Wait a second. Is that even possible? How can someone love coffee without drinking it? It would be like saying you love the movie The Artist even though all you’ve ever seen are the clips they showed at the Academy Awards. It would be like saying you love sushi even though your only experience is being welcomed by the sushi chefs when you walk in to order teriyaki chicken.
So here’s the thing. It’s all about the idea. I love the idea of The Artist because it’s a black-and-white silent film. I love the idea of sushi because the rolls are visually appealing, like a work of art, and sushi restaurants with conveyor belts are kind of awesome.
This is how I feel about coffee. I love the idea of coffee and everything that goes with it. The smell, the establishment, the obsessive geekiness of it all.
Too bad it tastes disgusting.
First let’s talk about the smell. Coffee smells delicious. I don’t think I’ve met anyone who doesn’t like the smell of coffee, though I’m sure there are some weird people out there. My first paying job when I moved to California was at The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf in Studio City, and one of the things I loved most about the job was the smell of the place when I would first walk in. I usually worked in the morning, and even though it was 5:30 am and I was dead tired, the smell of the coffee not only woke me up, it also cheered me up.
I worked there for six months, and in between all the star sightings and spilled drinks, I never got sick of that smell. I still feel happy when I walk into Starbucks, even though their smell has more of a burnt aroma to it. I still associate that coffee smell with comfort and happiness, like the smell of coffee makes me feel safe, or something.
And then there’s The Coffeehouse. I love coffeehouses. I don’t care if we’re talking about Starbucks or Caribou Coffee, or the tiny independent place down the street. The institution itself is almost as important as the coffee it serves.
According to the amazing Wikipedia, coffeehouses have existed for centuries, the first appearing sometime around the 16th century in the Ottoman Empire. It then spread to Europe in places like Venice, Paris, and London, and then eventually to America in the 18th century, appearing for the first time in Boston. They were mainly used as places to socialize and talk about politics and tell stories, and up until around the 19th century women were banned from coffeehouses in France and England, and sometimes they would dress in drag to gain entrance.
Coffeehouses today are still used as social centers, but many of the commercial ones have lost their personal appeal and appear to be just another corporation. Starbucks is trying to shake that corporate feel off by making the experience more of a “true coffeehouse experience” by making each drink one at a time, but that doesn’t change the fact that Americans don’t have any patience and simply don’t like to wait for their drink.
And do you realize how many different types of drinks are made with coffee? Wikipedia lists 63 different drinks, but I’m sure there’s more than that. They range from the Red Eye to a cappuccino to a macchiato and something called a “Dirty Chai”, which is much less exciting that it sounds (it’s just chai tea with a shot of espresso). And do you know about the Espresso Romano? It’s a shot of espresso with a small rind of lemon and sugar added to it. Or a Café Zorro, which is a double espresso added to hot water. Just don’t go into a Dunn Bros. Coffee and order a Frappuccino – it’s a registered trademark of Starbucks.
Perhaps someday when I get old…older than I already am…I’ll grow accustomed to the taste of coffee and join the millions who consume it every day. But for now, I will continue to appreciate the cup of coffee as an outsider and just enjoy my brewed cup of hot tea.
Which more people in the world drink anyway!