Food & dining

My Morning Cup

How does Hank Phillippi Ryan take her coffee?

My Morning Cup features the coffee rituals that most of us have. People from all walks of life — from US senators to ballplayers, subway drivers to college professors — have submitted entries that will run most days.

Here, we reached Hank Phillippi Ryan, an investigative reporter at WHDH-TV and author of the new book “What You See,” by e-mail.

Hank Phillippi Ryan, 66

Born in Chicago, lives in Newton

Investigative reporter at WHDH-TV Channel 7, and author of eight award-winning mystery novels.

Describe your coffee routine. Where do you frequent, what do you like?


My husband somehow makes the best coffee, I can never do it as well as he can. He makes it every morning, first thing. I think he does something special when he stirs it. He’ll never reveal the secret.

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On the road, I am a Starbucks girl, but Dunkin’ is also dandy. I am so used to saying “Triple Venti Nonfat Latte” that once I — unbelievably! — ordered that at Dunkin’ Donuts. The barista said, “I’m sorry, you are speaking Starbucks. I do not understand Starbucks.”

Make or buy?

Both are great! Or can be great. Nothing is yuckier than bad coffee. I won’t drink it.

If make, what coffee do you use and how do you make it?

Please don’t yell at me for waste, but we had a Chemex, then a French press, then a Mr. Coffee, then something else, which I forget; we now have (and love) a Keurig pod thing. We make Magie Noire and Jet Fuel and Double Black Diamond.

If buy, where? What time? Do baristas know you?

A few of them at the State Street Starbucks know me, which is a little scary because doesn’t that mean I am there too much? Timing depends on if I am out covering a story, or doing errands. Could be any time!

What’s your order?


Triple venti nonfat latte, always. Sometimes I splurge, and get a bag of salted almonds. I am wild and crazy, as you can tell.

How do you take it?

Skim milk. I don’t really like cream, it tastes funny. If I am getting it sweetened, I use sugar. I can always taste the fake stuff.

Iced or hot?

Usually hot, but there’s always a day every year when the wind changes and the temperature softens, and I think: oh iced latte! It is such a lovely transitional moment in time. Then, just as reliably, the day comes when it feels like time for hot coffee again.

Alone or with company?

Hmmm. I am not much on sitting around drinking coffee and chatting. I guess I am just too crazed with my book tour for “What You See,” and trying to finish the new book, and trying to remember what time zone I am in.

Where do you drink it? Seated or on the go?

Oh gosh, always on the go. I am so amused by how everyone has a cup of coffee walking down the street! And I do, too.

Any simultaneous non-caffeinated stimulation? (newspaper, radio, cigarettes, etc.)


Bottom line, I cannot write mystery novels without coffee. It’s a must-have. Newspaper reading too, requires it. Covering the news? Must have coffee — you never know when you will be trapped without it. And I am in so many airports these days for book tour, a latte is always comforting, relaxing, and necessary. (And you know about airplane so-called coffee. Absolutely to be avoided. Why can’t they figure that out?)

How many more cups the rest of the day?

Well, that’s interesting. Maybe two? Three? And I long for another one, but at some point it just doesn’t sound good anymore.

What time will you drink your last cup?

I sometimes sneak in a last-of-the-day latte, at 4 o’clock or so. Always a little nervous about it, but it’s always fine.

What’s your stance on decaf?

Decaf. Yeesh. No thanks.

When and why did you start drinking coffee?

Oh, I remember it well! I was working in Washington, D.C., in 1971, for Rolling Stone Magazine, and I really hadn’t been a coffee fan. Hunter S. Thompson said to me, “Here, try this.” And he handed me coffee with cream and sugar. It felt like a little delicious punch of energy. I was completely hooked!

Describe the most memorable cup of coffee you’ve ever had.

My husband Jonathan Shapiro and I were in an outdoor café, each dressed in black, I remember, in the Piazza Navona in Rome. And sipping marvelous espresso in tiny white ceramic cups. It was glorious, and beautiful, and very Roman Holiday. A person came up to me and said in English, very hesitantly, “Excuse me? Do you possibly speak English?”

I laughed with delight. I guess we must have looked very Italian, and very authentic, and I thought that was great!

To submit your own My Morning Cup entry, e-mail Matt Viser at