Coffee is more than a drink, at least for me. It’s a ritual. I can close my eyes right now and feel my favorite mug in my hand. I can relive precious early mornings before work, quickly making a cup and savoring it in the quiet of my apartment.
After meals, it jumpstarts digestion. During dates, it lubricates conversation. Enjoying coffee is about the moment, the atmosphere, the context. Your favorite cup might be that leaky thermos of watery Folger’s during a road trip or even instant coffee from a tin cup while camping.
The best cup of coffee can be good for more reasons than just a quality roast. Sure, I have had decent cups of Peet’s from my French press or from Tim Horton’s in their signature mugs with a donut. I’ve had a lot of Gimmefrom Aurora, NY’s little market and obviously, since I live in Syracuse, I am particularly passionate about coffee from Recess. Their location on Harvard Place off of Westcott Street provides that cliche coffee house allure, replete with quicksand couches, wonky succulents and the smoky aroma of fresh-roasted beans. I’ve even had coffee on the European, North American and Asian continents. From Italy to Istanbul, Iceland to New Zealand, I’ve had it from roadside, oceanside, and lakeside stands: so when contemplating my favorite all-time individual cup of coffee, I have a lot of them to consider.
My first memory of coffee is from childhood. Some early morning at my grandparents’ in Buffalo, my grandfather dipped a slice of buttered Italian bread into heavily creamed coffee and let me taste. Well, that was it. Instant love. Even though I wouldn’t start drinking coffee on a regular basis for maybe ten more years, it was a special moment for my tastebuds. But since I didn’t really drink it and it wasn’t in a cup, it doesn’t really count.
When thinking on all my favorite cups, cappuccino with freshly ground nutmeg in the foam, the little cup of cafe Americano I had every day at Vivoli beneath my old apartment in Florence, or the cups of Chock full o’Nuts at my grandparents’ in Florida with a sprinkle of cinnamon, one particular cup comes to mind:
I am very close to a Persian family and while their grandmother was visiting from Iran, they invited me over for dinner. After dodging repeated attempts to force-feed me salmon and filling up on plenty of delicious tadig, they brought out traditional Turkish coffee. Turkish coffee is so strong and so thick, it leaves a sort of sludge on the bottom of the cup. It’s like espresso but almost a solid. And it’s served in little cups, because there’s no way you need a grande or venti or whatever. You just need a little shot. It’s like the Everclear of coffee. In other words, it’s amazing. And a neat thing about drinking Persian-style Turkish coffee with grandma visiting from the old country: she will read your fortune in the leftover grounds.
In order for this to work, you must meditate on your coffee and your life while drinking, when it’s finished, you flip the cup towards you (in order to capture your soul, or something) and upside down onto a saucer.
Then speaking only in Farsi, the grandma detailed what she saw in the swirled grounds at the bottom of our cups. Since I don’t speak Farsi, the rest of the family translated her wise interpretation for me. I don’t remember my fortune, I guess that wasn’t really the point. I was sitting around a big table crowded with plates and platters of toothsome food, surrounded by beautiful and amazing friends, and knowing in every way possible that I was making long withstanding memory.
With something as social, rich, chocolatey and versatile as coffee, it can easily become an everyday act but still has the potential to be somehow more. Coffee shifts between the mundane (like the endless cups from the break room just to get through a workday) and the exceptional (like drinking some in South America among the chatter of wild parrots). In exotic destinations, in a quiet home, alone or among compelling characters, there may be many cups of coffee in a lifetime and perhaps many favorites. There are the cups we remember and the cups we will forget… such as the cup I’m drinking right now to help me finish this blog post.