Coffee. I thought about starting with a corny line, "I don't always drink coffee, but when I do, it is ..." except that I almost always have a cup of coffee or two in the course of a day. Chonda Pierce has called it in more than one of her comedy routines the Christian drug of choice.
And there was certainly a time in my life when I was a part of that America "that ran on Dunkin's."
I still recall my first sip of coffee. I was a teenager attending a banquet with my parents. It was a big sit down affair and I was very thirsty. We kept waiting for the waiter to come around so I could order a beverage, but he was no where to be seen. But there were others, making the rounds with pots of coffee - caffeinated in one hand and decaf in the other. My mother suggested that I flag one of them down and try some coffee, while waiting to get my real drink. So I got my first cup of coffee. My mother suggested adding cream and sugar, because, as she put it at the time, "most people have it that way."
To put it mildly, I hated it! I disliked the taste of that concoction so much that I would rather be thirsty than drink it! The remainder of the cup sat there for the rest of the dinner untouched! I assumed that I did not like coffee. Hard to believe now, but that was the conclusion I drew and did not try it again for a couple of years.
My second taste of coffee was much more rewarding. I had gone with my father to the marina, where he stored his boat for the winter, to do some work on the hull - the kind of work you can only do while the boat is out of the water. It was still winter weather, the wind was whipping and I was very very cold. My soda quenched my thirst, but did nothing to warm me up. At our lunch break my father offered me a cup of coffee from his thermos. I remember thinking I was cold enough to drink plain hot tap water, the taste not being a prime criteria as long as it was warm.
To my surprise, I actually liked the taste. You see, my father was apparently not like "most people," as he drank his coffee black with only the faintest hint of sugar. Turns out, it was not the coffee I disliked, but simply the combination of milk in coffee that seemed to insult my sense of good taste. My father liked it fairly strong, but not bitter.
He told me the story of camping with his father (my grandfather) where he had his first cup of coffee. My grandfather was a straightforward practical man and his idea of the easiest way to make a cup of coffee while camping was to throw a handful of grounds in a saucepan of water and hold it over the campfire till it got dark. As you can imagine, this was not a subtle cup of coffee - this made JOLT look like baby food.
I copied my father's recipe for coffee until one day I simply left out the little bit of sugar altogether and decided I liked it even better! My motto then became, "If it is not good enough to drink black, it is not good enough to drink!" It meant I could taste the subtle differences between brands and blends, but without the milk or cream to cut it, did not like it bitter.
In college I shared an apartment with two other guys. One of them contributed a percolator to the cause, but insisted that only he operate it to make the daily brew. We used to say his coffee was so bad, that it would not even keep us awake. When my other apartment mate and I wanted something with a better flavor, we would actually resort to drinking a cup of tea!
I read recently that coffee drinking, as well as that of tea, came to the colonies from Britain, as did so many cultural things at that time. At the time of the American revolution the population was pretty evenly split between coffee and tea drinkers. But after the Boston "Tea Party," it was considered unpatriotic to drink tea, and coffee was the American drink. The British had "tea time" but Americans had "coffee break."
As a young adult I loved Dunkin Donuts' coffee. Back in the day (yes, I am now old enough to "have a day"), their coffee was ground and brewed fresh every 18 minutes. It was strong, smooth and oily and full of flavor without being bitter. We were such fans we even had a Dunkin Donut Christmas tree ornament. I still love that kind of coffee - I just cannot get it at Dunkin Donuts anymore. It reminds me of a souvenir coffee mug I bought in Lexington, KY once -
It looks good, but it is just not all there. Some of the flavor is missing.
So, we would buy our coffee beans, grind it ourselves and brew it at home. The trouble with that is, that to taste right, you really had to brew a pot of at least 7 cups and preferably 10. That is a lot of coffee for one person. So, it is better to share. But, therein lies the rub - not everybody likes the same taste. And we have become a Burger King society in that everybody wants it their way!
In the interests of harmony and a good cup of coffee you wind up making a list of the flavors or blends you like, until you find one in common, so you can make one pot. That is how we came to drink hazelnut flavored coffee - for my wife and I, it was the third favorite of each of us. A full pot of our third favorite was better than any attempt to make only one or two cups of a better blend. Such was the technology of coffee making at the time.
Of course you could get something special elsewhere once in a while. For a few years I would fly through LaGuardia airport almost weekly and have time to kill waiting for my connection. In the evening there used to be a lounge on the second floor of the terminal that would have what they called a Bailey's special. It was a cup of coffee laced with Bailey's Irish Crème and you got to keep the mug.
Almost 30 years ago, I think I had a complete set.
Nowadays we have a Keurig K-Cup brewer. The coffee flavor is not quite as good as if you had brewed an entire pot of your favorite coffee, but it was pretty close. And if you brew a single cup of YOUR favorite coffee it is better than a whole pot of your third favorite! This means no more hazelnut flavored coffee in our house. My wife drinks her Green Mountain Breakfast Blend, and I drink my Timothy's Fair Trade Organic Nicaraguan for breakfast and Van Houte Honduras Extra Bold for lunch.
And I have it in my favorite mug. I did not get this one as souvenir in some faraway airport. This one was a gift from my grand daughter, Audrey Sunshine. Such is the simple pleasure of a "cuppa joe."
Posted by Warren