I got coffee for Christmas. It’s several shades lighter and brighter than my usual brew. It’s tasty, but different.
I was in my mid-twenties before I knew I liked coffee. Be still my heart, well, almost literally, yeah, I know. I made this discovery thanks to my boyfriend Peter who gave me a cup of Medaglio d’Oro. Another schoolmate had introduced me to espresso a few months earlier, but it didn’t “catch.” Too many rules. “Rub the lemon on the side of the cup, put in sugar, stir.” C’mon, seriously? NOT my coffee style. It is SOME peoples’ coffee style, and I’m not dissing them, but not mine.
And, then, coffee houses of the 1970s were a different thing from today. Muddy Waters of the Platte and Cafe Nepenthes furthered my interest in this magical liquid.
One of my cousins in Oregon introduced me to the principle of grinding my own coffee and THAT was another door to amazement opened to me.
Another boyfriend went to Guatemala to climb and study Spanish and brought back five pounds of raw Guatemalan beans for me to roast myself. I did, too. THAT was fantastic.
My family was made up of coffee drinkers — the all-day kind of coffee drinkers. As my sophistication level deepened, I realized they were drinking brown water.
The dean of my department in China gave me a very special gift of Hainan Coffee in one of the surreptitious, sweet and secret moments in China. He had stored it in the back of his cabinet until I got there and then, one morning, gestured to me to come into his office, “I have something for you.” It was wrapped –as many other things were in China at the time — in newspaper tied with pink string. “It’s coffee, real coffee, from Hainan island. There is no coffee like it. It is not like American coffee. You will see.”
All of that was absolutely true and it became a constant quest for more while I was in China. I had no proper coffee maker in China, so I adapted a tea pot into a drip coffee maker by lining the tea strainer with weishengzhi (toilet paper) as a filter to hold the boiling water in long enough to make a decent brew. It wasn’t bad at all.
In San Diego, we rented one of our cars (we had 3, don’t ask me why…) to an Italian student to use for the term. When the term was over, his father came to travel around with him. They brought the car back with a gift — a Bialetti. I got careful instructions on how to use it and the rest is history.
My international students all knew I loved coffee and I was privileged to drink Arabic green coffee several times, poured from a dallah. I liked it so much that when one of my students left America, he gave me a gift: a small gold dallah on a gold chain.
Time passed as time does and there I was in Milan at a coffee kiosk near the Duomo. In front of me was a young Korean woman. The young woman’s spoken English was about like my Italian — it will work but nothing really interesting is going to emerge. The young man working there didn’t speak English OR Korean. He was trying to tell her what to pay. He looked at me, pleading. I’d bought coffee from him many times, so he knew I would be able, at least, to translate to English. I nodded. It was in the pre-Euro days so it was a couple thousand lire. For that small effort I walked away with a free espresso and a bottle of mineral water.
The coffee I was given for Christmas is Italian coffee — Lavazza. It’s delicious and, to prove it, my cup is now empty, and Teddy has cleaned the sides. Time to return to gainful employment.
Oh the coffee I usually drink?
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