Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A Cuppa Joe

I promised adeline over at Chez What? that I would reveal my coffee story. So here goes.

I have always, always, always adored the smell of coffee. To me it meant that it was morning, but not quite time to get up. It meant people coming over. It meant vacation. My mom had one of those clear glass percolators that go on top of the stove. In a fit of nostalgia, I bought one at a garage sale a few years ago. I loved watching the clear water bubble and magically turn into coffee.

My mother and most midwesterners drink black coffee. Black coffee was my first introduction to the taste. I didn't like it. We were for the most part a Folgers family, straying over to Maxwell House or maybe Hills Brothers from time to time. There was always a jar of green-labeled Taster's Choice in the cupboard for the occasional de-caf guest.

When I was in high school, there was a sizable group of German students who came to our school on an exchange program that lasted about 6 weeks. My best friend hosted a German girl, so we spent a lot of time hanging out together. The Germans drank coffee. I was very much into all things European, so I started drinking coffee. I first doctored it up with plenty of milk and sugar and until I realized that I didn't really like the sugary taste and switched to just milk.

That following summer, I made a journey to New York state to spend some time with my long-estranged father. (another story, another time.) At his house, they drank Chock Full O Nuts. Yum. To this day, this is my "basic" coffee. If made just right, it is delicious.

I became a coffee achiever. I was one of few high school seniors at the time who drank it every morning and carried a cup with me. (what a dork)My friends and I tried to achieve a cafe experience by hanging out together late into the evening and drinking cup after bottomless cup of coffee at the Village Inn. Hey, we had no cafes and they were open late. Oh the truths we unveiled under the influence of caffeine! The mysteries of life that were examined!

We used to day-trip to Iowa City, home of the now-defunct Great Midwestern Ice Cream Company. It was a 2-story place with wooden floors, menus written in colored chalk, homemade ice cream and coffee served in thick, white mugs by hippy folk that smelled deliciously of patchouli. They served espresso and cappuccino, which I had not developed a taste for yet- found that out fast. They also served cafe-au-lait, which as you know is basically half coffee and half steamed milk. I loved it. It became my coffee drink of choice.

My junior year of college, I lived in Mexico for a semester. I was really excited about the coffee. I mean, they grow coffee there, right? Go to the source, it's gotta be good, right? Um, no. Most of the people I knew drank instant coffee. And they liked it! ¿No quieres una cafecita? They would ask. Uh, no, I'm good, really.

While in college, the whole coffee shop phenomenon blossomed. I began going to a local downtown shop- a marvelous place with a screen-door, the original hexagonal tile from the 20's, funky jazz album covers that adorned the walls. Again, the menu written in colored chalk. There was always a "word of the day" and if you could define it and use it correctly in a sentence, you won something. I won a piece of biscotti once for the word "diphthong". (no, it's not a thong for Dip)

I have had the experience of chicory-enhanced coffee and beignets at the Cafe du Monde in New Orleans. Tourist trap? Oh yeah. Still cool? Definitely.

Don't even get me started on that sweet/bitter, yummy nectar that is Thai or Vietnamese iced coffee- you know, made with sweetened-condensed milk. Good lord, I think if you poured that stuff over motor oil it would taste good.

Mr. T's coffee story is a separate entity entirely, but when we started to keep company, the lines between our two stories blurred a bit. We spent many an evening at a local coffee shop gazing into each other's eyes. We drank cups of Maxwell House at the kitchen table in his mother's kitchen- she, delighted to have the house smelling like coffee once again. It reminded her of her husband, newly passed away and very much a coffee drinker.

I have maintained my relationship with coffee. I sometimes drink too much and get "coffee stomach", but it goes away quickly. There's a locally owned, drive-through latte place up the street from my school. They serve all latte -type drinks with a stick of dark chocolate and fresh whipped cream. I heart them and have a nice little punch card with them.

I never gave up coffee, but I did cut way back when I was pregnant. For one thing, my body rejected it for the first half of the pregnancy- _ still enjoyed the smell, though. My doctors all told me that I could still enjoy caffeine in moderation and it would not harm the baby. Ironically, when Claire was born, she was sceptic and was in the NICU for a week. THey gave her small doses of caffeine to stimulate her to eat.

I did the Gevalia mail order thing for awhile, until I just couldn't justify the expense anymore.

I had a Melitta cone.
I had a gold cone.
We have a Bodun French press (have to be in just the right mood for that one- yow!). We have a decent Krups automatic drip coffee maker.
We have a Braun coffee grinder. I hate to grind beans. What a freaking mess.
Most mornings, Mr. T gets up and not only makes the coffee, he brings it upstairs to the bathroom for me to drink while I'm getting ready. We drink it with cream, no sugar. Warm up the cup, add the cream first. Then the coffee.

My current struggle is getting to enjoy a hot
cup of coffee. Most mornings, I am scrambling out the door with my to-go cup and I don't ever really get to drink it while it's hot. I don't really like lukewarm or reheated coffee.

When I smell coffee, I think of travel- of diners and airplanes and road trips. I think of the start of a brand new day, or the end of a fabulous evening. I think of cozy evenings by the fire, of summer mornings on the porch. I think of Francie Nolan, in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, whose mother allowed their family the luxury of pouring a cup of coffee down the drain. Everyone in the family got a cup at every meal and they could have a cup from the giant pot on the stove whenever they wanted. They had little else, but this small little dedacence made their lives just a little brighter.

I leave you with one of those Blogthings. It tells you all what kind of coffee I am. I wish I could get all philosophical, but it's late. So here it is. I don't know how true it is, but it's a Blogthing, it's not like True Confessions.

You Are an Espresso

At your best, you are: straight shooting, ambitious, and energetic

At your worst, you are: anxious and high strung

You drink coffee when: anytime you're not sleeping

Your caffeine addiction level: high


Blogger Nic said...

I bought one of those Cuisinart grind-and-brew coffee makers so it would grind the beans for me....still a mess to clean, though, unfortunately. but it least it does it while I'm still sleeping.

Never been a fan of the presses until I found a plastic one, which turns out to be the PERFECT solution for camping.

And when I was growing up in South America they did the instant nescafe (ahudder) thing mostly too, although Santiago at least had little bars where you could stand and get an espresso or a capuccino, Italian style, even back in the 70's.

1/17/2007 6:51 AM  
Blogger Oh, The Joys said...

Thank goodness I read this with a cup in hand!

It has to be French Roast black for me.

1/17/2007 7:11 AM  
Blogger girlfiend said...

Though I generally drink a cup or two of French Roast in the morning, Vietnamese ice coffee is my favorite.

1/17/2007 7:49 AM  
Blogger MsAbcMom said...

This post was so fun to read. I am going to do the blod test and post it on my blog too. (Well, I will do it AFTER I go and make my morning coffee!) :-)

1/17/2007 8:00 AM  
Blogger Jess Riley said...

I just recently got into coffee. It's truly a magical substance.

1/17/2007 3:41 PM  
Blogger Jess Riley said...

I just recently got into coffee. It's truly a magical substance.

1/17/2007 3:41 PM  
Blogger NYC Educator said...

Loved your coffee saga. Chock Full O' Nuts is not my cup of tea, but I'm hopelessly addicted to Dunkin Donuts, which, as far as I'm concerned, is the pinnacle of all human achievement.

We buy coffee at a great NY supermarked called Fairway. They roast it themselves and leave it in big barrels. It's outrageous and I don't expect I'll ever buy another can of coffee.

1/17/2007 6:43 PM  
Blogger Miss Profe said...

I don't drink coffee as a morning pick-me-up. Actually, my drink of choice is a Dunkin' Donuts hot chocolate, or a Dunkachino. However, when visiting my parents, I will drink a cup of coffee with them.

BTW: I took the Blogthings blogthng "What Kind of Coffee Are You?" I am a Frappaccino.:)

1/18/2007 10:41 AM  
Blogger Wendy Boucher said...

I am a total coffee addict. Soy lattes are my favorite but regular coffee with soy milk works fine too. (I'm allergic to dairy.) I have even visited a coffee plantation in Costa Rica. I guess for me it's one of the four food groups, along with chocolate, red wine, and Thai food.

1/18/2007 1:47 PM  
Blogger Adeline said...

Wow that was awesome!

What a post! you coffee achiever, you.

I hope you felt it was worth it...
My parents too have the percolator. Ah memories. And Folgers. And I hate the mess of the handheld grinder too, and all the noise of grinding. But it's worth it. Man, I should send ya a pound for this post!


1/19/2007 1:01 AM  
Blogger Adeline said...

p.s. I am with wendy, it is a food group, and acknowledge and affirm her other food groups.

I came to like nescafe when I was in ecuador, it was like a specific taste for a very nice time in my life. though, I don't buy it here.

1/19/2007 1:04 AM  
Blogger Mrs. Bluebird said...

What an awesome post...I'm going to have to go make me a cupa.

1/19/2007 6:16 PM  
Blogger Pendullum said...

Now, Mrs.T that was truly a brilliant post....

I have this guy up the street that I like to call Scareface, not because he looks like Al Pacino or the earlier guy who's name elludes me me now, but because he consumes what he sells... and where it is not Cocaine it may as well be as it is coffee...
He opened up this store up the street from me, and he lives and breathes the stuff...
And he gets you hooked... Hooked I tell ya...
Sure, he looks wholesome enough cycling around town on his bike, smiling at all ad telling great antidotes behind his coffee bar as he makes up your elixer of choice... But he loooooooves his coffee... and he looooves making good coffee... The other day, he turns to me and tells me about this 'sweet coffee' from Hawaii pure organic,and comes in at a whoppin $25 a 1/2pound... Do I wanna try it...
I do not think itwouldbe in my best interests to try it... Sure it would...says he....
And now I have a half a pound of the Crack of coffees in my kitchen...

1/20/2007 2:01 PM  

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