Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Coffee Snob

I still remember my first taste of coffee like it was yesterday.  I was a little girl in my grandmother's kitchen, it was cold and rainy outside.  Grandma was standing at the counter in the kitchen carefully sipping from her steaming mug.  I asked if I could have a taste, "You won't like it," my grandmother warned.  "Yes I will!" my child self argued back.  So my grandmother said I could have a sip after it cooled a bit.  I was filled with anticipation, after all, my grandmother cherished this liquid, drinking it at all hours, hogging it to herself, it must be amazing, like chocolate or something!

Finally, it cooled enough that she let me take a sip.  It was in that moment that I knew my grandmother was insane, this was poison!  It was so bitter, disgusting, did grown ups have no taste buds? Where was the sugar? Where was the yummy taste I'd expected?  My grandmother was right, I didn't like it.  Grandma took her coffee black, and after one sip of the liquid that I then thought of as vile, I could understand why she hoarded it to herself, no one else wanted it anyway!

Over the years I drank a little coffee here and there though, always with lots of cream, sugar, syrup, things that were more dessert than coffee.  In college I had a sordid affair with vending machine cappuccino, sometimes having two cups before I even made it to my first class at eight in the morning.  Occasionally, thanks more to student loans than my minimum wage salary, I could afford to go to the local Starbucks for a cup here and there, and that's where real dessert was made.  For the most part, I was ignorant of what coffee should be because there were so many things added in that it no longer tasted of coffee.  That, and the town I went to college in was in the middle of podunk nowhere, so Starbucks was literally the best coffee around...how sad.

At some point I found myself pregnant, and abstained from coffee during that time, after my daughter was born though, I needed a serious pick me up.  I pulled out my trusty coffee pot and brewed.  There it was, a fresh pot just done, but there she was, needing me again.  I had a choice to make, wait until my coffee was cold, or skip the cream and sugar.  I drank it black.  It was still vile, hard to get down, so bitter, my taste buds were not used to this at all.  I drank it black the next day too, and the next, and one day found myself drinking my coffee black even though she was fast asleep and I had plenty of time to add in my sweeteners.  My taste buds had adjusted.  This was no longer vile and bitter, I could taste the hints of nutty flavor now.  This was my brew, strong and dark, and...once I moved back to the city, as local as I could get.

A friend whipped up a genuine espresso at a local shop once, and then I knew love.  Oh, it was bitter, but it was delightful too!  While the companion that had come with me balked and asked for some sort of sweetener, I drank mine as it was.  I started to realize that I was becoming a purist then, those beautiful beans were good on their own, why everyone insisted on tampering with the brew and making them taste like something else was beyond me, why not taste it on its own?

I've tasted some of the best, and some of the worst coffee to exist, everything from what is dubbed "nurses brew" to green coffee imported from Kenya.  I don't see anything horribly wrong with adding a little something extra, but if you can't love the naked brew, get out of the coffee shop!

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