An Ode to Our Favorite Drink: Welcome to The Kitchn’s New Coffee Column

updated May 2, 2019
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(Image credit: Anna Brones)

“I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.” – T.S. Eliot

This T.S. Eliot quote, from the poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” is widely cited. Maybe because it always fits so well underneath the image of a coffee cup. The poem itself has a somber tone, a man looking back at his life, thinking of the calculated measurements of his morning coffee.

And while the original poem may have that darker tone, I think that any coffee lover can relate to the line. How many times have you stood in front of your coffee machine measuring out your morning dose?

I may not have actually measured out my life with coffee spoons, but my travels are knitted together by coffee shop visits, my productivity levels are often measured in French presses and the longer my friendships, the more cups of coffee we have consumed together. Coffee isn’t just a drink, it’s a cornerstone of our everyday. A building block of our routines and our social interactions. Coffee fuels us.

I am reminded of a quote from Adam Gopnik’s The Table Comes First, “Wine takes us from the world, and coffee restores us to it again. In between, we eat.” Wine, food, coffee; for any gourmand, they are intrinsically intertwined.

Which may help to explain why we have become so coffee obsessed. Why we’re worried whether or not we should be brewing in an Aeropress or a French press. Or wait, maybe a Bialetti is better? This dark, strong drink is both a luxury and a seeming necessity, a custom that goes back centuries, and as such, it enthralls us.

We don’t just crave coffee, our day doesn’t seem complete without it. Much like the ritual of food is just as important as the actual dish that we’re eating, the act of brewing coffee and the moment that we take to drink it is what keeps us coming back for more. Be honest; sometimes you get excited about going to bed because it means that in just a few hours you get to sit down with your cup of morning brew.

My coffee story

My coffee connections go back to an early age. My nap time as a small child was also my mother’s coffee time. Her moment in the day to take a minute for herself. The smell of coffee brewing as I drifted off into sleep is something that is etched into my memory. It wasn’t until later that I began drinking it myself, at the age of 17 while I was studying abroad in Sweden. Coffee is a social ritual in Sweden, a reason for gathering together, and it quickly occurred to me that asking for a glass of juice when others came together for a coffee break just wasn’t going to cut it. It was time to grow up.

And so much like most people, I began my relationship with coffee. Sometimes we’ve taken a short break — I needed some space — but I always come back. It’s a relationship that spans continents and lifestyles. Sometimes it verges on obsession, me frantically trying to track down a local roaster wherever I go. Most often it’s about enjoying the simple moment when the cup of coffee first touches your lips. Where everything else stops and your attention is hyper-focused on the drink in front of you. The addiction to the process of coffee can can take you from a coffee cupping in a metropolitan food capital, to doing a cowboy brew while hiking in the backcountry.

With coffee, as with food, there’s always a story. Who produced it, who roasted it, who brewed it. Coffee aficionados can be as passionate as their counterparts in the wine and beer world.

Coffee for regular people

But what about coffee for real people? Those of us that aren’t baristas or roasters or coffee quality control? Where do we fit into the picture?

Coffee doesn’t need to be pretentious, and that’s what we’re here to do. Explore the world of coffee and have fun in the process. What’s the difference between arabica and robusta? How does coffee go from a bean to a brew? Can you make drip coffee and still feel good about it?

Let’s be upfront about things: I love coffee, I hate coffee pods, I almost always make French press and I believe in buying beans from roasters that work ethically. My favorite coffee related quote is the Turkish proverb, “Coffee should be black as hell, strong as death, sweet as love.”

I also believe that good coffee should be enjoyed with good people. And that’s where you, dear reader, come in. What do you want to learn about in the coffee world? What do you want to talk about? Consider this your bi-weekly coffee get together where anything is up for discussion.

So brew a cup and every other week join me for the latest installment.

(Image credit: Luc Revel)

That’s me. With a cup of espresso in my hand. Coffee and sunshine, what’s better?