I came late to the joy of coffee, and the road there had its fallen trees, potholes, and badly signposted detours, but coffee and I have settled into a very happy relationship.
Did you see that I wrote a new short story? You can read The Emperor’s Cat here. Yes, it’s about a cat.
For various reasons, this week has been hard. Actually, it’s currently only Monday, so let me revise that.
Last week was hard.
Don’t ask why. I couldn’t tell you.
But hard weeks make me appreciate the good things in life, and last week made me appreciate coffee.
The pre-coffee days
As an undergraduate at university, I was never a coffee drinker. I can attribute this to several causes.
First, I couldn’t afford to be a coffee drinker. Once I paid for rent, food, electricity, and other unavoidables, I had $1.50 a week to splurge on whatever I liked. That wasn’t a lot of coffee money.
Probably the more important reason was that it never occurred to me that drinking coffee might be a good idea. I worked hard and occasionally fell asleep at my desk, and when I needed a pick-me-up I took a caffeine pill or took a power nap. Coffee was unnecessary.
My first job
My first job was an internship in a team of people who earned considerably more than me. This wasn’t hard considering I earned marginally above the minimum wage.
Three times a day, the team traipsed downstairs to buy cups of coffee for $4 apiece.
Yes, $12 a day on coffee.
Not especially liking coffee, I had no intention of paying that. But I did see the team-building value of “getting coffee”, so three times a day I went downstairs with my team and watched as they bought and drank coffee.
They probably thought I was weird. They were right.
(They probably thought I was more weird for going along at lunchtime and doing the same thing.)
The development of “going for coffee”
I was still an occasional coffee drinker when I arrived at grad school.
There I encountered the idea of a “coffee meeting”. If you wanted to meet with your advisor or another professor, you didn’t go to their office, you went for coffee.
I never tried to figure out if the coffee was obligatory, or if it could also mean “tea” or “hot chocolate”. When you’re getting the precious time of someone that busy, you don’t ask.
The coffee grew on me.
I started going to coffee with fellow grad students. Once a day we would leave the gloom of our cubicles and the artificial glow of our laptops, and sit in the sun, drink coffee, and watch the squirrels and hummingbirds.
Often I arrived in my cube in the dark and left in the dark. Those short coffee breaks were my time for forgetting about work and communing with the sun.
I developed warm fuzzy associations with coffee. It meant sitting with friends and commiserating about how stressed out we were, or appreciating that outside our offices beautiful things still existed, such as flowers, scorching asphalt, and ridiculous statues.
Life after grad school
“Going for coffee” became a daily activity. Work for a few hours, then go for coffee and enjoy engaging conversation and a quick pick-me-up.
The world was in balance and I actually got some practice at talking to people. The staff in the coffee shop learned who we were, and saved us the best table.
Then work stress set in. One coffee a day became two, and on bad days two became three.
I discovered something unfortunate: too much coffee gives me a headache. Not a mild headache that a glass of water and a nurofen can fix, but a nasty, scratchy headache like claws on the inside of my skull that no amount of drugs can dull.
The only solution was to cut back to one coffee a day. I mourned my lost freedom. I drank a lot of tea. Some days I cheated.
Eventually I came to terms.
Coffee deserves respect, and if I forget this the claws inside my skull come back. But, so long as I remember, coffee is a cosy log fire in a cup of frothy milk and cinnamon.
What does coffee mean to you?
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22 thoughts on “The joy of coffee”
I’ve never gotten to experience a coffee break. In my first job, people drank coffee, but they just refilled from the pot and went back to work. My temporary coffee obsession started when they built a Starbucks into my dorm my junior year. Nowadays, I’m rather prone to tea. I have an expresso machine at home. It was a gift though. I mostly use it for hot chocolate and chai lattes. I like coffee, but I’m in the habit of only drinking it when I’m really tired. And even then, I’ll reach for green tea first since it works better for me. I can make green tea lattes in my expresso machine. 😀
You’re really missing out not having coffee breaks. Some days these are my only form of human interaction, and they’re short enough that my introvert self can handle the exposure to people.
I’m pretty fond of tea as well, and I’m intrigued by the idea of a green tea latte. What does that even mean?
Caffeine and I are not friends … so, coffee means nothing to me. 🙂
And you’re never going to be friends with that attitude. Geez! 😉
Yum, coffee. I enjoyed your coffee evolution, Alecia. I’m a zombie in the morning until my first latte. In Vermont, my husband and I would drive 45 minutes each way for a Starbucks latte (and some other shopping). Then we got a swanky machine and started brewing at home, which saves a bazillion dollars annually. Since then, we’ve become coffee snobs – roasting our own beans, fresh goat’s milk right out of the goat! Only two double-shot lattes a day or I’d be buzzing through the night. It’s my one addiction. 🙂
Ooh, roasting your own beans and fresh goat’s milk! I’m super impressed and rather jealous. I consider myself fancy when I grind my own beans.
From experimentation, I can’t drink coffee after 2pm if I want to sleep, but that still leaves plenty of drinking time.
I have worked at THREE different coffee shops. So I am very familiar with the ins and outs of coffee and specialty drinks. I hate being addicted to caffeine (the headaches). So I don’t drink it regularly. I admire the flavor though and am a bit of a coffee snob. Oh, I’m also not a fan of the way caffeine affects me. It makes me jittery and hyper. They hyper part is fine, but when I’ve sat down to paint before and my hand shook too much because of the coffee, I was over it. Switching to decaf COULD work if I wasn’t a flavor snob. So, in the end, coffee is like a fine treat for me: very occasional, and better for it, I think, because it is such a treat.
That’s very restrained of you! I don’t notice too much in the way of jitters, but if I’m feeling very anxious one day then coffee tends to make it worse.
I can’t imagine what is like to drink coffee for the first time only when you’re in college. My mother used to give us coffee and milk in our baby bottles! I’m less aggressive with our kids: My son only started drinking coffee in his early teen years.
Precocious! 🙂 Now do you do your whole life at twice the speed of the rest of us?
I’ve been a coffee drinker for the longest time! Couldn’t wait to drink it 🙂 It’s a morning ritual for me and my family, way for us to come together and talk 🙂 I’m a simple coffee drinker though. I only order drip coffee. I’ve never been the type to go for the fancy stuff!
Yay! Another coffee lover! 🙂 It does make a nice family ritual. On the weekends my husband and I and our cat get up in the morning, sit in the sun (or watch the rain) and drink a cup of coffee together (though the cat doesn’t drink coffee).
I was also very slow coming to coffee – I didn’t even start drinking tea until I was 20 and doing a winter crossing in a very small boat. That was when I decided hot drinks were Very Good Things indeed. I’m still more of a tea person, but will venture an odd caramel latte (usually in airports when I’m bored, or somewhere that looks like it won’t do good tea). I do, however, adore cold brew coffee, and usually start making pots of it as soon as the weather warms up. I can only have one a day, though – tea doesn’t affect me, but more than one glass of cold brew and I’m climbing walls. Rapidly.
I’m intrigued – a winter crossing what?
It’s useful to know how coffee affects you – if you ever decide to try for the speed climbing championships you’ll know what to drink.
Coffee means Sunday morning to me. I’m a tea drinker on most days (and I’m mighty picky about the kind of tea I drink – organically farmed green loose-leaf tea that I buy from a tea store. I’m the snobbiest of tea snobs.), but coffee is my second favorite source of caffeine. My hubby is a coffee drinker, so we have coffee together on Sundays. I can’t say when we got into the habit, but it has turned into a cozy ritual.
Yes, Sunday morning coffee with hubby is a wonderful thing. And with the cat, of course. I have to say, your tea sounds great too!
I never liked coffee until I visited my great-aunt in Slovakia. She liked to go out to restaurants and after every meal, she’d lean back and wave a lazy hand and say, “Cappuccino.” I decided on the spot that I wanted to be that chill, so I started drinking coffees. Cappuccinos are still my favorites.
Love it! Do you do the hand wave thing too?
Coffee is extremely important to me. Like you I came to it pretty slowly, but when I was 23 I signed up for that Gevalia mail-order coffee service because I thought it was fancy and I needed a little culture (and they sent a really nice ‘free’ coffee machine). I started drinking it every day with a lot of milk and sugar. . .
Eventually I had to just drink it black because I was 23 and poor (all my money was going to mail order coffee) and I couldn’t afford to buy more milk or sugar until pay day which was always a long ways away. My palate adapted and now I only drink it black.
These days my french press is one of my most prized possessions. My husband gets annoyed because I chronically ‘forget’ to buy K-Cups for the Keurig when I’m at the store, and the french press is a ‘lot of hassle.’ 😉
Anyways, tough to live without it. A morning just wouldn’t be a morning without a cup or two.
Fantastic read, as usual!
Mail order coffee–what a wonderful idea! But dangerous.
That’s not an uncommon story being forced to drink black coffee for whatever reason and coming to like it. Sacrificing being able to afford milk and sugar in order to buy lots of good coffee certainly seems like a sensible decision. I admire the way you’ve lived your life! 🙂
Enjoyed the post.
I came late to coffee as well. Started drinking it during breaks at the shooting range when I was in basic training @ Ft. Leonard Wood. I learned the sergeants couldn’t stand to see recruits doing nothing. Drinking coffee counted as doing something, so I quickly learned to like it. I eventually learned to drink it back out of a tin canteen cup without branding my lip. (Hot coffee in a hot tin canteen cup is a learning experience.) Black because that’s all there was. I
‘m one of those disgusting morning people. I’m as good as I’ll be all day at 4AM when I get my first sip of coffee. The best cup is the first. I drink two or three a day, no caffeine after 2PM.
I grind my own coffee and brew it in a Keurig machine using a My-K-Cup. It brews one cup better than a normal pot so each cup is fresh, and it’s fast so the Perkatory time is short. I’m not a fan of reheated coffee.
That has to be the best reason I’ve heard for taking up drinking coffee. 🙂 I’m impressed you can drink it from a tin canteen cup without branding yourself. I burn myself even drinking coffee from a paper cup.
Sounds like you’ve got your coffee-making system all sorted. If I drank more cups a day I think that’s how I’d do it. Reheated coffee should not even be a thing.
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