Why I Love Coffee
I didn’t always love you. I never drank you black, and instead often opted for the milky/sugary concoctions sold by a certain green mermaid chain. But what once was a necessary source of caffeine has turned into a hobby and a deep appreciation for an often unappreciated food item.
People don’t really know that the coffee is actually the pit of the coffee fruit—at their peak of ripeness, bright red berries that grow on shrubs or small trees in tropical climates all around the world.
The berries don’t ripen at the same rate, so ripe ones must be picked by hand. (Yes, every coffee bean has been picked by hand. Usually.) The flesh of the fruit must be washed off in order to access the pit, what we know as the coffee bean. Then it has to be dried, then roasted. This is a simplistic rendering of the process of harvesting coffee beans, as different countries have different methods.
The amount of roasting a bean goes through brings out different flavors. The less roasting, the more bright or acidic a flavor the bean gives out. Too much roasting gives off burnt flavors instead of the natural bean.
This is what I’ve been taught so far in my few months as a barista in an American third-wave coffee shop. Admittedly, I am still learning and probably by all means very much amateur in my brewing and tasting, but I am irretrievably and utterly obsessed with the small caffeine speck of the world.
It’s not exactly straightforward. Coffee—unlike chocolate, which is amazing all the time—can go from really horrendous (think: your office Folger’s brewed in your 10 year old Mr. Coffee drip) or really complex (with the advent of third-wave coffee roasters like Stumptown, Blue Bottle, Counter Culture or Intelligentsia). It can be extracted in fancy espresso or the comforting mug of drip. It can have steamed milk—or not. It can be brewed cold—or not. However you take it, coffee is an extremely personal food item.
I know being a barista isn’t exactly the most prestigious profession in the world. Regular, demanding coffee drinkers are not exactly the nicest people in the world. But I like making someone their drink and seeing their eyes light up, or having brief conversations about what’s going on in their lives. Because for a second, we’re brought together by a love for a common libation. Alcohol doesn’t do the same thing. Tea probably doesn’t do the same thing—at least, not in the States. But coffee? It’ll give you a warm bath and tuck you in at night. It’ll tell you stories and cuddle with you. And in the morning, it’ll sit alongside you with your breakfast, ready to accompany you in your day.