My coffee habit was born sitting on vinyl covered booth seats at one of the handful of Denny’s restaurants my friends and I frequented while in high school. Their coffee is pretty horrible, but back then I didn’t know the difference. We were there all the time, in the wee hours of the morning after clubbing, in the later hours in the morning when we should have been in school, at dawn after those especially adventurous nights, in the afternoon because it was somewhere to hang out that wasn’t home. And no matter the hour, we always drank coffee, several cups.
As high school seniors we started making occasional trips to coffee houses. The Mad Hatter’s sported black and white checkered floors, beat up chairs and board games, but was a considerable trek from our homes. We finally settled on the Bourgeois Pig, which is still nestled away in Hollywood, like a secret. At first we went seeking a cool ambiance, not better coffee. It didn’t take us long to notice the difference.
At this point coffee drinking, while done with much regularity, was very much a social endeavor. As more coffee houses opened up, we traded the drive into “hipper” parts of town for convenience. One of these closer to home coffee houses became like a second living room. During the many hours I spent there I learned to play chess (sort of), made some great friends, studied, fell in love for the first time, journaled….You get the idea.
And, it continued like that for a few more years. I am not sure when I crossed over into the realm of making and drinking coffee in my home every morning. It happened sometime during college. I have this distinct memory of being on a backpacking trip with a couple of friends. When we arrived at our first campsite, after hiking several miles, we discovered we had forgotten the coffee filters. That was bad. One of my friends was seriously considering hiking back to the car to retrieve them. This is when you know coffee has become a necessity. Luckily we were able to make do with some paper towels.
As I became a regular morning coffee drinker I also became aware of the economics and politics of coffee drinking (and growing). While coffee chains started spreading out like wild fire, selling lattes at $4 a pop, many coffee growers were barely surviving. So Fair Trade coffee became and remains a non-negotiable when buying coffee for my home.
Today, I have a completely different relationship with coffee than I did as a teen and early twenty-something. It is something that I do every morning, almost without fail. I did give it up for a few months early in my first pregnancy. Most of the time I drink coffee without any fanfare or thought. Sometimes I don’t get to finish a cup before it gets cold. Or I misplace my mug , spend several minutes looking for it, get distracted and forget all about it until I stumble upon it cold and alone. And, no more late night coffee drinking sessions in hip, converted Craftsman houses. My caffeine cutoff is 3:00 p.m. I still very much enjoy the taste and ritual of coffee, but it has become much more of a practical matter than anything else.
I still have a romantic vision of a cup of coffee well enjoyed. Sometimes I capture it momentarily as I swing in our hammock chair and gaze out over the garden.