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Quest for a Perfect Cup of Coffee

My Coffee History

Along the way, early on in life, I fell in love with coffee.  I’ve always been a morning kinda girl. The women in my family started the coffee brewing in the dark, before daylight parts the land from the sky.  Before my eyes were opened and I peeled the covers off of my head, a rich fragrance of medium roast surrounded my senses.  

It is true, I was passionately ready for my first taste of grandmother’s coffee. On the backside of her kitchen table was a short bench exactly the right height for an 8-year-old to sit up even with an adult on a regular chair. 

Grandma’s stove-top percolator was like what we call in today’s world, a metal camping coffee pot. It bubbled a soft, hurried sound and hissed rich flavored steam from its spout.  Her skilled hands poured her round mug almost full of the dark liquid and gently tipped the pot, slowly dripping a tiny bit of coffee and nearly filled the remainder of my cup with hot cocoa.

There we were, the two of us, my grandmother and my 8-year old grown-up self, with our full-bodied black, hot cups and whispered conversation. We talked about our dreams or what happened the day before, chatting and giggling softly in our quiet space of kitchen table and our perfect cups of coffee.

Screen Shot 2020-01-25 at 7.00.48 PMClem Onjeghuo on Upsplash

A Rising Mature Coffee Journey

In my teenage years, my mother and her cigarette smoking, coffee drinking 1950 modern housewives drank Maxwell House from their electric 12 cup percolators.  They got together after the husbands went off to work and the kids left for school.  Before noon they had filled the ashtray in the middle of the kitchen table and drank at least 3 pots of coffee.  If I could prove I was sick enough to miss a day of school, I would be privy to some pretty hot, scandalous hearsay.  The full-featured aroma of coffee and tobacco were the two most adult things I carried into my early 20’s.  At least, I did quit smoking at 25 but, I’m still a big fan of coffee.  

Friendly Coffee Time

Many lovely mornings of my life I have spent with an exquisite cup of coffee with my partner in our purple chairs on the front porch of our little home that faces the east watching the light change as Grandfather Sunrises.  Both of us in deep reflective peace as we begin our gratitude prayers.

A few years ago I was visiting my relatives in Santa Cruz. Nick told me that he had an espresso machine and would make me a great cup of espresso. The story on this new, very expensive espresso maker was that Nick’s cousin was going to put it in the trash because the cousin couldn’t figure out how it worked.  Nick laughed his way to his car with this beautiful, brand-new, very expensive espresso maker and of course, he was smart enough to figure out how it worked.  

He did make me a wonderful cup of dark, rich black espresso.  I enjoyed the early morning light of his beautiful kitchen across the table in deep conversation with Nick and the hot liquid gold.  

My Coffee Routines

One of my weekly practices is to take my journal to a popular coffee house and write for an hour or so with a cappuccino or another specialty drink. The smells, flavors, and atmosphere can inspire a poem or a reflective journal entry.

About twice a week I meet one of my creative friends for a “think tank” with a cuppa and great conversations.  It is always beneficial to hear what others are working on or to listen in on projects they are thinking about.  And coffee is our sidekick. 

I’ve made my morning Joe in a never quit Mr. Coffee maker, most of my adult life. I do love to grind my beans and generally switch up a dark roast from many popular brands. I often put a little foamed milk in my morning cup and sometimes a little pad of butter.  

On any given day, you can find me at one of many local coffee places drinking a latte and talking about writing with my friends. Often you could catch a glimpse of me dashing in the quick drive-thru at Starbucks when I’m out and about. 

Mid-afternoon, at home, I often heat water and slow drip pour-over a single mug of black coffee or I pull out the French Press with a slow push.  Either method gives me a flavorful afternoon delight.

Screen Shot 2020-01-28 at 10.22.16 AMNik MacMillan on Upsplash

On the Quest

The other day, I went to the dentist and had a funny conversation with Mae, the dental hygienist.  She asked me what I was working on and I told her about my coffee fetish. Of course, once she began the work on my teeth, all I could do was listen.  Mae began to tell me about her quest for a perfect cup of coffee.  Mae has 3 busy daughters and early in the morning she hurries around getting them ready for school and herself ready for work.  Her mother-in-law wanted to help out and bought Mae a really expensive, fancy, computerized coffee maker that claimed to create a perfect cup of coffee ready  for her, first thing.  Mae continued to tell me how fantastic this machine was. 

“It grinds the beans, heats the water at exactly the right temperature to make a perfect cup of coffee while the beans are grinding. The coffee maker gently drops the exact right amount of ground coffee into the basket and the preheated water slowly drips in a circular motion around and through the ground up coffee. Then it drips the exactly perfect coffee into my to-go mug and in theory, I’m out the door and on the road with this perfectly hot cup of coffee.”

I’m there, in that chair with her hands busy cleaning my teeth, thinking “dang, I want one of these machines.”

“Wrong.” Mae explains as she removes the scaler from my mouth. “There are too many knobs and buttons and digital instructions and I can’t figure it out, nor do I have to take a class.”

“So, Mae, what is your perfect cup of coffee, then?”

She opened the bottom drawer across from the chair I’m sitting in and pulls out a jar of Instant Folgers.  “These instructions I can understand.”  

Coffee Completes Me

To my way of thinking, a perfect cup of coffee isn’t necessarily grown on a mountain with the exact right climate or an elemental roasted bean, whether dark, medium, or light.  In my life of loving coffee, I’ve discovered a perfect cup of coffee depends on the company that sits with it. Certainly, leftover from my early days in Grandma’s kitchen is the full-bodied cup, the one that fits your hands and the soft, accepting listener with a heart of joy. The perfect cup of coffee has been my dearest companion on the journey with words in whispered conversations.

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