Thank You, Coffee

What is it about coffee? It’s most moms’ best friend in the morning. It’s probably most ADULTS’ best friend in the morning. But, why? Is it the smell? That roasty, rich smell that wafts through the house and makes us grateful to have those holes in our nose called nostrils?

My first memories of smelling freshly brewed coffee are from when I was a young girl. My parents, sister, brother, (and sometimes our cats) and I would go on summer vacation in a small, wood cabin on the shore of Lake Michigan in the UP. My parents didn’t drink coffee at home, but when we went on vacation, they used an old-fashioned percolator to brew some hot coffee every morning. I would wake up to the cymbals of waves crashing on the beach and the unmistakeable aroma of that dark, strong elixir of life. I didn’t like the way it tasted, but that was one of my favorite smells. It’s what I always think of when I imagine a chilly morning at the beach.

Is it the flavor? That bitterness in a cup? I don’t like bitter-tasting foods like raddichio or kale, but the flavor of coffee, and espresso (Italian for “expressed,” as I recently learned), is nothing but appealing. Yes, I take mine with cream or half and half, which softens and silkens the bitterness, but it remains not sour, sweet, or salty. I relish the sharp bite of the hot liquid.

I’m told that when I was three or four years old, I played coffee party the way most little girls play tea party. I would fill up my coffeepot with water and invite my family to drink coffee with me. I would pee a lot. I knew even at that age that tea was just not my cup of tea.

Is it the caffeine? That jolt of energy to help kick-start the day? If I have two cups in a row, I turn into a whirling dervish of a house cleaner, and no one should try to stand in my way. If I have five cups, I jitter, my head hurts, and my stomach tries to secede. It’s not pretty, so self-restraint is key to my caffeine enjoyment.

Lately, I’ve been enjoying my legal-drug fix as early as possible, when the kids are still asleep (or at least in bed) and I can take my time getting used to the idea of being awake. I snuggle back under the covers with a steaming cuppa and my latest novel, while the world around me is stretching and yawning. The sun is just starting to peek above the horizon, and the neighborhood birds are making a cacophony of joyful noise.

Coffee isn’t always a solo experience. My kids used to take long sips of my iced coffee, and I had to keep an eye on them lest they deplete an entire precious glassful. 

One of my favorite pastimes is visiting a local coffeeshop, such as any Barrique’s location (if there is any available seating!), True Coffee Roasters, or the Lakeside Street Coffee House. Espresso Royale, The Froth House, Bradbury’s. I like Starbucks, but it’s always too noisy in their stores to savor a visit. It feels like such a treat to buy myself coffee that someone else has made and settle in with an engaging book or people-watch. Heck, these days, it’s a near-miracle that someone else will wait on me and clean up after me, amiright, ladies?

A full mug is comforting and invigorating on cold days, and a chilled glass is refreshing on hot days. It’s a beverage for all seasons. Coffee never disappoints me. Well, except for when it’s gone. Then I cry a little bit on the inside. 

I think it’s the sum of its parts. All of the reasons I love coffee are mentioned above. And coffee loves me back. Every happy, little cup I make and drink feels like a warm, fragrant hug. And trust me, I’ve tasted a lot of coffee. I have no fewer than five devices to make coffee at home. From office coffee to turbo-charged Turkish coffee, from espresso in San Gimignano, Tuscany, to home-brewed iced coffee. It’s a dirty job, but some mom’s gotta do it.

P.S. Don’t even get me started on coffee ice cream.

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