A Step-by-Step Guide to Becoming a Coffee Snob This Year

Photo by fireskystudios.com on Unsplash

I’m drinking coffee from my couch for the first time in my life this morning.

What did y’all do to Kevin Orris?

A year ago, I hated coffee. Only a few sips in my life, hot or iced, proved as much. Even those chocolate covered coffee beans disgusted me. But now? I’m lifting my pinky as a sip this tasty java.

If you know me at all, you know I’m a notoriously picky eater. It’s far easier to list the foods I eat rather than avoid:

  • Meat (chicken, burgers, hot dogs, steak, bacon, etc.)
  • Granola bars
  • Bread
  • Cheese
  • A surprising amount of fruit
  • Eggs
  • Potatoes
  • Ice cream
  • Baked goods

I might’ve missed a few items, but that about covers it. (Note: Eating Shake Shack in Moscow was one of the highlights of my 2017.)

Ever cautious, but forcing myself to expand my horizons, I pick one food item to work toward each year. In 2014, I dominated many forms of potatoes. 2015 saw me order a burger with lettuce for the first time. Two years ago, I conquered the year of the onion (pt. 1; I still don’t like them raw). And in 2017, I picked coffee.

I aspired to be a snob. I wanted to tell the difference between African and South American beans. I wanted all the tools to do it myself. I wanted to remove the embarrassment of ordering hot chocolate every time I visited a coffee shop.

Mocha (January — March)

After much consultation, I began the year with mochas. But as I went to order at Starbucks, I couldn’t find it on the menu. Instead, I saw “Caffè Mocha” (accents and all). For my fellow noobs, it’s half hot chocolate and half espresso, best when topped with whipped cream. I pushed through my confusion, ordered a tall, and hurried back to my car filled with fear to try this new beverage.

People swore it was a sweet, chocolatey drink, but that first drink tasted all too much like coffee to me. Yuck. After four or five sips, I slowly acclimated, but I threw most of it out.

In the coming weeks, my Caffè Mocha intake steadily increased as I acclimated to the taste. By March, I actually started to enjoy them.

Caramel Macchiato (March — April)

As I shared my coffee journey with others, many friends suggested I try a Carmel Macchiato, a combination of steamed milk, espresso and drizzled caramel sauce. One friend suggested it would taste like a milkshake. He was dead wrong.

It was okay, but I decided this step was hardly progress. A week later, I was on to lattes.

Vanilla Latte (April)

When I went to order my first latte, I heard a patron in front of me order some variation of a vanilla latte. I followed suit, pretty sure if it was the same beverage as the “Caffè Latte” listing on the Starbucks menu.

To this day, I’m unsure what flavors of latte exist beyond vanilla, but this refreshment did the trick. Still hesitant to try new drinks, I sipped it slowly, but eventually got the hang of it. Halfway through the year and I was halfway to coffee. Progress!

Latte (May)

One day I decided to drop the vanilla, not that I could taste it anyway. Except without a flavor, the drink was noticeably “coffee-er.” Maybe I wasn’t mean to be a “coffee guy.” I knew the only way I’d find out is by going for it.

Coffee (!) with cream and sugar (June)

Lacking sleep and surrounded by caffeinated coworkers, I took the plunge in June. This was no cool coffee shop, rather a standard hotel restaurant, serving the most basic of breakfasts. I filled a mug halfway, required the entire vial of creamer and added the two biggest sugar cubes available. This was a milestone morning.

I wasn’t a big fan, but I was far less apprehensive compared to the beginning of my journey in January. The next couple months, I consumed coffee regularly, always leaving more than enough room for cream and sugar. Despite my perceived progress, I knew to be a true snob, I must drink it black.

Black coffee (September)

My friend Brian was my closest and most reliable ally on this journey. A seasoned coffee drinker himself, I wanted to him to guide me to my first cup of plain coffee. While in Hoboken over Labor Day Weekend, Brian and I woke early to venture into New York City for a cup of joe.

A quick train ride and couple blocks walk took us to Stumptown for a pour over. I randomly selected a bean variety deemed “Holler Mountain,” because who doesn’t like mountains? For all the nervous and terrible first tastes I had along the way, this was an easy transition. I didn’t quite finish it, but I enjoyed it enough to return a couple days later for another brew.

Couch coffee (December)

In the final months of 2017, I limited myself to mochas (I still love hot chocolate) and black coffee, unsure of why anyone utilizes cream and sugar. And as of last week, I am the proud owner of a nice grinder, pour over kettle and French press.

What a difference a year makes.

So what’s next? As far as coffee goes, I’m currently enjoying Stumptown’s Holler Mountain beans, but excited to explore. Send me your suggestions!

Having received suggestions from friends and family, 2018’s food challenge nominations are tea, salad, and avocados. Which item do you suggest I focus on in the New Year? Hit me up on Twitter @kevinorris with your explanation and I’ll let you know what I decide. My future is in your hands.

I’m making an effort to share the music, reads, art, and more that inspire me on a regular basis in 2018. Click here to join me on this journey.