Today is National Coffee Day.
A day held in reverence by all coffee addicts like myself.
In the words of the great Lorelei Gilmore:
“I can’t stop drinking the coffee. If I stop drinking the coffee, I stop doing the standing and the walking and the words putting into sentence thing.”
My love affair with coffee started young, in the dining hall of Kerkhoven Lutheran Church. Arlis brewed a mean pot of coffee. These were my first experiences with the idea that coffee brought people together. This is never more clear than when you see a sanctuary full of Lutherans at 8:55 am on a Sunday. We’re all looking toward the door – drawn by the smell of coffee and the promise of being able to take off our Sunday suit coats! The laughter and joy in that dining hall was infectious – large bellied men discussing the weather and the height of the corn stalks in Harold’s fields – little old ladies reminding us that they knew us when we were “this high!” – some of my fondest memories happened around a coffee carafe in KLC.
Some of my saddest too.
I learned in that dining hall that coffee is also the Lutheran cure for grief.
Around those same carafes, as an angsty-grief-stricken fifteen year old, the same little old ladies and full bellied men held our family as we mourned my dad. They drank cup after cup with us – first sharing in our tears, then sharing in our laughter as loving and humorous stories flowed. It was fitting. Our community was built around this church and it’s endless pots of coffee. We grew up inside those walls. Those little old ladies – who never seemed to age. They were eleventy when I was born and are STILL alive today – they were the coffee scented pillars of my life.
I was telling a friend the other day that when I think of my childhood, I think of the smell of coffee and soybeans.
It’s the same for my college days, where my love of coffee became a momentary career.
I was never one of the “mocha-caramel-mask the flavor of my coffee with syrup and whip cream” kind of coffee drinkers. To this day, I cringe when I hear that order or when I see someone treat their coffee like an accessory.
Coffee is a fucking lifestyle, not something to add to your “Fall Look” or Polyvore. It does not perfectly match your Uggs.
It kills my soul.
While in college, the very first Caribou Coffee to be opened in Wilma was hiring. I knew nothing about being a barista, only that my passion for coffee compelled me to work there. And the promise of free coffee.
It opened a whole new world to me, one that I would likely still be a part of if I hadn’t decided to have children. (Decided or was surprised to find out I was having Nick, you pick.)
Caribou offered me all the opportunities I could have wanted to learn about coffee – I took classes at Coffee College (a real thing at the ‘Bou), I read books, I slurped coffee like it was a fine wine, I was awarded “Coffee Expert of the Year” for our region. Eventually I took the training to become a store manager and took over my own little ‘Bou. I was in heaven.
I was working 60 hours a week while going to school – but the coffee was endless and abundant.
Then I found out I was having Nicky. My ‘Bou lifestyle (and paycheck) didn’t fit with having a family.
When I think about my dream jobs (which are varied and numerous), I often dream of being a barista again. Only if being a hobby farmer, Olympic Rhythmic Gymnast or world renowned chef don’t pan out.
Sometime in my years at Caribou, I began to drift away from the church coffee loving girl that I was and became the monster that I am today.
A coffee snob.
There, I said it. I’m a fucking hipster coffee snob.
Thank GOD Ryan is also.
Our relationship has been permeated with coffee the same way much of my life has. We’ve shared countless cups together – particularly when we first started dating. We drank coffee at all hours together with Ryan being up all night and Ryan having the magic ability to fall asleep regardless of how caffeinated he was. He’s still this way, it’s insane!
Ryan had an adorable habit of always spilling one drop of coffee on the center of his white tee-shirt (AKA his daily uniform). He also had a habit of ordering a medium coffee and a large cup of ice so that he could “cool it down”.
It was a fucked up order.
We were reminiscing about this today and Ryan (a little defensively) had this to say about his coffee order:
Ryan: I don’t know why everyone thinks that’s so fucked up. It’s not that hard to scoop a cup of ice to go with the coffee.
Me: Why didn’t you just order iced coffee? Or an iced Americano?
Ryan: Because I want to be able to control the temperature of my fucking coffee! I don’t want to burn the inside of my mouth when I drink it, I want to be able to vary the temperature. It’s about varying it.
Ryan: Sometimes I want it to be a little warm, like luke warm. And other times I want it to be cold. Listen, I was doing this with shitty drip coffee. It wasn’t like we were getting pour-overs and I was doing it. That would have been fucked up.
Ryan: And I’m not a fucking coffee snob. I mean, I am. I like good coffee. But I’ll drink shitty SA (Super America) coffee all day too. I’ll leave my mug of coffee out all day and drink it 9 hours later when it’s fucking ice cold. I don’t give a fuck.
Me: Yeah that’s true, you do drink gross day old coffee sometimes.
Ryan: Yeah. I don’t give a fuck about shitty coffee, I just don’t want it too hot.
So the mystery of the “cup of ice” has been solved.
And now, present day – still coffee obsessed Gina is a regular at the coffee shop by work.
It’s the kind of place made for assholes like me, who only drink single-origin coffee made pour-over style. (It should be known that I bought Ryan a pour-over set up for Christmas last year because he thinks he’s a coffee connoisseur. He’s also the person who introduced me to pour-over coffee. We’re made for each other.)
This coffee shop (Claddagh Coffee for those in my ‘hood) has renewed the idea of coffee as community for me. My daily excursion there has brought new friendships, new habits – a new version of that old KLC dining hall. I’ve shared joys and sorrows with the baristas and have made, what I hope is, a new lifelong friend in another regular. He’s what I imagine Ryan will be like in 30 years – crotchety, opinionated but lovable as hell. Claddagh is my safe haven – all that is missing is the scent of soybeans.
So today, on this most special of days, I celebrate coffee and all that it means in my life.
Coffee, you are my lifeline, my sanity.
*Fun fact: I drink shitty coffee sometimes too. Here’s the set up we have going at work right now. What is that creamer situation?! Who would do that to their coffee!