Photo of La Colombe coffee by Flickr user Quinn Dombrowski via Creative Commons. Taken in December 2010

On starting to drink coffee

Surely there will be others, but presently, the summer of 2015 was one of the hardest, busiest and most stressful of my life.

In the last few years, I’ve been blessed with a nice calendar rhythm I’ve enjoyed — hectic and busy and big spring, fall and winter, with calmer summers to re-tool and a few weeks of December to get primed for the new year.

2015 was different. In the span of three months I bought a house, got married, rented out my former house, effectively acquired a company, grew our business  staff headcount by a quarter, transitioned out an internal leader, took a road trip near Calgary, spent two weeks in Ecuador and, you know, just did the normal stuff too.

Though I do strive to have -some- work-life balance (here is where SACM and others close to me roll their eyes), this incredibly time-crunch resulted in the inevitable: I slept a whole lot less. I did more successive late nights and early mornings than perhaps ever before. So I started drinking coffee.

That’s not terribly novel or unique — I’ve heard lots of people have similar experiences, even if my doing it at nearly 30 years old makes it somewhat delayed.

But I’m nonetheless interested in the transition that brought me here. I spent most of my 20s having never even really tasted coffee — I woke up cheerily on little sleep with nothing more than a cup of orange juice and excitement for the day.

A few summers ago, with a little more money in my pocket and having had enough coffee shop meetings to be bored with my other options, I started paying for the sugary confections that serve as coffee gateway drugs: iced mocha chinos and their peers. Then each year, when winter came, I’d go back to hot tea with honey, which I’d long loved.

But December 2014, I had a fiction writing marathon with my friend Eric Smith at the then new headquarters of celebrated roaster La Colombe and on a cold and rainy day, I had three or four cups of (delicious) coffee in succession — even if I still used milk and sugar, offending the purists around me. (I remember thinking, ‘Wait, why do I like the taste of this so much!?’ and now a hot cup of Corsica from La Colombe is still my favorite coffee.)

This summer finished the job — I’d go into my office and use the very nice coffee machine and get a cup of coffee when I was struggling to stay focused. It was the caffeine delivered in a medium I started to appreciate.

I had an old hand-me-down metal percolator from my maternal grandparents and always loved the look of it. So I began to use on the weekends, even if I still mostly waited for it to cool and poured it over ice (loss of caffeine be damned, this was a period of transition). Interestingly, the first container of coffee I bought was predictably the cheapest on the shelf — Maxwell’s House — to see if I tasted the difference. With some products, I don’t. Immediately with coffee, I did. Perhaps it was that my introduction to coffee was through La Colombe and other specialty roasters, but I immediately went slightly higher up-market at the supermarket. (More recently, I fixed a Kuerig machine a neighbor was throwing out and have used that, in addition to a nice French press SACM got me.)

Today I’m still not a daily coffee drinker — I’m fighting at least that for now. The delicate among us rebel in a thousand subtle little ways. In the winter, at least, I love the warmth and bitter shock. I’m not sure if that will become seasonal. But the transition will likely only continue someway or another. For now, a nice coffee — still with milk and sugar, sorry! — is something I look forward to when I know it’s coming, part of a meeting I’m excited about or a supplement to a lazy Sunday morning. The taste is still only part of it, it’s still the experience of something that I don’t need but am coming to cherish.

I went through a similar modest education and transition with beer and whiskey. I’m far too ignorant to be a snob, but I see them as wonderful little treats of relative privilege. They’re indulgences I appreciate and hope to never take for granted.

Photo of La Colombe coffee by Flickr user Quinn Dombrowski via Creative Commons. Taken in December 2010.

Leave a Reply