I can’t tell you at what age I had my first cup of coffee, but I can tell you that I was young. My parents have always been coffee drinkers, establishing the smell of brewing coffee as something deeply linked to mornings (especially weekend ones). I could have told you how they liked their coffee when I was four or five (although my mom had a period in there where she drank Postum, which messed up the system. Thankfully, she came to realize the error of her ways, and returned to coffee, albeit decaf). My mother likes her coffee to evoke the taste of coffee ice cream, so she always puts in a spoonful of sugar and quite a lot of milk. My dad on the other hand puts no sugar in his coffee, and prefers that it is not stirred after the addition of milk. Watching him put together his morning cup one Saturday morning when I was around eight years old, I commented on the fact that I liked it that he didn’t stir, because I liked seeing the swirls of coffee and milk as they fought and finally came together. He grinning at me and told me that that’s why he did it.
Growing up in the Pacific Northwest as espresso came of age and coffeeshops appeared on every corner, it was hard to miss the call of caffeine. There was a Boyds a block and a half from my high school, and my friends and I would often skip a class to go down there to get a mocha (which they made with sweet chocolate syrup, a practice that would now make me shudder) or a latte. The Christmas I was 14, I announced that I wanted an espresso maker as my big gift that year. My parents got me one, a little white DeLonghi machine, where your ability to steam coffee was dependent on how tightly you had packed the grounds into the holder. I made lattes for my entire extended family (we were down in LA my grandma Bunny’s house for what turned out to be her last Christmas, there were many relatives) that morning. I burnt myself several times before I got the routine down, but managed to coax many decent cups of coffee out of that little guy.
However, despite my life-long devotion to coffee, it took me years to build up a steadfast caffeine addiction. I would drink coffee fairly regularly, and then stop for weeks at a time, always stating that I wanted to save the effect of the caffeine for times when I really needed it. However, lately I’ve come to realize that I can no longer deny it. I am deeply addicted to coffee. A day without a cup, and I hurt, my head pounds and I want to crawl back into bed. I rely on either a french press or a little Bialetti stovetop espresso maker to get me through the morning. But really, I don’t mind. I love the ritual, the taste, the smell of coffee and offer thanks to that first person who figured out that if you dry, roast, grind and run those beans through hot water, that something good comes out.