I am a coffee aficionado. I am not one of those people you see drinking copious amounts of coffee all day, and I don’t order a Venti from Starbucks with 6 shots of espresso or super sweet faux coffee drinks. I savor one cup in the morning and rarely drink anything but decaf after 2 pm as it will keep me awake until the next day. That one cup is extremely important, though. It must have the right aroma, be of the correct strength, and flavored with the proper coffee condiments (no sweeteners with a splash of soy milk, a dash of nutmeg if it is a latte).Generally, I brew coffee at home with carefully chosen beans that I grind that morning. I have a ritual of sitting down with a coffee and tackling the New York Times crossword, or in this case drinking coffee while writing about its attributes.
My coffee palate was not always so discriminating, and in fact, I did not enjoy coffee at all upon first tasting it. Perhaps, it is because I was fed coffee in the 2nd grade, in a yellow Tupperware tumbler, by my desperate mother who hoped the coffee would have a Ritalin-like affect on my rambunctious behavior (see High Energy post). Alas, nothing helped that, and my affinity for coffee was affected until college when I took up coffee drinking out of necessity and for social reasons. I choked down burnt dining hall swill regularly, but it wasn’t until I started frequenting the local coffee houses near campus that I was exposed to good coffee brewed well. I learned the types of coffees and how to differentiate between the blends and not to ruin the coffee with spoonfuls of sugar, although, I suppose a true coffee connoisseur would drink it black.
My travels have fortunately taken me to some of the coffee capitals of the world. I have sampled java in coffee powerhouses such as Brazil, Costa Rica and Hawaii. I have been disappointed in Japan and some states here in the US. In 1999, I travelled to Alabama for a race. I inquired at one of the local eateries where I could find a Starbucks. The server looked at me quizzically and replied, “Starbucks, what’s a Starbucks?” Gas station sludge was better than nothing to fulfill my pre-race coffee fix, but not by much. No matter where I go, I check out the coffee scene and a fantastic trip can be sullied by lack of good coffee.
Hands down, my all time favorite coffee is Kona. Not the 10% blend. No, I covet the 20 dollars a pound 100% Kona coffee (which is still cheaper than a daily coffee shop habit). The smell wafting into my nostrils is intoxicating and the taste is nothing short of terrific (I think I just drooled onto the keyboard). When this treat is not available I must find alternative beans, although at this very moment, I am anxiously awaiting the return of one my friends from the Big Island. He surely will have a bag of beans in tow which I will brew into the golden elixir (Thanks, Billy!). My husband and I disagree on beans from the larger vendors. He loves Peet’s, I find it bitter. I enjoy Starbucks (the Pike Place is quite nice), he prefers Peet’s. Whole Foods has barrels and barrels of beans, so we often try some of the different blends offered there.
Here are some interesting coffee facts. The darker roasts are smoother and paradoxically, the lighter roasts have more caffeine. Brazil is the biggest producer of coffee followed by Vietnam (who knew?) and Colombia (guess they need the coffee to hide the drugs). Coffee called Dunkin’ Donuts (how on earth did they earn a reputation for serving good coffee?), Vanilla Coconut, Almond Nut Cream, or Banana Split does not qualify as coffee, at least in my mind. Store your coffee in an airtight container, not the bags in which you buy the coffee; it will last longer and taste better. Did you know that the most recognizable smell in the world is coffee? I am not really sure how they figured that one out, but maybe it is because it is one of most popular beverages.