Sweat is pouring off my forehead and dripping onto my keyboard as I
type this. The fans are on, the windows are open and the air still is
not moving. An ice cold container of Starbucks brand cafe latte is
sitting on the table before me and I will not drink it.
Sometime in the past few years I have become, much to my own surprise and chagrin, a coffee snob. Yes, it is true, and, though I am ashamed to admit it, I believe that admission of the problem is the first step to correction.
You see, I was not always this way. Hey, I even lived in Seattle, WA for two years and never drank more than the occasional cup, and that always at the behest of others. I was what they call a social coffee drinker, there more for the company and conversation than for any of the beverages sold at such establishments as Starbucks or Tully’s or even that beautiful, bohmeian locale known as the Cafe Lladro, in the heights of the yuppie hill on Queen Anne Ave.
It was a hangover, naturally that started my downward spiral.
I had been in Japan for just a few months and was in a nasty habit of drinking a lot. One bitterly cold January day, after a particularly nasty binge where I ended up in Tokyo with a bunch of people I barely knew, someone pressed a hot cup into my hand and I drank. I immediately began to feel better and soon I was drinking one coffee a week, then one before a morning shift, and on and on.
By the time I was in a trainer position at my company I was sneaking off to Starbucks at least once, if not twice a day. One occasion, when my boss was leaving everything up to me without giving me the resources to accomplish anything, I surprised both the barristas and myself by going no less than four seperate times over the course of a single workday.
Eventually, I began experimenting with other, stronger coffees: Jamaican blue and Kilamanjaro white. I began preparing it in different styles – one day Vietnamese, the next Brazillian.
Soon it reached the point where I would not drink coffee at home unless it was made from freshly ground beans purchased for two pints of yakk milk gathered under the light of a full moon in September. The preparation became something of a ritual in and of itself. The grinding, the steaming, the percolating. Ah, the percolating.
(All through this ordeal, you must understand, I still maintained appearances and affectionate relationships with the Starbucks staff. I used their cafes as meeting houses and rest stops, planning centers and gathering spaces. I drank their “coffee”. But all the while, in the warm safety of my own mind, I maintained the belief that I was not drinking coffe, but, in fact, a milk based beverage, with a mild coffee flavour. In this way, all were satisfied.)
Things finally came to a head yesterday afternoon. I was at my mother-in-law’s house and her sister had brought and prepared coffee. Inferior, freeze-dried coffee from a south Pacific plantation island, imported at outrageous prices to Tokyo and shipped up here. I had a decision to make, insult my wife’s aunt, and her generosity or drink the coffee.
Though my stomach recoiled in fear and my tongue shrank in my mouth, I drank the coffee.
It was not half bad.
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