Photo credit: Danielle MacInnes
I was five years old when I had my first taste of coffee. My Spanish grandmother slid the flowered porcelain cup sitting delicately atop its saucer toward me and said, “Es hora de que pruebes el cafe.” It’s time for you to try coffee.
Some might think that a five year old drinking coffee is preposterous, but for nana, it was every bit a rite of passage.
I remember inhaling its heady aroma, glancing at the creamy white cafe con leche (the Spanish version of a latte) that filled the cup halfway. Gingerly bringing it to my lips, I took a tentative sip. I let the smoothness of the Arabica beans, mixed with the frothy milk, slide down my throat slowly. And just like that, I was a goner.
I’ve had the privilege of drinking a varied amount of coffee since my first degustation. I’ve had frothy cappuccinos in Florence, dark and strong espresso in Rome, cafe au lait in Paris, cafe bonbon in Barcelona, and cafe lungho in Amsterdam. Not thinking myself a coffee snob, I’ve also had Americanos at nearly every train station in the Netherlands. Whilst in the States, I’ve drank coffee from Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks, and even McDonald’s. (Coffee connoisseurs inhale sharply here.) I think it’s safe to say I’ve never turned down a cup of coffee–all the way from free samples at posh supermarkets, to strong Turkish coffee poured ceremoniously by a host who refused to sit down till I told her I’d had my coffee fill.
Coffee permeates every aspect of life. Coffeemakers are an essential piece of equipment in the workplace and without a doubt, many homes boast not one, but many means of making coffee. Whether brewed in a French press, Italian moka pot, Chemex, or Nespresso machine, coffee knows it plays a leading role.
We are surrounded by coffee. It starts off our day, rounds off our dinner, and keeps us awake when falling asleep is not an option. More importantly, in a world where there is a demand for productivity, people turn to coffee to give them that jolt necessary to complete tasks.
Coffee does not discriminate. There are different flavors and roasts to accommodate all demographics. Some see coffee as the perfect initiator of round table discussions, while others drink it to stay alert while they study or drive. And while the place where java is consumed may set the tone, ultimately it’s the coffee that takes center stage.
Sadly, the passing of time has greatly diminished the social activity of coffee drinking. While some still frequent cafes for small talk, one is more likely to see coffee being consumed in places where individuals are working distractedly on laptops, reading, or busily scribbling to do lists. It almost appears as if in this modern day caffeinated scene, coffee has been demoted to a prop.
The hissing of the old Italian pot gurgling on the stove top wakes me from my reverie. I allow my mind to once again remember the kitchen scene where my taste buds first made coffee’s acquaintance. I see my grandmother’s nod of approval as she hears my sigh of content. “Now tell me about your day, Bella,” I hear her say as she takes off her apron and pulls up a chair. I narrate the day’s events as she listens attentively. I ask her questions and she answers them, a smile on her beautiful face.
Returning my attention to the present, I pour myself a cup of coffee and sigh nostalgically. How I miss those days!
Do you like coffee as much as I do?