I used to hate coffee. I hated the bitterness, never understood the terminologies and disliked the overarching elitist coffee culture. Regardless of roast type, or the type of drink itself, such as cappuccinos, lattes, and coldbrews, all coffee tasted the same to me. On the rare occasions that I would go to Starbucks I would only order hot chocolate or the sweetest frappuccinos. My parents are also tea drinkers, so coffee was never big when I was growing up. But this drink single handedly seemed to run the world.
Last year when I was back in Santa Cruz, I went to Verve Coffee Roasters for the first time and tried a classic Vanilla Latte. I doubt that was my first time trying a latte, but I was absolutely blown away. At first glance I saw the gorgeous latte art presented in a modern ceramic coffee cup. A symmetric leaf pattern was created with the contrasting brown crema and white foam. After guiltily sipping through the velvety textured art, I was hit with a smooth chocolatey taste and a hint of vanilla flavor, followed by a rich, nutty aftertaste. From that moment on I decided to give coffee a shot. I started to appreciate the taste of coffee, even without any creamers or sugar. Eventually, I started looking into coffee machines, since I didn’t want to keep paying $5-6 per cup of coffee. To my dismay, I found out that Espresso machines are very expensive. A friend recommended a cheaper alternative called the Aeropress. It was cheap, could create a smooth cup of coffee without acidity or bitterness, and had the capabilities of making regular black coffee as well as espresso style coffee for lattes. I watched countless youtube videos explaining coffee recipes, functionalities of the aeropress, and most importantly, the difference between certain coffee beans. I started to get the hang of it, and can now make lattes, cappuccinos, macchiatos, and more.
So I acquired the taste for coffee, but why do I love it so much? For me, it’s not just the flavors involved, it’s the ritual of waking up in the morning and physically making a fresh cup of coffee to start the day. Even before taking the first sip, there is something so inviting about the smell of coffee beans that makes me feel renewed and relaxed. I appreciate the process of grinding the coffee beans, measuring out the grounds and slowly pouring the hot water over them, mixing the concoction, feeling the resistance while pressing down on the Aeropress, and finally sipping on the aromatic coffee that I made. It’s not just about the drink, it’s about the experience and the productive energy that it gives me.
Many may say that they do not want to explore coffee because of the elitist coffee culture, but don’t get intimidated by it. Baristas who would project contempt for ordering something a little unconventional initially steered me away from truly appreciating coffee. You will probably meet coffee snobs who believe that you don’t deserve to enter a coffee shop if you don’t understand the difference between the flavor profile of beans imported from Columbia versus Ethiopia. Although it may help, you do not need to know the fine details about acidity, aroma, and texture to appreciate coffee. Some people can definitely come off as pretentious, but at the end of the day if your Caramel Frappuccino leaves you feeling content that’s all that matters.
If you’re a coffee lover, live your truth! And if you aren’t, that’s perfectly fine as well. Do whatever makes you feel good. For me, that’s making coffee.