Archive for May 11th, 2010

What Does Coffee Make You Think About?

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

My office recently switched coffee machines. We went from a Keurig pod-based machine to a Flavia single-packet one. It was a change that happened democratically. The office was using Keurig for I don’t know how long, then one day the Flavia machine was installed. After a few days of Flavia an email was sent out asking everyone to vote on which one we’d keep.

Flavia won in a landslide.

I was not happy.

So there’s the background. I am sitting here wondering what to write about. With all that is going on in the world; the oil spill in the Gulf, the Supreme Court nomination of Kagan, the continued story on the attempted Times Sq. car-bombing, the only thing I feel qualified and informed enough to write¬†about is coffee.

How sad is that?

How sad is that when it comes to things I believe I can write about intelligently, coffee, advertising, baseball, and wine are the only things that come to mind?

When I think about coffee and what it means to me there are so many ways to write about it. The first way to write about it begins with my first memories and impressions of the stuff. They lead me to thinking about my father as a younger man. He’s 73 years old now and has been drinking coffee for better than 60 years. Every. Day. He’s told me stories about his mother making him coffee before he’d go out to sell newspapers each morning before school. I remember being a kindergartner, an elementary school kid, a high schooler, and now a 35 year old adult, and to this day, seeing my father drink his coffee and read his newpaper. For me, in this first way to write about coffee, it’s an emotional connection to my past that makes me happy and sad at the same time. Sad that it’s coming to an end in the coming years, happy that I have such great memories of something so seemingly trivial. A man and his coffee.

The second way to think about it is when I became a full-on coffee drinker and addict. I was 26 years old, just turned, and starting a job at Mullen. This was back in October 2000 when Mullen was still located in Wenham, MA. I didn’t own a car for the first 9 months of working there, despite living all the way in Fenway (Boston proper for those who don’t know). I’d take the T to North Station and then the Rockport line to Montserrat where my friend Matt would pick me up on his way to the office.¬† I began drinking coffee each morning at the Dunkin Donuts in North Station. After only a few weeks of drinking it on the regular, I began finding that on the weekends I’d feel sluggish and all headachy. A cup of coffee on the weekends began to remedy that and I was done. My love (read: addiction/dependency) had begun.

Another way to write about it is still based in my triggered memories, but the third way is focused on how coffee was at the crux of a budding relationship with an ex-girlfriend of mine. She was a Starbucks barista while in college and when she and I met while she was interning at Mullen, she opened my eyes to the world of coffees beyond Dunkin. Not that I like Sbux coffees, but she and her mother really liked all kinds of coffees and turned me on to Gevalia, Jamaican Blue Mountain, Yerge Cheff, Casi Cielo, Kona, and so on. Coffee was a common thing we’d do together before we entered into a relationship. We admitted to each other early in our 4+ years together that we both drank coffee as much as we did just to make excuses to see one another. It was adorable. If you want to take a moment to throw up, that’s cool. Do your thing but admit that it’s a cute story.

Moving on… I think the last way to write about in any meaningful way is to talk about it in terms of how I use it as a point of conversation with new people I meet. I don’t even do it on purpose, but people are so often drinking coffee that it’s almost a natural conversation for me to have. It’s kind of like people talking about the weather, only much more personal because people have strong views on how they like their coffee and how often they drink it.

Think about it. If you’re a coffee drinker you “take it” a certain way. If it deviates from that way you’re unhappy. A “good” cup of coffee makes you feel better. It’s not just the caffeine, it’s the combination of strength, sweetness, temperature, and amount all coming together in the right way to make the experience of drinking coffee quite pleasing. I feel sorry for those people who cannot drink it because they get all jittery.

I guess the last thing to say on the subject of coffee is that it is important to me because of so many reasons other than the taste or the result of feeling more awake (even though it does those things for me). This post got me thinking about other things too. Little rituals all of us have come from somewhere and if you think about where they come from and what memories they inspire, you can take yourself into so many places your mind doesn’t usually end up going. In the last 30+ minutes while writing this I’ve thought about my father, an ex-girlfriend, my first few months working at Mullen and my friend Matt, as well as all the different people I’ve spoken with about their coffee. It’s been a fun journey through my memory.

What to write about next? Hmm…