Cold Brew

As Dave took a final sip of his drink, a man appeared next to him at the counter. Outside, winter refused to go away — although it was the first official day of spring. Marge’s Coffee was empty for a Sunday, and Dave figured more people would have crowded the small shop by now.

“Americans and their coffee.” He heard the man next to him whisper.

Dave was hoping to chat with a nice girl, making a coffee run before heading to another class in a saturated field like Global Policy. It would have been a chance to win her over by telling his unconventional story of adventure and success. Women seemed to enjoy that shit — at least the ones he’d been meeting lately. Dave figured he might as well try his luck in a different coffee shop. But the only people that entered Marge’s Coffee were grumpy old men like the one standing at the counter, exasperated by the amount of coffee choices.

“I want a cold brew!” The man demanded.

“I’m sorry, sir, but we don’t serve cold brew.” The Barista working the register said, trying to keep her cool.

“You have everything on the menu. Why not the cold bre — ” Before the man could finish his inquiry, his attention was averted by the cowbells that signaled a new customer. It was a young lady of about Dave’s age. She was average height with short, dark hair and light brown eyes.

“Can you believe this, Amore?” The man pointed at the menu.

“We came all the way from Italia for the cold brew, and they don’t serve it.”

“Oh, pappy. Just order something else.” Amore said with a voice of a thousand symphonies, which — in a strange way — reminded Dave of Bell in Beauty and the Beast.

Dave’s heart leapt as he tried to make eye contact. But she wasn’t paying attention. He decided to say something.

“Hey Shirley, I think we can put together a cold brew. Can’t we?” Dave jumped to his feet and walked around the counter, grabbing an apron.

“Uh… Since when have you been an employee?” Shirley asked with skepticism in her voice.

“Oh. Com’on, Shirley. This fine gentleman, and his Amore just want a cold brew.” Dave said, glancing at the young lady while giving Shirley a wink. He had met Shirley a few hours ago. It wasn’t on the menu yet, but he convinced Shirley to try the cold brew. He mentioned how popular it was becoming among the locals.

Shirley was reluctant to deny him what seemed to be a tasteless coffee gone cold. But Dave was convincing. It was much of the reason for his unconventional success. He went around town to new coffee shops, detailing the origin of his cold brew. Many of the shops gave him a small percentage of their earnings whenever Dave’s concoction increased their sales.

“Fine. But, after that, you’re outta here!” Shirley agreed, putting her apron on the counter and walking to the back. Dave waited until she was out of sight to strike up another conversation.

“So, where ya’ll from?” Dave tried to ask Amore while he began putting together the cold brew, but she just rolled her eyes. He had to try a different approach.

“Will you have the cold brew too?”

“No. I want the Chai Latte.” Amore sighed as she looked for her father. She was growing impatient but not because her father had wondered off. She found him looking at the photos of past patrons that were hanging on the back wall. Dave was following her eyes. He was persistent.

“Do you know where cold brew originated?” He asked, feeling sheepish.

“No. Why don’t you tell me?”

“I thought you’d never ask.” He joked, but she only forced a half smile and continued to tap her fingernails on the counter.

“It’s really my father’s doing.”

“So, your family created the cold brew?” She began listening with interest.

“Well… Uh, sort of.” Dave tried to be cool.

“Oh.” Amore’s interest waned.

“I mean yes!”

“Hmm, tell me Mr. Cold Brew. How did your family do it? What’s your secret?” She asked, lifting her head.

“It’s no secret, really.”

“Well?”

“I was climbing Mt. Everest. Well, the base of it anyway.” Dave eased into the story. For a minute, he worried that she’d lose interest again if he rushed.

“It was 4:30 on a cold wint — ”

“Well, duh. It’s Mt. Everest.”

“Will you wait? And let me tell the story, Miss.”

Amore rolled her eyes.

“Ahem. As I was saying, on the second day of our traverse, it was bitterly cold. We were up at 3 in the morning to step off at 4:30, and many of the folks on our crew were still shaking the sleep from their eyes — despite strong wind and snow testing our resolve. There was a crew member sanitizing our drinking water over a makeshift fire pit. My father had this idea to use the beans he kept for good luck to brew some coffee before we headed out to give us an extra boost. We were going to need it.” There was a pause while Dave put ice in the brewing machine.

“Is that all?” Amore had the restraint of a three-year-old. Her father returned to the counter after hearing his daughter from across the shop.

“What’s wrong, Amore?” The man asked.

“Nothing, pappy. Er— “ She looked at Dave, realizing she didn’t know his name. “Dave. You can call me Dave.” He reached to shake the man’s hand, but he ignored it.

“Yes. Right. Dave was just telling me about how cold brew came to be America’s preferred coffee preparation method.”

“Oh.” The man was unimpressed.

“Well, continue Mr. Cold Brew. Tell pappy and I how your family invented the cold brew.” She said with a slight sense of sarcasm.

Dave felt his stomach knot. For the first time, telling his story made him nervous. Amore wasn’t making the situation any better. It was supposed to be an exciting narrative, and she pissed all over it. “Pretty girls tend to do that.” He knew from experience.

“Are you going to finish the story, Mr. Cold Brew?”

“Well… Uh…” Dave began to stutter.

“What’s the matter? Did the… What’s the American saying, pappy? …feline catch your tongue?”

“It’s: cat got your tongue.” Dave chided, handing them their drinks. “Ha. Whatever, Mr. Cold Brew. Let’s go, pappy. Dave doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

Shirley returned to the register as they walked out.

“I take it your cold brew story didn’t go over well with the Italians.”

“Shut up, Shirley.” Dave said, pulling off his apron and running after them.

Dave hauled ass down 14th street to catch up to them. He slipped on his untied shoe laces. But he quickly fastened them and continued until he arrived in front of Amore and her father, blocking their way. Rumbles of thunder grew louder.

“You know…” Dave said, appearing a little disheveled now.

“That’s the first time anyone has ever dismissed my story.” He brushed his hair back with his hand.

“The cold brew was invented out of sheer luck. If it wasn’t for my father’s idea, our crew would have not had the energy to continue the trek and make it home. The coffee was originally hot, but it froze by the time we could drink it. It was our only hope of finishing the hike.”

Dave was still panting and not sure where he was going with the story anymore. He noticed for the first time that clouds had darkened the sky. It started pouring. But he waited for a reaction.

“Okay. Okay.” Amore said, walking around Dave — clung to her father’s arm.

“Thank you.” Dave sighed, watching them go by.

A crowd had gathered around him, but that didn’t matter. He got to finish the story. His father’s story. After walking back to Marge’s Coffee, he grabbed his bag and noticed one of the pockets to his rucksack were unzipped. Dave reached inside.

Nothing seemed to be missing, but a small card slipped from his hands as he checked the contents of his wallet. It was a note from Amore. Dave’s heart skipped another beat.

Good tale, Mr. Cold Brew.

“She must have placed it in my bag while I had my back turned. Clever.” He thought, picking up the small check Shirley left for his cold brew and walking out of the shop.