A Shot of Joe – Part One

I grew up with coffee.

My parents drank coffee percolated in an aluminum percolator on top of the
stove.  I’ve even seen them boil coffee in a pan on the stove (keep that one in
mind).  And, entering the modern age, they even got a Mr. Coffee for
Christmas and made coffee brewed with an automatic coffeemaker.  They
drank coffee, and my younger brother and I drank coffee, too.  A coffee
family.

I understood coffee.

Gotta get up early.  Drink some coffee.  Gotta stay up late, drink
some coffee.  Got a long road trip – drink some coffee.  Break time
at work…coffee time.  Visit a friend…coffee time.  Just need to
talk…coffee time.

Then, I joined the Navy, and I discovered the hard stuff.  Mid-watch
coffee aboard a naval vessel will not only grow hair on one’s chest (even
ladies), but it curdles one’s language and results in repeated,
“Argghhhs!,” from the pirate within.  Real sailors drank
mid-watch coffee.  Yachtsmen drank…well, everything else.
Hmmmphh.

Of course, the enjoyment of said coffee went away over the years.  Pretty
soon it was a 10 cups of coffee.  Then, a pot a day.  Then, two pots
a day.   Coffee before bed so I could sleep.  Coffee at daybreak
so I could get moving.  Coffee!  Coffee!  Coffee!

When my wife and I got married, someone very thoughtfully gave us a set of four
tiny cups and saucers.  “What are these for?” I asked.  I
couldn’t imagine what one would possibly drink in these tiny little, daintily
painted doll cups.  Coffee was drunk in mugs that matched the size of
Texas.  If you didn’t have to warm it up by the time you got to the final
inch of a cup of coffee, you obviously only wanted a sip.  Hell, even
wussy hot tea drinkers used real cups with some heft; though, they needed to
balance the wait of the cup by letting their pinky hang free in midair.
“They’re tiny coffee cups,” I was told.  I just cracked up and
laughed for a solid week, in between belts of joe from my bubba mug.

Then, Starbucks appeared, and my view of life changed.

I realize that, nowadays, it is fashionable to bash Starbucks.  That’s all
right.  Bash away.  Nothing – nothing will ever take away from the
day I first realized that coffee had a flavor that was not akin to the
inch-deep sludge in the oil pan of an abandoned 1937 Model T owned by some
gangster who last changed the oil in 1923.  I owe that to Starbucks.
Wonderful, flavorful, freshly ground beans.

My level of sophistication grew quickly.  I learned that cappuccino
didn’t refer to a denim ball cap and a latte was a fancy name for coffee and
cream – with the cream nicely warmed and frothed.  I even learned that it
was possible to mix coffee with CHOCOLATE!!!  CHOCOLATE!!!  I even
learned that those tiny little cups were called demitasse cups and were for
shots of espresso – the purest form of joe known to humankind.

But, my taste buds liked the essentials most, and I settled on the
Americano:  shots of espresso swirled into hot, hot water.  The
boilermaker of coffee drinking.  I had found my drink…especially in the
form of the Iced Venti Americano…four hefty shots (more if you were friendly
with the barista and tipped well) of steaming espresso poured over a bucket of
ice, with just enough water to satisfy the corporate recipe book.  For
years, I could be seen with my never empty cup of real man’s coffee.

Yes, I understood coffee.  I understood it well.  I understood as
only a coffee aficionado could understand.

Then – I went to Saudi Arabia.

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