissed the offending liquid on "The Late Show," with jingles such as the one above.

Have the repeated decaf slams caused any ripples in the coffee realm, of which Seattle is the epicenter?

A "Late Show" spokeswoman said companies have responded by throwing more of the stuff at Dave - which brings to mind his old joke about complaining about bad food in a restaurant and being offered an extra helping of it as an apology.

"We did have many nationwide companies, including Starbucks, send David Letterman samples of their various decaffeinated coffees. His office received a bunch of them," the spokeswoman said.

Starbucks spokeswoman Megan Behrbaum confirmed the Seattle-based company has sent Letterman coffee, but said it was not in response to his decaf mud-slinging.

Behrbaum claims workers at the company shook off the insults to their livelihood. "We think we have a quality product. It's all about humor, and we think the show's fabulous. Everybody in the coffee industry has a great sense of humor."

Dave's other jingles include:

"Decaffeinated coffee . . . it's useless warm brown water!"

"Decaffeinated coffee . . . say goodbye to the will to live!"

"Decaffeinated coffee . . . oh, boy, it sucks!"

And the lyrical, haunting, "Decaffeinated coffee . . . ewwww!"

Starbucks won't discuss sales figures or any potential impact of repeated negative portrayals in the media. But decaf sales have been on a steady decline anyway, according to the National Coffee Association of the U.S.A. Inc., a trade association based in New York City. In 1990, decaf made up 15 percent of total coffee sales, but has dropped to 9 or 10 percent in the past four years, the association reports.

And what did Letterman do with the decaf samples? His spokeswoman didn't say. But for a comic, sometimes the most eloquent response is a spit-take.