Recently, I had some friends and their kids over the house. As we were getting ready to head over to youth football practice together, I offered some coffee. They were certainly coffee people, and took me up on my offer. We have a Keurig machine (it’s old), and to try and save me time and effort, they asked if they could just have a K-Cup. Most gracious guests don’t want to put you out, but I wanted to introduce them to specialty coffee and the ceremony I love so much. They accepted.
They sat at the kitchen bar while I did my thing- boiling water, grinding fresh roasted beans, getting the Hario V60 brewer out on it’s stand, and telling them a little bit about where the beans are from.
During the conversation, my friend told me about his experience with coffee growing up. His mom was a career service member with multiple moves around the country. She was known as the Dragon Lady to her unit, and she drank plain Folger’s every morning. If the Dragon Lady did it that way, well then dang it, that’s the way you drink coffee.
With a story like that, I expected him to drink his coffee black. But he didn’t. He and his wife both took cream and sugar. Why? I asked. Because coffee always smells better than it tastes, and the cream and sugar are add ins to mask the flavor of the coffee. This is so true for many of us. I appreciated his honesty.
When I was done brewing them their cups, I asked them to just taste it black. They did. And they concluded this very powerful, honest truth about specialty coffee that opened his eyes to a whole new world (thanks Aladdin): This coffee tastes the way it smells.
Neither he or his wife had ever experienced that before. Of course, I let them add a little cream and sugar. But it was just enough to accentuate the natural flavors- not mask them. I’ve got two takeaways for you from this little venture in hospitality.
First, serving someone specialty coffee may very well ruin them to bad coffee forever. I’m only slightly joking here, but my friend can almost not drink the gas station coffees he used to enjoy any more. He hits me up to bring him some coffee to all our football practices now. Not too expensive for me, but a little sad for him. He’s been exposed to something special and he wants more of it. Once you know something better is out there, you can’t really help but chase after it.
Second, it reminds us that a lot of people have some twisted views of coffee that align drinking bad coffee with masculinity and toughness. Bad coffee, plain black, with burnt flavor notes that are consumed quickly without any thought for the ceremony involved is considered a badge of honor and manhood. I’ll take a little more about this phenomenon in a later post, and also examine how Folgers, Yukon, and others go about creating their blends of coffee. But for now, I’d like to encourage you to be patient with those folks who attach a little too much of their coffee drinking habits to their identity of ruggedness. There are many of us who are recovering from similar conditions.