I saw some images the other day of water polluted by fracking. The coffee at my office tastes like what I imagine that water does, both liquids brackish and filled with indiscernible flecks of soot like the runoff from some terrible storm left to cook untouched on a hot plate for hours. We have a guy here, we’ll call him Ted, who drinks the stuff as though it were the last pot he’ll ever set eyes on, and watching him ingest the drink in a continuous loop, makes me less fearful of sudden onset death.
Just coffee. Plain old, good fashioned, life-giving nectar of alertness-granting, attention-fusing, tolerance-imbuing, fog-reducing coffee.
In the Spring of 2003, my wife and I went to San Francisco. We were in flight somewhere over the Rockies when the pilot came over the intercom to let us know the United States had started dropping bombs in Iraq. Again. San Francisco was lovely, and if I had the money required to make the move from Ohio to there (read: if I owned Facebook or all of Nasa, privately), I’d do so in a heartbeat (it is where Lo Pan is from, after all), though with all the protests and the people chaining themselves to trollies and the riot police with shields and horses, my wife and I never felt in danger. The whole experience still was oddly good natured. I say this in spite of the Starbucks in our hotel getting something or somethings thrown through the windows. This entire paragraph is a segue for me to say I didn’t care for coffee at the time. We’d gone there the night before, to sit near the window and people-watch/relax, and I got a hot chocolate with my wife getting a Caramel Macchiato (why I remember that, who knows) which she convinced me to try, it making my eyebrows pucker with a shiver running from the neck of my spine down. Hated it. A lot.
Not long after this, I started working for Starbucks, because that’s what you do when you hate something. They do coffee tastings once a shift, or at least they’re supposed to, where Partners will pair coffee with a certain pastry to better understand the underlying flavor profiles hidden within each roast depending on what foods you might match it with. This was always a torturous lesson for me, having to go through the four tasting steps – smell, slurp, locate, describe – without stumbling at slurp with another pucker/shudder and not recovering while maintaining the illusion of believing coffee to be God-sent. Over time, the fools made me a Supervisor, and I transferred stores. I became their opener, working a Nine Circles schedule of five-thirty in the morning for five days, requiring me to begrudgingly seek some type of potion which would allow me to perform my responsibilities without murdering everyone who came into the drive-through twenty minutes early and sat with their car running asking if we were open yet. I’ve read it takes six months for our tastes to change, so maybe that’s how long it took for me to go from Hate to Not Bad to Communion, I don’t know, but in an effort to maintain composure, I developed a love for the bean.
It was still weak at first, a brew which I would assume was ninety percent water and ten percent caffeine (and yes, I know water comprises coffee, this is an analogy I’m too lazy to better think out), over time growing to a place where those ratios would skew and my blends became more bold. I could drink one of their twenty ounce nightmares and go to bed right after – which could account for my high blood pressure – by this stage. I could look at a bean, smell a bean, and tell you what region it came from. This is what likely amounts to a religious conversion in my mind, me having started in a place of such disdain and moving into a place of near prophetic zeal as time went on. It wasn’t a zeal for Starbucks, though I absolutely loved my time there and count it as the best place I’ve had the pleasure of working, but the drink I’d snubbed for too long. Imagine how much better my life could have been had I opened my heart a year/a month/a day/an hour sooner? Rainbows. Rainbows and fairy dust.
So coffee. It’s delicious. It’s complex. It’s one of the few life experiences which warms a hidden part of me unrelated to the steam rising from the cup. To those of you drinking Maxwell house or Folgers: no. Those are the Westboro Baptist of coffees. Go to your bathrooms, and stare at yourselves in the mirror. I understand this love has become an addiction. That’s okay. We all need something to unhealthily dote over. On a sliding scale I’m inventing now for convenience sake, coffee is way less bad than cocaine or child endangerment. I’ll keep it.
Coffee. Recommended today, and every day.