Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Welcome back, estranged friend

Coffee has long been a favorite detail of my life. It's one of those staples. We first met my freshman year of college. It carried me through all four years--helped me write those concluding paragraphs at 4:30 a.m., accompanied me at the library, bolstered me through break-ups, and kept my eyes open in microeconomics. We became inseparable. Had you stopped by the grocery store in town and asked, "Which coffee should I buy?" I'm fairly certain the customer service rep would have given you my name.

So, to prove I valued its investment in my life, I delved into unearthing its deeper character. (Yes, foods and beverages do have deeper characters. Why else do you think culinary school exists?) Whole beans, finding my favorite roasts and regions, purchasing a grinder, discovering the joy in a French press--it all yielded a morning process for which I had no problem pulling myself out of bed 15 minutes earlier. That settled, I moved on to espresso and all that goes with it. I spent time and summer-priced gas zipping about the greater Atlanta area in search of favorite espresso bars, those who "did it right" from grinding the beans and pulling a shot to steaming the milk. My trip to Italy was a euphoric experience if just for the espresso alone. Cappuccinos in paper to-go cups were a rarity; people sat to savor their beverages in company of a pleasant reading material or friends. Loved it.

A year and a half after college, however, the trouble began. I started having stomachaches when I had coffee and headaches when I didn't. No small wonder, really, when you consider I had my two morning cups (a full 8 cup press, almost) everyday and a triple-shot americano on my lunch break three or so times a week. That robust, smooth but biting flavor of black coffee or straight espresso--I couldn't get enough. But when the physical issues (I'll keep to Horace and spare you the details) worsened, I knew I had to quit. I cried. I fought. I lost. I switched to South American mat`es and black teas.

Now, eight-plus months later, I remain a morning tea drinker. I've grown to adore it, really (whole 'nother discussion). Working in a tea shop will do that to you. Yet, there's still something alluring in a well-prepared cappuccino or a mug of fresh ground-n-pressed beans. Indulging once or twice every week or so seems compatible to my non-iron stomach, so I take full advantage. As I write this, I've just snatched up my book for class and am curled in my papsan chair in my garage apartment, steaming, frothy cup of black Sumatra resting on the stand beside me. Bring on old Herbert Marcuse's political theory! I'm ready for anything.

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