Cultivating a Coffee Habit

Roasted Arabica Coffee Beans in Tanzania

Coffee and I go way back. The first personal experience I had with coffee is at my grandmother’s house in Los Angeles when I was probably 5-6 years old. It was more painful than pleasant. And I am not talking about the flavor or taste. My earliest recollection of coffee is of the hot, dark caramel colored liquid spilling out the cup of one of the adults at the gathering and landing on my arm. I remember being startled by the heat but otherwise uninjured in the mishap. Though for years after was convinced that the birthmark just below my shoulder was the result of this unfortunate accident. I never actually drank coffee until my freshman year in college. In the early 70’s, if you wanted coffee you had to make your own at home with ground coffee that came in a can like Maxwell House, Folgers, or Yuban. Most people were still using percolators at that time to prepare their coffee and few took their steaming cups on the road. Travel mugs weren’t really a “thing” back then. Of course you could always pick up a cup of coffee to go at places like donut shops, cafes, and some gas stations but coffee-centric chains like Starbucks, Costa, and Peets were barely getting off the ground.

7-11 was the first convinence store chain to offer fresh coffee in to-go cups. That also happened to be where I worked the 11PM to 7AM shift my freshman year in college. It was just a couple of blocks from my parents house in Southern California where I was living while I was a full-time student at the local community college. Most nights I worked by myself in the quiet neighborhood store and sometimes would go hours without seeing a customer. Thankfully one of my job responsibilities was to insure that there was always a fresh, hot pot of coffee available for the customers (and even more thankfully, I was welcome to as much coffee as I wanted or needed). There were more than a few nights that a hot cup off coffee or two were the only thing that helped me stay awake. Of course there was always cream (or a cream like substance) and sugar available, but I rarely drank my coffee any way but hot and black, just the way it came out of the pot.

I’ve never been a night-owl, so when I was offered a summer job with parks and recreation, I jumped at the opportunity. Although I no longer “needed” coffee to keep me awake, my coffee habit had been firmly established and I would start most mornings with a cup. Later when I went away to college, I came to appreciate a cup of the dark, black liquid to help me stay up late at night to study for an exam or write a paper. Nothing fancy. just some boiling water from a “hot-pot” poured over instant coffee granules. It seemed to do the trick. By the time I graduated, coffee just become part of my daily routine. I’d grab a cup in the morning and sometimes a second later in the day. I didn’t need it to stay awake, but I did need it somehow. The first time I had a cup of coffee from Starbucks was when we were on vacation in the Pacific Northwest probably 35 years ago. It was good coffee (hot and black right out of the pot) but it was expensive. All these years later, I have come to appreciate really good coffee and I don’t worry so much about the cost. Last year for Christmas, my husband bought me a really nice Breville espresso maker. With quality beans, ground by hand, it makes a really good cup of coffee. And I still drink it hot and black right out of the machine. I’ll save the calories for a cookie on the side.

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