Coffee is a ritual most of us have. Every day.
We stop at gas stations, we drop into Dunkin’ Donuts and order coffee one of 15,000 different ways. We go to diners, or we head to Starbucks. We hold meetings over it, we start new books with it, and we take breaks from work with it. In some cultures, it’s used in religious ceremonies.
There’s beer made with coffee, cocktails that use espresso shots, and foods that use coffee for flavoring. There are even soaps now made to smell like coffee (I know this because my mother gave me several bars of it for Christmas).
For many, coffee is a rite of passage. We often may start to drink it when we leave for college, or get a first job. It becomes a habit for life.
This column is meant to capture all of that.
I started drinking coffee in high school, sucking down French vanilla flavored liquid from a machine at a local gas station. In college, I advanced to Caribou coffee coolers. As Starbucks exploded around the country, my interest in coffee grew, too.
When I lived in Boston, I loved my local shop, Diesel Cafe in Davis Square. I could spend hours at Peets in Harvard Square, and it’s still hard to beat a cappuccino from Simon’s Coffee Shop in Porter Square. I would make morning and afternoon stops at Starbucks, often paying extra for a cup made from the special Clover machine they were testing out at the Beacon Hill location. And I’d drop into Dunkin’ for a large cup, milk and two sugars.
Now I live in Washington, D.C., and travel a fair amount covering national politics — and I’m always seeking out unique places for coffee. During the 2012 presidential campaign, I found solace in seeking out different coffee shops in cities I never thought I’d find myself in.
And I’ve grown progressively more intense, riding firmly along in what the coffee industry calls the third wave (the first being Maxwell House, the second being Starbucks, and the third being a more specialized world we’re in now). I love finding new shops, and often order cappuccinos since I lack the skills to make those myself.
At home, I have digital scales and goose-neck kettles that will heat water to a specific temperature. I often hand grind my beans, and I’ve grown obsessive over buying them as close to the roast date as possible. I drink my coffee black, no additives to poison the natural taste of the beans.
I am admittedly pretentious in my own coffee tastes, but I don’t want this space to come across that way.
There will be several regular features. “My morning cup” will highlight the rituals we have. You’ll find that Michael Dukakis buys his beans at Costco (and insists he’s paying 3 cents per cup). Or that David Ortiz’s go-to is a mocha latte with milk and sugar from Dunkin’ Donuts. There’s an MBTA driver who buys his beans from monks in Cody, Wyo.
Baristas will provide tips on their trade. We’ll tell you about new store openings, review new equipment, and give you tips on improving your brews at home.
For me, one of the great things about coffee is the journey for a perfect cup. There are so many variables that can go right, or wrong, along the way. There are the farmers growing the beans in some distant land. There’s the roaster trying to get the beans done just right. There’s the shop selling me the beans fresh, and then there’s me making the cup.
The beauty, and the challenge, of it all is that no one cup can be replicated exactly.
So every morning, I start over. In search of a perfect cup.
I’m eager to hear feedback. Reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.