It’s been a while since I last wrote an ode to coffee. Considering how much time and attention I give other passions in my life, it seems only reasonable that I mention the Magic Joe every once in a while.
A couple of weeks ago, when I was in Nashville for a men’s conference, my small group responded to the question: “Share something that you don’t think you could live without.” Being the leader, and the conference speaker, I thought I’d model something on the “less deep” end of the spectrum, to let the guys know I wasn’t expecting them to bare their souls every time they opened their mouths.
“Coffee,” I said. “I’m honestly not sure that I could maintain my quality of life if I didn’t have access to coffee every morning.”
The guys in my group nodded politely, and a few eyebrows raised. Then they proceeded, man after man, to share profound spiritual insights about their spiritual walk, their families, and their community of faith. I felt like the man who shows up at dinner in shorts and a t-shirt and everyone else is sporting their Sunday best!
JOE BY ANY OTHER NAME:But I really wasn’t kidding about the coffee. Java. Joe. Mocha. Mud. Brain Juice. Cup-of-jolt. Sludge. High octane. Rocket fuel. Brewtus. C8H10N4O2. I really don’t think I could be a writer without it.
That last one (if you didn’t already know) is the chemical formula for caffeine. I just threw it in the list to sound – you know – all knowledgeable and erudite; I didn’t have any idea about the formula before I looked it up a minute ago. That’s what too much caffeine will do for you.
I love regional coffees, beans harvested in places where micro-climates produce unique flavors. Columbian is my standby, but favorites also include Costa Rican, Green Mountain, Kona, Kenyan, Ethiopian, Sumatran, and that ridiculously expensive coffee from Jamaica.
I also appreciate unique preparations. Here in Tampa the Cuban Café con leche is wonderful; you can’t beat espresso and cappuccino in Italy; French Café au lait is another favorite. In fact, take me to any local cafe in any culture and I’ll likely swoon over the way they prepare coffee.
That said, I can’t stand it when people spoil an otherwise solid pot of Joe with “frou-frou” flavors like French Vanilla, Almond Cream, Creamy Caramel or some such aberration. Add all the flavor you want to your own mug, but please let the community pot be coffee and nothing else!
PREPARATION AND PRESENTATION: As for preparation, I have an espresso machine but I usually drip. Percolating is great, French Press is overrated, and instant is an affront to be avoided unless there’s an emergency. Typically, I add just a little cream, and I eliminated sugar over a year ago. I take my espresso neat.
Finally, and this is important, coffee must be presented in some kind of a ceramic mug. The other day I stopped at Panera and asked for “a real mug.” The barista sighed heavily, rolled her eyes, and eventually found a nice drinking cup (actually, she couldn’t have been a real barista or she wouldn’t have rolled her eyes at “real mug”). That was when she asked me, “Is this for here or to go?”