The Perfect Cup

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**Warning:If you love Starbucks stop reading right now. This post is sure to offend your high maintenance taste buds.

I love coffee. I’m not talking about that Starbucks crap. Real coffee. Homemade coffee. As my late grandfather always said, “Fresh-brewed”.  It started when I was fifteen on a trip to Boston with that same grandfather and a few other family members. But he wasn’t the one that got me hooked. It was my eighteen year old cousin. She was a college freshman. She was my idol. We were staying at the fanciest hotel I’d ever stayed in across from the famous Faneuil Hall in the middle of Boston.  They had room service.  My cousin and I had our own room and access to that little paper you fill out and hang on the door at night and in the morning, like magic, there was your breakfast.  I remember fresh orange juice, strawberries in cream, and bacon.  But that carafe of piping hot coffee my cousin ordered fascinated me.  What was it about it? The smell, the fancy cup and saucer, or the grown-up factor? I don’t know. But when she offered me a cup I was all in. I haven’t stopped the drinking since.

I liked it black. No cream. No sugar. Black. When I was about sixteen I remember waking up early on school days to my dad singing some silly song and smiling with a cup of this black magic in his hands for me. It was a bribe, I know, to get me up and going in the mornings. It’s one of my favorite memories of my teen years.  Was it was the funny song, the tender smile from my dad as he realized I was growing up, or the coffee?  I think it was all of the above.

Now remember, I started drinking when I was a teen, this was late the late eighties. {Shit. There’s a clue to my age.} The state of California had not been invaded by that trendy-hypnotizing-stepford-wife-type company.  There wasn’t an independent coffee-house on every corner yet waiting to be forced out by big business.  I had to look hard for good coffee.  It wasn’t easy. Coffee shops or breakfast joints were the best.  But you couldn’t get it to go. I was known to order it at McDonalds or Taco Bell. I stood out amongst my friends. They hadn’t been sucked in yet. {That would happen later with the invasion.} I worked  at a cookie place in the mall and the coffee there would do.  But the best was still that special delivery morning cup of joe from my dad.

Life progressed. I grew up. I became a mom. As soon as I found out I was pregnant I quit cold turkey. If you are an addict like I was…DON’T DO THIS! It was horrible…headache, nausea, irritability…double…because these are also symptoms of morning sickness. I recommend tapering off. Or like me with the third baby, asking the doctor how much caffeine is “safe”. He told me I would have to drink a whole pot a day to do any damage. Ahhhh…knowledge is grand….my 2 cups a day would not put me in the “terrible mama” category. And FYI, baby #3 was the most delightful pregnancy of them all. He was also the easiest infant. I blame the coffee.

The coffeehouse invasion hit in the mid 1990s. {Thank you NBC & Friends} I loved it. They knew coffee. They had choices of coffee. When I say choices I mean different roasts. Not extra sugary foo-foo-hoity-toity-high-calorie-milkshake-like concoctions that make you go “ooooooowh!” when handed to you with your name written right on the side in sharpie.  Choices….I could walk up to the counter and have to decide if I wanted french roast Costa Rican, Ethiopian or say, a Kona. There was even different kinds of decaf! { I always avoided those though.} I admit, I did stray from the ordinary cup of coffee and go through a phase of mochas and lattes. I enjoy them still from time to time. But if you really want that caffeine fix, you gotta go for the real deal.

Around the time of the coffeehouses I found some drinking buddies. They enjoyed it almost as much as I did.  We spent hours at each others houses drinking good coffee, talking, scrapbooking, letting our kids play together…laughing. Good times. Many a nights we drank way too much and stayed up wayyyy past normal people’s bedtimes.  The morning sometimes came with regrets. But we handled that in the only way we could see fit. Fresh brewed coffee.

As the years went by..the mom & pop type coffee joints slowly disappeared only to be replaced by that great big corporate monster: Starbucks.  I noticed it while we traveled up to the bay area for my kids hockey games.  “How convenient,” I thought. I can look anywhere and well, hell! there one was! Fantastic. Out of town one weekend for a big tournament, I noticed one corner, I kid you not, had 4 {yes, four!} Starbucks on it. At first I was drawn in with the rest of society.  I didn’t really like their coffee much, but as I said before, it was convenient.  The drive-thru really played a part in this.

Before long, the grocery stores had these {sarcastically said} delicious “creamers” available to those who found the java a bit too much for their palate.  They made your morning wake up a bit more bearable and sweet…and if you ask me….gross. I don’t like sugary coffee in the first place. {Although I do enjoy a doughnut with mine…perfection. Those cops have really been on to something for years.} I’ve even know of someone who adds sugar to these creamers so they can choke down their caffeine. Ahhh…marketing.

Starbucks. Its like “Kleenex” or “Coke”.  Hey, let’s go grab a Starbucks. You know what I’m talking about.  Everyone does it.  I’m not saying I don’t or never do.  But for some reason, many out there think it is some kind of status symbol to have a bubble-topped-green-strawed-cup in their hand.  I just sit back and watch.  It’s really quite amusing. So many followers of Starbucks. {the key word being “followers”} No one is safe from the hex it will put on you….pre-teens {heck I thought 15 was young to start!}, successful business men {my favorite to see with the whipped cream fudge topped delights!}, even people who can barely afford to buy necessities of life seem to struggle with the lure of one of those four-dollar beverages.

As for me. I have searched high and low throughout the years for the perfect cup of coffee.  I found it once and have spent years trying to replicate it. I was in my late teens.  It was the Fourth of July and I was in a quaint little beach town in Southern California. I don’t remember the name of the little nook we bought it from but I do remember the taste. I had never had a hazelnut roast before this.  As we watched the fireworks across the water from the pier we wrapped our hands around the steamy cups to keep warm.  It was the best. Its burned into my memory and taste buds forever.  Thanks Dad for that perfect cup of coffee.

Now, as I write this I am taken back to that time. I’ll admit it…I’m crying. So many tears I can hardly see the computer screen actually. {Good thing I got an A in typing back in 1990}I would do anything to have that cup of coffee in my hands again. Just for a moment. These days my mornings start off at home with a cup of freshly brewed {from an electric percolator} hazelnut coffee.  I bought these cool “to-go” paper cups for road trips so I don’t have to stop you-know-where.  I add half and half now because I am a sissy. But absolutely no sugar.

I think I will go grab me a cup.

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2 responses »

  1. Fascinating! I love this. Do you mind sharing what brand of coffee you use? I can’t believe you still use a percolator. [Me, I never touched coffee until I had a baby with colic. It became my comfort and reward for not sending him back after constant nights of crying…his and mine.]

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