Whenever I give a speech and talk about local versus organic, I joke about how, being from Pennsylvania, I am totally against local when it comes to my coffee. Here’s the truth: I’M NOT JOKING! Don’t get between me and my coffee, or you might end up hurt.
I need coffee to survive. Yes, I am an addict. But so far, reading every study on the topic, I have not found a single health reason why I might need to give it up. It seems to protect me from everything from diabetes to mental decline. It certainly feels like it protects me from mental decline, twice a day, in the morning and the afternoon. Once, I gave it up. It was my first job after college, and for some reason I thought giving up coffee was the right thing to do. My boss made me start drinking it again. It turns out when I don’t have coffee, I lose all ability to hold a conversation. I float away in a sea of solitary thinking.
I drink it black. Always have and always will. That’s just how we did it growing up. Yes, I remember starting at home when I was an early teen. There was no cream in our house that I recall. Back then, I think my mother bought Maxwell House or Folger’s. But here is one of my favorite memories of all time….
I was 6 years old and my grandmother, Anna Rodale, took me to New York City for the weekend. We drove in her tan Cadillac. Right before the toll, when you get to the challenging part that leads to the tunnel, she pulled over to the side of the road on the highway. She got out of the car, wearing a tan tailored suit, a mink coat, and sneakers. She popped the trunk and pulled out a beautiful basket with a lid. In that basket was a thermos of black coffee. Linen napkins. China cups and saucers. She poured us each a cup of coffee. We drank. And she drove on. I can still hear the delicate clink of china cups on saucers, mixed with the smell of leaded gasoline highway exhaust and the aroma of coffee. I think her brand was Chock Full O’ Nuts, which, when I moved out on my own years later, came to represent the ultimate in sophistication for me. Later, in her New York apartment, which I still stay in today, I remember getting a horrible headache and then throwing up. That was my introduction to a lifelong addiction.
When did coffee become gourmet? I don’t quite remember. Perhaps the mid-’80s or early 1990s. And then, finally, you could get it organic. I’ve been ordering coffee from the same place in Vermont for about 10 years (I think they have changed ownership a few times). Every month I get a box of fresh-ground, organic coffee from Brown and Jenkins. Over the years I’ve tried coffee from all different regions — Columbian, Sumatran, Guatemalan, Kenyan, Mexican — but I have finally comfortably settled on my favorite: Peruvian. It’s soft, smooth and rich. Not bitter. I love it dearly.
Every morning I have three cups — in china cups, in a nod to my grandmother. (And it has to be before I’ve brushed my teeth and gotten dressed!) My favorite thing is to sit outside on a comfy couch and think while I drink. I think about my day, what I need to accomplish, and maybe, what I will write in this blog. Once the coffee kicks in, I am ready to go!
By the way, I make it in a Rowenta Jasper Morris CT80 thermal coffeemaker with a stainless steel carafe — which, thankfully, never breaks. I’ve had the same coffeemaker for five years and love, love, love it.
And every afternoon I have one or two more cups — depending on where I am and the size of the cup. If I am traveling I will go to Starbucks and get their iced coffee with extra ice. I think their blend is made to be mixed with cream and sugar. Fortunately, at work we get organic coffee, too.
So as you can see, I’m a bit particular about and partial to my coffee. And it’s the last thing I would ever give up.