Coffee, Tea, and Me
I used not to like coffee. Not even a little. I
could throw back tea with the best of 'em, but coffee tasted nasty to me.
Well, except for the awesome coffee ice cream from White Mountain Creamery
that we walked through a mini-blizzard to get. (I suppose what this
told me was that cream and sugar can make even bitter coffee palatable...)
And then, between college and grad school, I did a little traveling through
the American Southwest and stayed at youth hostels. There is a very
important fact about youth hostels, especially for the unemployed recent
If you've paid for a bed, the coffee is free.
Not only that, if you put enough sugar and milk (or creamer) in the coffee,
it will contain almost enough calories to sustain you till your next package
of ramen noodles.
This, my friends, was the beginning of the end. That trip to the
end was hastened by the fact that, a month later, I was in the San Francisco
Bay Area hanging with my friends who were working in the computer biz and
exploring a limited foray into yuppiedom. Within days I was learning
how to foam milk for cappucino.
At various points along the way, I've cleaned up and gotten myself off
coffee. But the life of a grad student (or a junior academic) seems
tailor-made for a coffee habit. My standard dose now is a 12 oz thermos
filled 3/4 with coffee and 1/4 with soymilk. I can get through most
days without a booster.
As an added bonus, our coffee habit may be good for worms, since we compost the
grounds. (And I'm told that caffeine seems to mess with snail and
slug metabolism. Brew another pot of that stuff, we've got plants to
My favorite source for coffee beans is Porto Rico Importing Co., in Greenwich
Village. Obviously, we get the beans shipped (which means it's only
economical if we get enough beans to minimize the per-pound shipping price).
They have two big sales a year, so we usually stock up then.
We have some favorite beans and blends, but aren't experts on what's
good, of even necessarily on what it is that contributes to the characteristics
we like in coffee. If you want expertise, click here. To
develop expertise, I'd probably have to increase my dependency on the bean,
so it's just as well that others are willing to make that sacrifice.
Tea, on the other hand, is a caffeinated ritualistic drink I have no
qualms about whatsoever. Go figure. Maybe part of this is because
I drink my tea straight-up (unless it's Chai in an Indian restaurant).
Lately I have been getting into green teas, of which there are many,
with a wide variety of characteristics. They are more lightly fermented
than black teas, so they are lighter in tannin and provide a gentle buzz.
The antioxidants in them may or may not offer protection from cancer.
Porto Rico is a good source
of teas, too (as well as of mesh tea balls). The Tea Museum
has interesting historical information about tea drinking in Japan. I
may, at some point, provide mini-reviews of the green teas in our tea cupboard
(which I'm very excited to have -- it used to be the baby food cupboard).
And of course, the big new trend (around here, anyway) in coffee and
tea is to dispense them as "pearl" or "bubble" drinks. Our local
branch of the Quickly
empire is the canonical purveyor of coffee, tea, or juice drinks with tapioca
pearls or assorted jellies at the bottom of the cup, with wide-bore straws
to suck them up with your drink. I like being able to get almond
milk tea, but just between you and me, I fear the tapioca.
I have nothing against carbonated drinks per se, but I don't like cola.
And while some root beer
is caffeinated, it's not a requirement.