By Marri Lynn
When I’m holding a generous cup of fresh cappuccino in my hands, inhaling its fragrance and absorbing its warmth, it’s difficult to believe that scarcely a year before I was not merely ignorant of, but indifferent to the vast world of coffee culture.
My first experiences with coffee were not very auspicious. Working long shifts at a busy Asian restaurant and grocery taxed my stamina as well as my language-juggling skills. Finally I succumbed to the black demon and initiated myself into the gritty underbelly of the coffee consumption world, with twelve ounces of heavily sugar- and milk-laced Folger’s in a styrofoam cup.
This eventually became a necessary ritual to commence the day’s work. At that point, I didn’t relish the taste at all. I did all that I could to make it taste just like cream and sugar, rather than actual coffee. The coffee was a caffeinated afterthought I unenthusiastically I was compelled to include in order to feel properly alive in the morning. It was a means to an end, and that end was the alertness and cheer to carry through with friendly customer service. I had to be careful, though – a sip over a single cup and I’d be jittering as I handed back the customer’s change. My body was developing a love-hate relationship with coffee; it would be cantankerous if I gave it too much, but equally sullen if I neglected to start the day with at least a cup.
I had gone into the job regarding a coffee pot as an entirely foreign machine. We had one at home, but I had never used it or cared to observe the set-up process. After deciding I could no longer wait in the mornings for some benevolent co-worker to put on the first pot, I asked to be shown how to initiate the brew. Henceforth, I was the morning coffee girl. My adoption of this ‘chore’ seemed to elevate me in the eyes of my co-workers, and despite my merely begrudging reliance on the devil’s brew, I somehow managed to make “the best coffee” out of our handful of staff members, according to every one of them. Perhaps this was a sign of good things to come. Coffee could yet be my friend. It loved me, so why couldn’t I love it?
The relationship would blossom in a way that brings to mind the old love stories of the Victorian age. It was a marriage made out of necessity, begun with indifference and even a spot of animosity. But, over time, I warmed to coffee and ceased to deride the deliciously addictive stimulant. I would acquire the taste of it, and enjoy it for what it was beyond a wake-up call.
I began to love it in my first year of University. With time to spare before my first class began, and a state of mental alertness that left something to be desired, I began to gravitate towards one of the java outlets on campus. The cute barista boys certainly helped in my decision to make a habit of my morning visits, but the delicious mochas they served settled the issue. I quickly began to look forward to that heavenly blend of espresso and chocolate not only for the perk it gave me, but the flavour and the visual appeal of the chocolate patterns woven into the light froth at the top. Even when handed to me in a convenient to-go cup wreathed in a recycled paper sleeve, it became a sense experience to quietly savour. Especially when the mornings were still chilly in early autumn, the added warmth was a boon, and a cosy luxury when strolling the campus en route to a lecture.
It brightened my mind, my mood, and my spirits with each sip.
From indifference to enjoyment I then progressed to curiosity. I awoke to the thriving network of cafés all throughout my city, and made it my personal mission to discover what each could offer. The coffee language started making sense to my brain, and my tastes began to broaden. From the typical mocha touted by women everywhere, I progressed to the cappuccino, with a few forays into latte land and some shots-in-the-dark. I’ve found the cappuccino remains my mainstay, elegantly simple and enjoyable as it is, no matter the venue. I love the way that the sprinkled nutmeg assassinates the froth, digging pores into its smooth surface before my successive sips make it disappear entirely over time.
Unlike the airy foam on a cappuccino, I know that my love for coffee will not disappear. The history behind the purest incarnation of the beverage is as rich as espresso itself, and the diversity of the coffee bean’s product will similarly thrill my mind while my tongue is engaged in tasting. The multitude of machines and trade secrets elevates it to a level of connoisseurship on par with that of the wine industry. Lauded by musicians, poets, royalty, and the humblest of working men and women, coffee is a love affair not only for the individual, but for the masses throughout the ages. I’m happy to have the veil lifted at last, so I can now see and taste and enjoy all of what I’d previously missed.