Monday, 29 November 2010

A life-long love affair...


When I look at this photo I feel so cold and wintery and I remember how cold I was sitting on the station platform the day I took yet another photo of my shoes, but I also remember something else...the hot coffee warming my hands. I've been meaning to write for a long time now about the joys and tribulations of loving coffee so this morning I got up in my chilly house and made a cuppa joe and here I am.

My coffee loving began (probably like most people) as a teenager. I had a very cool (insert *and also very nerdy*) boyfriend who was a total coffee whore. He had all the typical symptoms of drinking way too much but he introduced me to the silky black liquid and I fell in love with the heat of it, the roasting smell of ground beans, the way the grounds sifted like volcanic silt in my hand, the swirly milkyness of a good cup...

Flash forward to now, more than 15 years later and I've been through many hills and valleys with my brew. I went from the dangerous edge of drinking too much and not sleeping to a total (yes that's right) total boycott of it for years. I needed to claw back my life from all the time coffee takes--time where you sniff the air, time for sitting and musing, time for chatting with friends for hours over cups, in short, time not doing much work! So I had to give it up. I kept telling myself it was for the best. Coffee and I said our goodbyes and we went our separate ways.

But over the past 2 years, coffee has snuck into my life again. I believe I can pinpoint the origin of my boycott's collapse to three key moments.

1). November 2008. Campus of an Irish University. I'm visiting my friend while she's studying. And I'm on campus enthralled with what I'd forgotten. The ebb and flow of student life. All the people around me going for coffees. And my friend and I meet up in a cafe on campus. She orders a black coffee. I sniff the air and go for a healthy herbal tea. The whole time I'm drinking my tea I'm thinking of coffee, the bitter joy of it on my tongue, the warming tingle in the tummy, the satisfaction of just one... I cave in and have one, two coffees while my friend has two black ones, and I experiment with the milk options I'd forgotten--latte, cappuccino, the bliss of froth and a got milk mustaches.

2). September 2009. Bookstore Cafe in Macon, Georgia. A friend and I meet for a two-day catch-up, halfway between her house and my family's. We riffle through mags and consider buying books, all the while sipping coffee. It's so easy and familiar, it's so relaxing and tasty. This friend too is a coffee connoisseur and she knows her blends. I follow her advice and try a coffee I have never tasted. And I'm hooked!

3). September 2010. Cottage in Sussex. Staying for a week at a friend's house. She's a long-time coffee lover and in the mornings I watch her ritual. How she scoops more grounds than I'd have thought a good thing into heat-holding mugs. How she tips just a splash of water into the cafetiere, just enough to cover the grounds. Then she times it. Meticulously. This is like watching a wildlife program when you're not sure if the reptile you're seeing really can climb a tree with pincher toes--a new thing, the process more clever than understood before. The timer dings and more water goes in, the timer reset. By the end of it all, I'm sitting in a sling-back chair on her patio with the most giant mug of coffee imaginable and the world feels right again.

I've digressed so far into coffee daydream now I can't remember what I was doing before sitting down at my laptop to write. Perhaps that truly is the point, all that stuff I tried to give up earlier in my life when I was under the misapprehension that living is all about doing. Now I'm not sure about this at all. I suspect life is all about time where you sniff the air, time for sitting and musing, time for chatting with friends for hours over cups. Now coffee and I are back together to stay. It's not an affair or a quick love-in, but, I hope, a full-on life-time partnership.


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