Do you drink coffee?
It's such an innocuous question, isn't it? If you're one of the 107 million people in the United States who drink coffee (and that statistic only counts those over age 18), you probably don't notice how often you're asked about it. But as one of the three non-coffee-drinkers within a 500 mile radius of Seattle, I can tell you it gets asked a lot. And when I answer "No," I get reactions similar to what you might imagine if I announced that I did not eat food because I didn't care for the taste.
Coffee is an acquired taste, and I have never been able to manage it. My best friend started drinking coffee in her mid-teens, and we had an ongoing joke when I stayed over at her house -- she would fix herself some coffee (this became increasingly sophisticated as she discovered fresh-ground coffee and the associated paraphernalia) while I leaned against the counter and chatted with her. She'd ask, casually, "Do you want a cup?" I'd pause for a second as if considering it, and then say, equally casually, "No, not today ... thanks, though!" I don't know why that kept being funny even fifteen years later, but she still asks and I still answer the same way.
She tried giving it to me black, with cream, with sugar, with flavorings, with very high-class fresh-ground coffee beans, every way she could think of -- it never worked. The closest I've ever come to liking any form of coffee was an almond-flavored granita from a dark, quirky little hole-in-the-wall of a coffee shop in town that was razed to make a new bus station. I glare at the bus station every time I go by it, just because of The Governor's Cup being gone. I know it's not the bus station's fault, but that place had personality. On second thought, the positive experience with the granita might have had quite a lot to do with the devilish smile and intriguingly curly hair of my date (AND he played classical guitar), but I suspect it probably really was a well-made drink, regardless of my mental state at the time.
Anyway, I do not like to drink coffee. Like many people, I love the smell of it. If it wouldn't give people a subconscious urge to sprinkle sugar on my head, I would wear it for perfume just so I could smell it in the mornings. When I first had my own kitchen after college, I seriously considered making a pot of coffee every morning, just for the smell, and then pouring it down the drain before I went to work, because who wants cold coffee sitting around the kitchen, right? I didn't do it, but the fact that it occurred to me should tell you something about my love-hate relationship with coffee.
When I wake up at 6:45 a.m. and it is cold and black outside and I have two small children to pry out of bed, I sigh and think, "What I really want is a good strong cup of coffee." Because I know that's what I need -- something hot to warm up my insides (since I am cold from November to March), something with a good jolt of caffeine (since even I have to wait until 10 a.m. to face a can of diet Coke, and I am an avowed addict), and something that smells lovely and tastes of far-off lands with a hot bright sun that comes out more than three times over the course of the winter.
The long and short of it is that if it did not taste like hot water run through an old work boot and liberally flavored with iron shavings, I would love coffee.
This was originally posted on October 3, 2005.