As I waited for a blood panel draw this morning at 7:30 AM at Pacifica Salud Medical Center’s laboratory, I became aware that this day is International Coffee Day. All the local morning tv talk shows (entertainment in the waiting area) were highlighting coffee, particularly Panamanian coffees. Thursday, 29 September, I believe was National Coffee Day in the United States. France elongates this commercial festival into a full week (27 September – 3 October of this year). Who knows what other countries do, but where ever, coffee is big business. I happen to like coffee, but I prefer coffee to be served in quite an old-fashioned way… Black.
It’s not that I don’t like other services of coffee, and they are legion, but the basics are fine for me. I have, however, evolved through a couple of preferences. When I was younger, I like cream in my coffee, but I gave that up when it clearly put hosts on edge because cream may or may not have been available. I also used to put exactly one ice-cube in my 3 PM coffee to arrive at the perfect temperature. As I have aged, I prefer stronger and stronger coffee. If I can see through it, I don’t like it.
While on the subject of dislikes, I admit that I do not like flavored coffees. When I was in the novitiate, one of my classmates prepared our morning coffee and added cinnamon to the brewing process. It’s disappointing to have the pure coffee flavor overwhelmed by other ‘additions.’ Even the novice master, after taking his first sip and not knowing which novice made it, said monotonally , “Leave the flavoring out.” Enough was said because no other flavor ever visited the novitiate that year. I believe there was an episode of Frasier wherein Frasier was just getting used to his new housekeeper, Daphne Moon. He had to explain to her in a volcanic eruption that he does not like egg shells or anything else in his coffee.
Coffee is not only an acquired taste, but it is an acquired personal fancy. In other words, we like coffee in a particular way, especially morning coffee as, for example, Frasier apparently likes only one kind of morning coffee, black and made from some esoteric beans. Sometimes, if we are coffee snobs, we have to be polite and either drink a brew that is served or we altogether decline the offer even when we would really love some, but only if made to our specification. Airlines are making great strides in serving better coffee. It must be difficult for an airline food management team to come up with the perfect brew. As I said, we all have different tastes when it comes to java.
I enjoy espresso/expresso and Turkish coffees. As regards, expressos, they have to have a nice crema on top to satisfy my visual sense. I have also learned that in American restaurants, your expresso comes with the dessert that you may have ordered. In France and elsewhere, it always comes after dessert, which is my preference. So, in America and if I remember, I always ask for an expresso AFTER the dessert. Sometimes the request is honored and sometimes not. In France, by the way, café gourmand is popular. This is a café served with tiny portions of sweets. It’s a great idea to satisfy the sweet tooth and enjoy an expresso at the same time. Furthermore, such a thing is available all day long. Sometimes, one just wants a little delectable and an espresso, not a huge piece of cake and coffee.
Coffee is a potion too that brings people together. Office break rooms, staff meetings, morning wake-up time, all have coffee in common. I suppose this lends itself to the so-called coffee klatch. This comes the German Kaffeeklatsch or coffee-gossip. So when we are invited to join someone for coffee, it just may be to pass on some important news about someone else who might not even drink coffee. The only exception to this has been in the monastery where, when meeting with the abbot, it always involved being offered instant coffee of postum, a powdered grain, non caffeinated mix that is added to hot water.
A great tragedy in the life of a coffee drinker is the day that his or her physician suggests, recommends or maybe even dictates that coffee should be given up. This happened to me recently for a test period of three months. I had such bad withdrawal symptoms that I resorted to taken advil, which is the worst thing to do if dealing with dyspepsia and acid reflux. I advised my doctor of the withdrawal and my solution; we agreed that having coffee would be for more preferable than taking advil. Our compromise was having only two cups per day (normally three) and weakening it…not there yet with that.