Tuesday, February 26, 2013

I’ll Have a Cup

I’m not sure whether it was a wedding gift or we had bought it, but we had one.  A white 12-cup Mr. Coffee.  I pulled it out of the box, set it up and headed for the store.  Coffee filters didn’t require any major decision making skill.  However, what coffee was I supposed to buy?

“I’ve never seen you drink coffee,” Char said as we stared at the twenty different choices which came in regular and decaf.

“I haven’t,” I said.  “Well, there was that one time when my dad let me try his when I was little, but it was too hot and way too bitter.”

“So why are we buying coffee?”

“Because we’re married.  Married people drink coffee.”  And that was actually the reason I started to drink the dark liquid of the gods.  Char never even tried it.

I drink it black now, but not back then.  My dad also drinks it black and I remembered what that very first sip tasted like when I was little.  So, starting out I drank it like my uncle Ronnie did.  He put so much sugar in his coffee that the spoon would stand straight up in the middle of the mug.  There was also enough cream that the coffee seemed almost white, and to be honest, I’m not sure it could even be called coffee anymore.

Of course, even I realized that was extreme, so I eventually started cutting back on both the sugar and the cream.  After all, what’s the point of drinking coffee if you can’t really taste the coffee?  Besides we spent more on sugar and milk than was normal.  My system was simple.  Every Sunday I would put a little less of each into my mug and drink it that way for a week to get used to it.  Before I knew it my coffee was hot, black, and very, very strong.   That’s the way I prefer it.  I don’t want flavors or sweeteners or even booze in my java.  I just want coffee.  And lots of it.

Living in Florida, summer lasts fifty out of the fifty-two weeks of the year.  Temperatures quite often reach the high 90s and low 100s which made working construction sometimes unbearable.  My father, however, always had a cup of coffee in his hand.  It didn’t matter what the temperature outside was.  He claimed that drinking the hot coffee kept his body cool.  Now, how true that was I don’t know, but it worked for him because he believed it.  It seemed to work for me, as well, because I developed the same habit.

I went from drinking no coffee to enjoying two to three pots a day.  I’d drink it all the way up until I climbed into bed and slept like a baby.  Most people will tell you they can’t have a cup of the brew without staying awake all night.  It never affected me.  Of course, it didn’t help me wake up, either.  To me, it was just a drink I enjoyed.  A lot.

For the longest time, it was also what I was known for.  I often heard, “Oh, Robbie, sorry I didn’t recognize you without that cup of coffee in your hand.”  I was given mugs and gift cards to coffee houses as gifts along with t-shirts with funny coffee sayings.

“Get him something about coffee.  You can’t go wrong.”

And they couldn’t.  It was one of the few things I enjoyed and everyone knew it.

One year we went to Six Flags over Georgia.  While there I bought a Batman coffee mug that holds roughly eight cups of coffee.  We were staying at a cabin in the mountains at the time and when we returned that night I switched my mug with the carafe and allowed the coffee to drip down into it, instead.  It worked perfect! Of course, anyone else who wanted coffee had to brew another pot, but that was okay with me.

A couple of years ago the girls bought a Keurig.  For those who may not recognize the name, it’s the coffee maker that can brew one cup of coffee in eight seconds.  It can brew other things, as well, like tea, hot chocolate, and water.  You have to buy these special little cups to pop in that holds your beverage of choice and they’re quite expensive.  At least, I think they are.  Twenty-four cups for $12 - $20 depending on the name brand of the drink.  I can brew two 12- cup pots in my Black and Decker for fifty cents.  I wasn’t impressed.  Now, when it learns to brew a pot of coffee in eight seconds, I might be sold on the contraption.  I don’t drink coffee by the cup.  I drink it by the pot.  Besides, faster is not always better.  You don’t get that fresh brewed aroma that tugs at your eyelids and widens your nostrils while waking up your brain cells.

You see, coffee isn’t just a drink.  If all you wanted was caffeine to pep you up, they have pills and those energy drinks that resemble shots for that.  No, coffee is far more than just a hot beverage.  It’s an experience.  It’s something to be savored and not rushed.  That’s why people go out for coffee or have coffee after their meal while out to eat with friends.  It prolongs the conversation.  It’s a symbol of fellowship.  It warms the body as friendship warms the heart.  That’s something you don’t want to rush.

So, the next time you’re out with friends, don’t immediately ask for the check.  Go ahead and order that cup of coffee, settle back and allow the laughter to continue.  Enjoy the experience and worry about sleeping later.  There’ll be coffee in the morning to help you wake up.

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