Ah! The fresh black beverage first thing in the morning! It has become my ritual, my aid, the best part of my waking up. Maxwell House’s South Pacific Blend is my favorite lately, but Dunkin Donuts Vanilla is one of the more admirable roasts on the grocery store shelves. Someday, I’ll become a sophisticated coffee snob with a French press and my own bean grinder, but in my current lifestyle, it’s best that I just stick with an extra large, prepackaged brew from my local discount retailer. If it’s hot, black, and ready to pour, it’s already my favorite mug!
I’ve not always been like this. I have a few friends whose parents let them grow up drinking the stuff. (Craziness.) But most of us come to the beverage with virgin lips at some point in our adolescence. I remember as a child adoring that coffee smell in the church fellowship hall where my dad was custodian. I remember the aroma taming even the smoke filled kitchen of my grandparents home. Though she was no coffee enthusiast, I remember my mom putting a coffee bean scented candle in our home while I soaked up that sweet sweet smell! Imagine my confusion when I finally got my mits on the beverage and found it tastes NOTHING like its smell! How can something that smells so sweet taste so bitter?!
When I left for college, I just knew I was going to be so super hip. Surely, my taste buds would have matured! After all, college obviously meant hanging out in coffee houses, sipping all sorts of sophisticated blends. “This is not a sitcom, Mac”, my roommate reminded me when, to my dismay, it took me till the second semester of my freshman year to take advantage of this rite of passage. Another friend geared me up for the experience: “You have to walk into a coffee house KNOWING what you want, as if you’ve ordered it your entire life. There’s nothing hip about getting to the counter and saying, ‘Er–uh…'”. (Yes, I built up the importance of college town coffee houses in my head so much, that I was actually seeking counsel on the subject.) I vividly remember walking into Old City Java in Knoxville, TN with my boyfriend. There was that sweet familiar aroma. Hipster indie music played softly through the speakers. Beautiful local artwork hung from walls where old plaster partially shed to expose the historic structure’s antique brick. The wood floors creaked as I found a spot on a nasty old couch in front of a coffee table decoupaged with local black and white photography. I just knew THIS was what being a cool college kid was all about. With great anticipation, I tasted the sweetest brew they sold, partially gagged, and with watering eyes, barely sipped my cappuccino down to a lukewarm half mug. It took about two hours.
I can’t tell you how vexed I was. Everything about the experience was just what I’d dreamed of… except the beverage I so longed to love. Resigning myself to chai latte or hot chocolate, I decided my love affair with coffee just wasn’t meant to be. I continued to try coffee in various forms at practically monthly intervals, but I still couldn’t stand more than a sip or two. Even the beverage that most folks swear doesn’t taste like coffee: Starbucks White Chocolate Mocha, was no match for my picky palate. A few tastes was the most I could ever handle.
How do you suppose then, that 10 years later, I find myself sitting in front of my desktop savoring my steamy black mug? It wasn’t until about a year and a half ago when I was sitting in the lobby of our church, feeling pretty much like I was going to die of exhaustion before the start of the service. A new mom enduring another sleepless night, I’d been there with my husband helping with some prep since before sunrise. One of the perky teenagers sat down beside me chipperly: “Why don’t you just have a cup of coffee?” We were in church, so I couldn’t cuss at her. Instead, I told her the tragic tale of my heart’s longing and my taste bud’s rejecting. “Stay right there!” she said, and rushed off to the counter to get me a mug. “Try this!” I expected the typical beverage coffee drinkers try to force onto my kind. Three to five sugars, four creamers, nothing enough to mask the sheer black bitterness. Instead, I sampled a heavenly invention! Why… it was JUST LIKE hot cocoa, but with the tiniest bit of scrumptious “bite” to it! I loved it!
“What is this?!” I asked!
“Coffee cocoa!” Her perkiness did not relent, though it suddenly seemed much less agitating. “I just made you a mug of hot chocolate and added a splash of coffee. It’ll be enough to give you a LITTLE push this morning.”
When you’re not used to anything stronger than a Mountain Dew, let me tell you, that “LITTLE” push was sweet relief! I happened to be playing djembe (it’s an african hand drum) on stage that morning. While part of me feels that the Holy Spirit should take credit for the energy in the service that morning, I can’t help but think coffee cocoa made a certain contribution as well!
I’m not a scientist. I know that a cup of coffee varies in caffeine content depending on strength of the brew and the darkness or lightness of the roast. I can, however, tell you the energy boost I get from coffee is like a cleaner, truer energy that I’ve obtained from any form of soda. While coffee may cause temporary staining to your teeth, it’s not the cavity magnet that both sugared and diet sodas create! And, I can tell you that coffee has changed my life! So this is what it’s like to feel READY to take on the day within 30 minutes of waking up! This is what it’s like to actually feel like getting in a workout before I start my day! My husband and I agree, our lives are healthier, more productive, and generally hold a more beneficial structure when we start out with coffee!
I took that recipe for “coffee cocoa” and started adding just a little more coffee and a little less cocoa every day. It only took a couple months before I was drinking straight up Foldgers with one packet of Splenda! I can’t believe it’s taken this long, but my new morning ritual is worth it. I usually only have one cup a day, first thing in the morning, but it’s great to have the OPTION of coffee when a waking baby has made the evening lest than restful. It’s great to have a cheap alternative to dining out when my husband and I have a sitter and just need to kill some time together outside the house. And nothing says “I love you” like the hot carafe he often leaves for me before he takes off to work.
So, if you hate coffee, try just mixing a tiny bit into some cocoa. Who says you have to fall in love with coffee overnight? Instead, just take it in small doses, and see if it changes YOUR life the way it’s changed mine!
Here’s some comment fodder: Have you ever converted yourself to a food or beverage that you couldn’t stand at first? How did you do it? I used a similar method to convert myself from regular to diet soda.