Tuesday, September 30, 2008

On Coffee

It is by coffee alone that I set my mind in motion.
It is by the juice of the bean that thoughts acquire speed,
The teeth acquire stains,
The stains become a warning.
It is by coffee alone that I set my mind in motion...

Anyone who knows me knows that one of my bad habits is coffee, in all of its forms. I know that the Cafe du Monde is the best place for a cup of coffee after a long night on Bourbon Street. I know what Jula Mocha is, and how best to prepare it. I know that dopio espresso means it's double strong, not double big. I've had cappuccinos brewed by a German waiter in starched white linen, and Turkish coffee boiled by a shepherd on the side of a mountain. I've had coffee boiled, pressed, dripped, and pressure steamed. I like my coffee like I like my women, strong and sweet.

I started drinking coffee at a VERY early age. My Scandinavian aunts gave it to me by the teaspoon full when I was about 6 months old. They started with milk with just a bit of coffee, and gradually worked their way up to straight black Norwegian wake-me-up. The thinking on that side of the family is that if you can take that, you're ready for solid food.

My grandmother used to drink boiled coffee by the gallon every day. This woman was up every morning at 4 to start cooking and baking, and would finish out the day playing cards or watching the late movie, always with a cup of strong, sweet coffee nearby. I think I got my liking for bean juice from her.

My parents were prodigious consumers of coffee, but they drank weak swill. I learned from them that if you can see through it, it's not worth drinking.

I began drinking coffee as an adult after I got out of Basic. I used it at that point purely for the caffeine. The more the merrier. I was taught how to suck on dry coffee grounds in the same manner as you would dip Copenhagen snoose. I also learned how to put Folgers Crystals from an MRE under your eyelid to get the quick jolt of pain and caffeine straight to the bloodstream when you're dead tired and have to stay awake just a bit longer. No, that's not oral cancer or jaundice, that's a serious case of not wanting to conk out.

When I got to Europe in '91, I started to learn about good coffee. My company commander always had a good strong pot of Kronung in his office, and the chow hall always had good coffee. I was introduced to espresso and cappuccino's by a friend who was stationed in Naples, and I've never looked back.

After I got back to the States, I developed a taste for Arbuckle's cowboy coffee in Arizona, and Community Coffee in Louisiana. I discovered Starbucks, which is to coffee what McDonalds is to lunch. No, it's not the best you can get, and a lot of smaller local establishments do it better, but it's the same cup of coffee in Louisville as it is in New York. Louisville has the Java Brewing Company, which has the best product locally. Nothing beats getting beans first thing in the morning when they're still warm from the roaster.

When I was going to college, I grew a pretty bad caffeine monkey on my back. I was drinking a pot of coffee every morning before work, drinking another while I was at work, hitting Starbucks on the way to school, and hitting it again on the way home.

Lately, I've cut way back on my consumption. I normally make coffee at home maybe two times a week, and have cut back to one cup of coffee a day at work. I treat myself at either Starbucks or the JBC once every week or so.

Coffee to me is one of life's pleasures. I drink coffee more for the enjoyment of it, rather than for the caffeine hit. Nothing feels better on a cold morning than a warm earthenware mug in my hands. Nothing wakes me up faster than the smell of a fresh pot of coffee.

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