There is a permanent crook in my right index finger resulting from having held a coffee cup for hours, days, months and years on end. Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I am a coffee drinker. Some people might not actually call what I drink coffee. Motor oil is more like it. Let’s just say that while I enjoy good coffee that is well prepared, I won’t shy away from more basic fare.
Ok, so I’m addicted. That issue didn’t really start until I joined the Navy. One of the first things I learned in the Navy is that there is no such thing as sleep. I spent four months at Officer Candidate School without a wink of sleep. Then six months at Supply Corp School, with forty winks. When I hit the fleet, night and day were all the same, and sleep was a treat. Enter coffee. Warm, somewhat tasty, and loaded with caffeine.
On my second ship I served as Food Service Officer. I tasked my Senior Chief with ensuring that there was always coffee available on the mess decks for the crew. 24/7. A ship, and its crew, never sleep. And the source of that coffee was a twenty-five-gallon urn. You might imagine that the last few gallons in there were well aged. And getting to be more than a little thick. Served without cream or sugar that stuff was quite a treat.
So that’s what I learned to drink as coffee. I was spoiled. In fancy restaurants and with the dawning of the Starbucks craze I was introduced to much fancier coffee. But it was always the black mud I came back to. Six, seven, eight cups a day. Having it near me was like a security blanket. If it was hot, that was great. If it was cold, that was good too. My mother loved iced coffee. But she used cream and sugar. Me, black, black and blacker.
My taste in coffee hasn’t changed, but the way we make coffee has. The percolator is no longer in use. I remember the old Maxwell House commercials with the fresh perked coffee. Two-gallon percolator serves a big coffee clatch. Then came the arrival of the smaller pot. Now you can make six cups. And you can even use a special package that has six cups worth of ground coffee prepackaged. Yielding what someone defined as the perfect brew.
Eventually someone came up with the individual serving. Little plastic pods that you stick in a machine. Fill the tank with water, push the button and the water heats up and runs through the pod then pours out into your cup. Add your choice of sweetener and creamer and voila! Delicious. Or like me, drink it black.
On my latest trip I found something new in the hotel room. A fancy Nespresso machine. I’d seen the ads on TV. George Clooney and Danny DeVito. George as a knight. The theme is that the coffee from this machine is so good that people will go on an arduous quest to find it. OK, let’s see what this sucker will do.
Add water. Figure out how to open the thing to insert the pod. Whoa! The pod from the last cup just ejected itself! I don’t have to touch it. Shoots itself straight into the trash bin! Push the button. The machine starts to make whirring, bubbling and hissing sounds. And the elixir of life begins to flow. It’s thick and foamy. And has a strangely creamy color. I hadn’t added any cream. As the cup filled with this liquid, the machine began to sound like a jet engine powering up. To the point where I thought the contraption was going to launch itself into outer space. At takeoff, the coffee is ready. Looking almost like a cup of cappuccino. Creamy and foamy. Add sweetener and creamer to taste and…yes, it’s pretty damn good.
When I lived in Italy, I drank a lot of coffee. And cappuccino. And espresso. The black stuff. And it was all good. And concocted in fancy machines made of gleaming chrome and copper. The more piping, the better the output. So it seemed. And it took a real artist to make the machine release perfection.
The Nespresso is good. And convenient. But the plastic pods, are they recyclable? Anyway, I’ll take mine black. I guess I’m a purist. Or a glutton.
That’s part of my story. What’s yours?