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 college graduate:  

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 protect!)

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).  Stay tuned.

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.

Background art © Michelle Peterson & Boise Matthews

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