A true confession: I don’t drink coffee. Never have. Never will.
Don’t like the taste. Didn’t like it forty years ago in college. Still don’t like it today.
Yet last week while driving home from a gym workout, I picked up a Starbucks coffee for my wife and a chai tea latte for me. As an experiment, I took a sip of her coffee to see what she liked about it. Yechhh! It took me four sips of chai to rid my mouth of that dominant coffee flavor.
As far as I’m concerned, I would rather drink a combination of gas and 2-cycle motor oil that I mixed together for the chainsaw I used this weekend than drink that coffee.
Despite my own lack of appreciation for coffee flavors of any kind, I’m no anti-coffee zealot. Those dark canisters of beans piled in the bins at the local grocer seem happily organic. I only hope they’re grown as shade coffee so that tropical rainforests are not clearcut for that purpose.
I actually love the fact that coffee gives so many people pleasure. The world is a tough enough place. We all need our zen drinks and food choices.
My own bean affinity is for chocolate. The similarities between coffee and chocolate are not lost on me. For all I know, the dark chocolate I crave might be far worse for the tropic rainforests than a cup of Starbucks Sumatra or French Roast.
But actually, it turns out chocolate could be good for the forests of the world.
Coffee and cigar clutching
My best buddies in cycling both love coffee. On the rare occasion that we ride and have time to sit together in a coffee shop, I don’t mind the wafting smells of their coffee. In many ways, I actually enjoy that smell just as I enjoy the smell of a cigar in the open breeze. Third-party or vicarious pleasures can be quite pleasing.
Admittedly, I still have three fine Cuban cigars stuffed in the upper dresser drawer of my house. They were purchased in Ybor City, Florida and I might just break them out for a puff (which is about all I can handle) on the 4th of July.
I could never take up serious smoking. I grew up in a household where smoking of any kind was not just banned, but criticized roundly. So the one time I tried smoking a cigar, I almost puked. My son thought that was hilarious. That was only a Swisher Sweet. But perhaps that actually explains why it made me sick
Growing up with a coffee-loving mom, I well recall the smell of her Folger’s or Sanka coffee in some beat-up cup. The steam would rise from her black drink and she’d sip it while getting ready for teaching.
Yet one summer day she left a cup of iced coffee out on the counter and I mistook it for Coca-Cola. She didn’t let us drink much soda so I thought it interesting there should be such a treat from which I could steal a sip. I tipped the glass and took an enormous swig only to realize the horror of my bad guess. That iced coffee filled my senses like the drug of a crafty sorcerer. I spat it back out in a spasmodic reaction.
Perhaps that was the moment I developed a lifelong distaste for coffee. It was also a lesson learned about making assumptions.
Frozen Hot Chocolate
These days I stick to my chai tea and the Frozen Hot Chocolate I allow myself to savor after purchasing ten other drinks at Graham’s 318 Coffeehouse in Geneva, Illinois. Treats like that must be earned, lest they turn into something less than a treat by familiarity. I also frequent a great little place called Limestone in downtown Batavia, Illinois.
The endurance athlete in all of us knows that self-discipline is in many ways a reward unto itself. Denying ourselves gratification or comfort in the near term can produce such a sense of wonder when accepted comforts come along at last.
There is more than one way to arrive at the point where you are clutching a cup of coffee. Often the hardest ways are the best.