Aaaaahhhhh….

I didn’t always drink coffee. I didn’t start until I was in my late 20s and my then boyfriend, Peter, made coffee with Medaglio Oro. Wow. It was — still is — a kind of Italian coffee available in supermarkets. In the late 70s the fancy-schmancy coffee culture hadn’t arisen and most people drank some stuff that came dripping out of their Mr. Coffee. For years my folks used the “percolator” (pre-Mr. Coffee, god I feel antediluvian). Neither of those styles brewed anything like what Peter made that afternoon in his apartment. As we sat down with our coffee he told me how his grandmother — from Calabria — had never accepted American coffee. “Come acqua!” Like water… I saw what — I mean I tasted what she meant.

From then on I liked coffee, but I didn’t drink it every day, though that happened soon after. Coffee houses existed in Denver but had a very different vibe than they developed once Starbucks arrived on the scene in the 90s. Still, in a few places it was possible to buy beans. I bought a coffee grinder.

Another boyfriend — Tom — went to Guatemala to study Spanish and brought back five pounds of unroasted beans for me. I roasted them in my oven the night before my one-woman painting show in 1981 and toasted that event on the actual morning with my first cup of Guatemalan coffee. It was amazing and for days after my house smelled sooooo good. I still love Guatemalan coffee.

By the time I went to China I was drinking coffee every morning. It was a little challenging in China which isn’t known for its coffee. In reality, on the island of Hainan they grow amazing coffee and I was honored by a gift of this wonderful stuff by the head of my department in a moment that felt as secret as a drug deal. One day, as I was leaving the building where my office was, he — a man in his 70s or 80s — stepped out of his office and motioned me to come inside. I was afraid I was in trouble, but no. In his lovely English he told me he had been saving something for me. Let me say right now that everyone I worked with in China — except maybe my Irish colleague and my husband — knew everything about me. So… He opened the cupboard door and reached far, far, far in the back and pulled out a small packet wrapped in newspaper and tied with pink string. OK, a lot of things in China were wrapped in newspaper and tied with pink string.

“It’s coffee,” he said, “very special coffee. It’s grown on Hainan Island.” He handed it to me like a secret — which it was.

He was so right that it was special. I was always trying to get more, but it was difficult. There was coffee in the Friendship store, but not that.

When I went to Hainan Island for Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) I was able to drink it again, and I brought some home with me. Their way of serving it was similar to Vietnamese coffee with sweetened, condensed milk — not my favorite. Part of what I love about coffee is its bitterness. I drink it with cream

In the Desert

BY STEPHEN CRANE

In the desert 
I saw a creature, naked, bestial, 
Who, squatting upon the ground, 
Held his heart in his hands, 
And ate of it. 
I said, “Is it good, friend?” 
“It is bitter—bitter,” he answered; 
“But I like it 
“Because it is bitter, 
“And because it is my heart.”

Naw, Mr. Crane, I wouldn’t go that far.

I changed my coffee brewing methods (from drip…) to a Bialetti after one of my students from Italy (I was teaching English as a second language at an international school) rented a car from us to drive while he was in San Diego. When his dad came to visit, he brought with him a Bialetti Moka Express. He said, “My son tells me you love coffee, but you can’t make coffee with that,” and he pointed dismissively at my Mr. Coffee. He made the point very clearly that there is NO OTHER WAY to properly brew coffee. This was 1987. He gave me very clear instructions and the rest is history.


These days I drink a coffee that’s roasted in Pueblo, Colorado, Solar Roast. My favorite is Zeus, described as “🌱 Dark and moody blend, just like those who drink it!” I’m not dark, but moody, maybe… I love it. It’s…

Ambrosial

And Teddy agrees

Teddy cleans out my cup after the very last sacred drop is gone.

29 thoughts on “Aaaaahhhhh….

  1. We used to have ‘camp coffee’, a coffee substitute made with chicory. It came in a tall square bottle with a Scottish bagpipe player on the front. The contents were a dark brown liquid. We had it with sterilised milk. It was horrible! Then we had ‘mellow birds’ coffee. It was bitter if you put enough in to give it some flavour!

  2. I do enjoy my morning coffee–black, please. My all-time favorite Far Side comic is two cowboys sitting around the campfire and one is holding out a cup of Joe saying, “Latte, Jed?” Cracks me up every time I see it.

  3. I remember the big coffee percolator we had when I was a child. I think it was 8 or 10 cups. We had like 3 of them and a couple of stove top percolators. I loved to watch the coffee bubbling thru the little glass top. (Sometimes it didn’t take much to keep me interested.)

    My mother would put saccharine and milk in her coffee while my father drank it black. I got my start drinking coffee because they usually wouldn’t drink the entire cup and I’d get the last ounce or two. i developed my own taste which was no sugar and lots of milk. By the end of the day the coffee was pretty bitter.

  4. I enjoyed this so much, MAK. I’m sitting here drinking a cup of coffee now. Growing up I was used to camp coffee. Grinds in the teeth were expected and I STILL love my percolator! I enjoy mine with 1/2 and 1/2. I really enjoyed reading about your coffee experiences. Sip sip hooray! Love and sips from me and Finn {great taste, Bear!} 💛❤️🤗

      • Wow. Just in time. He was about to set you straight. Bear gets her rawhide pencils dipped in coffee in the morning. I think the dogs like the cream (who doesn’t?) I drink one immense cup every morning and I figure that the day cannot be totally lost if there is that, at least, in the morning. Big hugs from the three of us to you two!!! 🍮 🐾 ❤️

        • Tee hee! Whew! It’s terrible that I could SEE Teddy’s face and typed Bear. I’m typing on my iPhone while off my feet. I can’t believe my chemo fog~I can’t remember something I had JUST seen, lol! Yummy rawhide in coffee. We feel your hugs! 🐾❤️🤗 Finn says, “Yeppers!”

  5. The smell of coffee is sooooo good. When I had my first overseas trip, started in Spain and had so many bad cups of coffee, same as France. My first best and most wonderful cup was an espresso from a coffee machine in an Italian service station. Renewed once more. Thanks for joining in Martha 🙂 🙂

  6. A high point of each day on the road is finding espresso. It took 54 miles to find one today, but it was great! I used a Moka Bialetti for a while but then spent the $ for an espresso machine. It’s worth it!

    • Probably but at this point the Bialetti is part of a ritual connecting me to people and places I love. I realized some time back it’s not just the coffee. ❤️

  7. I’m really out of the loop on this post since I like the smell but not the taste! I’ve tried. In college and later I sampled all sorts of coffee. Now if I have any caffeine I’m a wreck – I shake, my heart skips, I break out in a cold sweat… So no coffee for me. Sparky on the other hand must have his morning carafe… His mug holds 2.5 cups and he drinks 2 of them! Then the rest of the day it is tea.

    • Coffee isn’t for everyone. I only have that one cup in the morning and no more caffeine throughout the day. I learned that my dependence is physical. When their doc made my aunt and uncle switch to decaf, and I went to visit and didn’t know this, I had the worse migraines of my life until my Aunt Jo said, “You just haven’t been yourself since you got here” and then I learned… We laughed and I made my own coffee after that.

  8. Great read! Also, glad to see Solar Roast’s name, and searched and AWESOME! they have online ordering! I traveled there to meet with an editor for a paper and community magazine, I had been writing some articles and blog posts for and their coffee was amazing! Alas, I didn’t travel to Pueblo much in those days, and then, I discovered New Mexico Pinon Pine coffee which is locally owned, small batch roasting too, AND I could order online and then, I just didn’t THINK to check now and then about Solar Roast and if I could order online!

    Me? I got tired of replacing drip, fancy coffee makers every year or so – no matter how manual/cheap, or fancy dancy, even with religious cleaning, whole house water filter & softener, they would die, yearly – so I bought old fashioned percolator that would work on induction stove or BBQ grill or rocket stove – THEN I bought a french press, to do herbal/medicinal teas in, and started making coffee that way, and throwing in spices and herbs – –

    Now? coffee at work places, or standard family restaurants? Um….not the same….why on earth did I order this?? I know better! LOL

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