Coffee

Anderson, I want you to take a long, hard look at this cup of coffee. Now, I LOVE my coffee. It’s probably the only thing I cherish on this God-forsaken mud ball called Earth! What I’m trying to say, Anderson, is that most examiners rely on this clipboard. I don’t believe in that $%!*. What I do believe is in my cup of coffee. – License to Drive

My first cup of coffee occurred at age 17. While on a date with a girl from my church, she suggested we grab some coffee at the Barnes and Noble coffee shop. It sounded good to me, although coffee had always seemed like something adults did, so I didn’t really know how it worked or what to get. She suggested I get a mocha – nice and safe, chocolate with minimal coffee bitterness. And whipped cream on top, of course. Quite tasty. However, it was a bit humbling to realize that my 15-year-old, 100 lb date was more sophisticated than I was.

The idea of drinking coffee for the caffeine didn’t take hold until my freshman year at Baylor. My girlfriend at the time went to TCU, which meant I drove home every weekend and spent as much time with her and my family as possible before I drove back Sunday night. My parents wisely tried to convince me that driving back to school late at night wasn’t the smartest idea. But I can be a bit…stubborn at times. My solution? Coffee. Usually I stopped at some gas station and got a big cup of sugar-laden vanilla cappuccino. My 33-year-old pancreas would have hated me, but my 18-year-old pancreas manned up and handled it. What I didn’t realize at the time was that my body isn’t very sensitive to caffeine. Occasionally at Baylor, I would buy the same sugar-laden vanilla cappuccinos at the local gas station on nights that I needed to stay up and study, even though it never made much of a difference.

By sophomore year, coffee became a more important and frequent companion in my dorm room. I was taking a full load of classes with lots of reading and also working at an after-school care program 15-20 hours a week. The time had come to step up my coffee experience. I got my own coffee pot – small and cheap, maybe a 4-cup Hamilton Beech or similar. I knew nothing about brewing coffee except that my dad was always obsessed with using filtered water in his coffee instead of tap. I had no discerning palate and no filtered water, so I brewed up Folgers or Maxwell House with water straight from the bathroom faucet. Since my goal was to force my eyes open and my brain awake while I read Coriolanus or King Lear at midnight, I brewed a full pot and made it extra strong. To make it palatable, I added tons of sugar and creamer. Even they couldn’t make it pleasant.

That was a rough year.

Somehow, though, it felt noble to be a struggling college student alone with great works of literature and a pot of nasty coffee, as if I’d joined a grand fraternity of hallowed martyrs of liberal arts. And then that rat bastard prof gave me a B in World Cultures III for my troubles. But I digress…

At some point, I learned that when properly brewed from quality ingredients, coffee could actually be quite delicious even without 500 grams of sugar dissolved within. If I had to guess, I’d give my grandfather the credit. He has the magic touch. Thanks to him, I discovered the heavenly combination of coffee and birthday cake. And the pleasure of a mid-afternoon cup of coffee with a snack. And even – gasp – coffee with breakfast like normal people enjoy. Thank you, Granddaddy, for opening my eyes to the truth.

So now I’m an adult (sort of). I brew my own coffee in a stainless steel Cuisinart 12-cup using filtered water and organic, fair-trade Honduran coffee with a mild roast. It’s so good that I usually drink it black with breakfast every afternoon (I work nights). My friends James and Alexis know about good coffee, too. At family gatherings, I know to ask which pot my sister made because she knows how to brew it right. Am I a coffee snob yet? Depends on your definition. I buy my coffee at Target and drink the commercial-brewer Folgers at work with a bit of doctoring, so I’m not a total snob. But I’ve brewed Jamaican Blue Mountain (love it, but not worth 3x the price) and occasionally buy my coffee at Central Market, so I guess you could say my standards have risen a bit since the ignorance of my college days. And THAT’S A GOOD THING, believe me.

So I salute you, noble coffee bean, and all my fellow coffee drinkers. May your coffee always be hot, your grounds fresh, and your cup reusable. Cheers!

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