I have a distinct coffee style. At home, I use my Keurig to brew one cup of hazelnut coffee and add skim milk. At Starbucks, I order a tall skinny caramel latte (in cool weather) or a grande iced coffee in a venti cup with skim milk and two pumps of sugar-free caramel (in warm weather).
Every coffee lover has a similar pattern.
But what is it, exactly, that makes coffee so wonderful?
The taste. While I think we can all admit coffee itself is slightly bitter, there is something about it that draws us in. It’s welcoming. It gives us the energy, the push, to start our day.
The customizability. Milk, sugar, syrups, temperature – there are countless ways to make your cup personalized. So personalized that if I grab the wrong cup, one sip is all I’d needed to feel like I was diving into someone else’s life.
The economics. There is a coffee that fits virtually any budget, from the $5 latte from Starbucks to the $1 value menu coffee from McDonalds. Grocery stores and up-scale restaurants alike carry this beverage, and different as they are, each location is the perfect spot for it.
The relationships. I can still remember when I first started drinking coffee. It was in Washington, D.C. at the Alpha Xi Delta National Convention. I was sitting with one of my best friends, Sarah Mohr (McCabe), at a formal dinner. When the waiters brought around coffee, we thought, What the heck? and flipped our cups. We sipped our coffee with fancy desserts and thought, This is the life… Every time I have coffee with my dessert (a perfect compliment to any confection, though a cold glass of milk comes in a close second), I think of Sarah and the development of our coffee fixation.
When my family visited Italy a few years ago, my husband and I got a kick out of how often our tour guide spoke of coffee. While driving from Venice to Florence, we stopped at a gas station and Georgio, in his perfect Italian accent, told us we could go inside for snacks, to use the restroom, and have a “cappuccino opportunity.” We loved this phrase and use it to this day. (Driving together on a weekend morning for instance – Should we stop for a cappuccino opportunity?)
Wednesdays mean coffee for my husband. I’m not exactly sure when it started, but at some point in the past six years, I delivered a cup of coffee to him on my way to work and he loved it. Now, even during the summer when school is not in session, I drive to Fox Hollow coffee, buy him a white chocolate mocha, and drop it off at Preco. In fact, most Tuesday nights, I am reminded, “Tomorrow is a cappuccino opportunity!”
When I started teaching, I was tempted to stop at Starbucks each day to get myself a coffee. My first year of teaching was difficult, and I rationalized this by telling myself I deserved it. However, my wallet (and waistline) didn’t need daily stops, so I decided that Fridays would be my coffee day. Once my sister began working at Creighton University Medical Center, she started getting coffee and stopping in my classroom where we’d sip our drinks and chat. Sometimes, our cousin Emily would join us. Soon, other friends and colleagues began stopping in my classroom for this Friday morning ritual – first Ben, then Mariel and Connie. Before long, the coffee gang had grown (and been nicknamed HCH by Joe – Honeycomb Hideout). We still meet in the summer, selecting a different location each week. It’s rare that everyone makes it in a given week, but the promise of a relaxing morning spent chatting with friends make Fridays quite special.
It’s all of these things that make coffee so magical. Coffee is a lot like life – sometimes bitter, sometimes sweet, and different for every person. You might change your order from time to time, sometimes keeping things easy, sometimes more complicated. In each case, enjoying the way it calms and even more, the way it brings people together.