Growing up, coffee was always just something that the adults in my life drank, seemingly with the sole purpose of getting them out the door and through the day. I never saw anyone experiencing coffee as anything other than a necessity, something that people gulped down without any sense of appreciation or origin. All the coffee I saw around me was pre-ground, stuffed into plastic containers, without any country or region of origin identified on the containers. Sad to say, that as I grew into adulthood I fell into the same relationship with coffee. I always drank it, but my additives, cream, sugar, flavored creamer etc. were dumped in to mask the bad taste.
All that changed when I dropped in to visit my nephew Matt on a summer 2019 trip out west. Matt offered me a coffee; I said sure, expecting it to be the same type of coffee I’d always consumed. Instead of the same old cup of coffee I’d always gotten, however, Matt ground up some beans, slowly drizzled water over a filtered dripper bed of coffee, poured it into a mug and encouraged me to try it black. After a few sips in between conversation and cooling I began to notice that an interesting blueberry flavor was beginning to pop out at me. The more I drank the more I enjoyed it.
Matt had used an Ethiopian light roast in his Origami Dripper. He told me that home coffee brewing could be miles apart from the over roasted beans you got at chain shops, and a dramatic difference than plastic can auto drip brewer coffee that I was used to. He shared a bit about how purchasing single origin coffee from fair trade retailers meant that coffee could be, at the same time, so much more than coffee, and also exactly what coffee is meant to be.
I was immediately hooked. I started buying different single-origin roasts and bought a Hario V-60 pour-over, a gram scale, and a gooseneck kettle, as directed by Matt. I experimented with Ethiopian roasts, Kenyan roasts, Guatemalan roasts, Colombian roasts, and Costa Rican roasts. I was astonished at the different flavor notes I could taste: cherry, dates, citrus, grapefruit, figs, jam, florals. Every time I sat down with my freshly brewed cup, I felt a sense of astonishment. How had I gone my whole adult life without even truly tasting coffee?
Coffee has gone beyond being just a simple thing for me. Beforehand I didn’t have a sense of flavor. I did what everyone else I know did: bought the big can of pre-ground, mixed-origin beans without having a second glance at where it came from, put it in my electric coffee maker, and drink it just for the sake of the caffeine boost, without any sense of enjoyment. Now coffee has become a routine and a ritual, something that brings me both comfort and joy.
Since I started working from home last year, I’ve begun extending my morning routine, taking the time to appreciate what I have and to set myself up for a better day. I wake up, stretch, and go into the kitchen, where I comb through my vinyl records to find what I want to listen to. Then I walk over to the sink, get water for the kettle, and begin brewing my morning cup. As the sounds swell around me and the coffee drips down into the cup, I feel grateful, and I feel lucky. It’s a far cry from the way I used to make my coffee, gulp it down, and run out the door to get to work as soon as possible.
Getting into craft coffee has changed not only my experience of coffee itself, but also changed my sense of myself. When you’re buying low-quality, mass-produced coffee for the cheapest value you can find, without any sense of story or history or the people who worked to bring that coffee to life, you’re denying yourself a sense of the world, a sense of region and taste, a sense of self-enjoyment. Drinking bad coffee is just another way of telling yourself that you don’t deserve the finer things in life. Craft coffee is a way of proclaiming what you believe in - good things take time, the people who work to create coffee deserve the credit and recognition that better brewing methods give them, and we deserve to experience what real, unaltered things taste like. Maybe most of all, we deserve the extra five to ten minutes it takes to brew a good cup of coffee. Who knows? It might turn into the best part of your day.