I don’t like to drink coffee.
Actually, I’m not particularly fond of any hot drinks, so it isn’t just coffee. Tea, hot chocolate, and hot toddies all fall into the category of “I don’t like.”
My mouth burns easily compared to my friends, who can swallow steaming coffee straight from the coffee maker. Perhaps their tongues are lined with asbestos, or maybe they’ve just been in training longer or try harder.
Either way, coffee has to be just about cold, but not quite, before I drink it. So the window of actually drinking coffee is a small one.
Besides being hot, coffee is bitter. I’ve learned to forego the sugar, to tough it out, and I say that as though it is quite an accomplishment; as though I have crossed Niagara Falls on a tightrope.
Yes, I nod with humility, I drink my coffee without sugar. I ask you to hold your applause so as not to embarrass me with your praise.
The bottom line is that I don’t like to “drink” coffee, but my confession is this: I like the “idea” of drinking coffee. I know that sounds ridiculous and shallow and not exactly an authentic behaviour to be bragging about, but let me explain.
When I was little, Annie looked after me when my mother went back to teaching. I could write an entire column about Annie, filled with superlatives describing the safety of her knee and the comfort of her, but I digress.
My father was a full-time farmer then and he was clearing land on our farm to expand his grazing capabilities, so I was left in Annie’s care, at her farm right next to ours. When my father came to “fetch” me home, he sometimes came for a most delicious lunch of roast beef with potatoes and carrots and sometimes perogies.
Annie made coffee on her stove, and the smell that filled her kitchen was rich and aromatic. Then she poured coffee into her white mugs and I still can hear the music of the spoon stirring the cream and sugar round and round inside the cups while Annie and Arnie and my dad discussed important matters like farming and the weather while I listened.
They talked about the Stratton sales barn and the feasibility of trying to grow corn for silage, and all matters of the guts of farming. It was a delicious grown-up discussion and I wanted to be one: a grown-up.
I decided that in order to be a certified grown-up, one had to drink coffee or the next best thing: pretend to drink coffee.
The facts are crazy. Coffee is one of the most traded agricultural commodities in the world and is the most consumed beverage. We’ve been drinking coffee since the middle of the 15th century and probably earlier, before anyone noticed the line-ups at the cave for a double-double.
I’ve taken a stand, though; my own private war on corporate power: I don’t buy coffee unless it is fair trade and locally roasted. Or maybe more accurately, I try.
For more years than I care to reveal, I have been pretending to drink coffee in the hopes of joining that distinguished group with all the power: the grown-ups.
I must be missing a step somewhere along the line because when I look in the mirror, I’m pretty certain that I’m old enough to be a member, and then some, but when I look inside, the membership card remains invalidated.
While I wait for grown-up status, I will curl up in a big comfy chair and pull my knees up under my chin and hold a big coffee mug in my hands—the kind of mug where my four fingers fit through the handle. Those are the best, and I get more warmth into me that way.
I will hold the mug up to my face and breathe in the memories with that dark aroma of the fair trade coffee beans that I ground just before brewing, and I’ll try to be glad that the child in me is waiting patiently.
I don’t like to drink coffee.