The rich fragrance of brewing coffee has always delighted me. It brings to mind scores of indescribably delicious potluck suppers in the basement of my childhood church. When invited to someone’s home for a meal, the brewing of the coffee signals the arrival of dessert. What’s not to love? The taste. I didn’t love the bitter, acidic taste. I wasn’t a tea drinker, either.
But now things have changed. First it was tea. I was introduced to a charming restaurant that served up dainty meals of tiny sandwiches and bites of dessert. These meals were called sweet teas (if you had only fruit and dessert), or savory teas (if you had sandwiches as well), and were of course served with tea. There was actually a tea menu. Who knew there was anything but Lipton? Not me, because I hadn’t been paying attention.
Overnight I became a tea convert, and began guzzling it morning, noon and night. I keep quite a collection on hand – oolong, chai, English breakfast, mango-flavored black tea, vanilla caramel, vanilla chai. A tea shop in San Francisco has the most wonderful plum flavored black tea, and for awhile Trader Joe’s had chocolate tea, which sadly has been discontinued. Why on earth? Can you think of a better marriage than that of tea and chocolate?
Although I’ve been in love with tea for a couple of decades now, I never dreamed my affections would someday extend to coffee. When people were shocked that a woman my age didn’t drink coffee, I’d jokingly tell them that I wasn’t old enough yet. I gave it a few chances along the way, trying coffee prepared for me by several addicts. It was usually so strong and bitter that I could manage only a sip or two. If I laced it heavily with cream and sugar, until it no longer resembled coffee, I could choke it down. But my general opinion was: Yuck. Why would anyone drink this stuff?
Well, now it seems that I’m finally old enough to drink coffee. I’ve been enjoying a cup every morning for about two weeks. Some mornings I have a second cup. How did this happen?
For one thing, I’ve been reading about the health benefits of coffee, including protection against type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, liver disease, liver cancer and heart disease. I wondered if it was too late to get in on the benefits. I wanted to learn to like coffee, but didn’t think I could get past the bitterness and resulting stomach acid.
Then I was introduced to the idea of cold brew. Not iced coffee, which I think is horrid (but who knows? Just give me time), but cold-brewed coffee My method is pretty simple – coarsely ground coffee mixed in a quart jar with cold water, letting it sit 24 hours, then straining it twice, warming up what I want at the moment, and storing the rest in the fridge until needed.
A pair of coffee snobs I know well (I won’t mention names, but I gave birth to them), are scandalized by the idea of heating up cold brew. My concoction is very likely too weak for them as well. They believe coffee should be strong enough to reach out and grab you by the throat, or at least make your eyes water. Whatever. Heated cold brew is rich and smooth, not bitter. I love it! I don’t really need the caffeine jolt to wake me up, because I’ve usually been awake since about 4:30 am (another thing I’m old enough for, but that’s another subject). And there’s a whole world of flavored coffee, including – Yes! – chocolate, chocolate raspberry, chocolate caramel. You get the idea. Maybe one day I’ll graduate to unflavored coffee. Maybe not. I’m pretty happy with the way things are. I’m just glad I got old enough to drink coffee before it’s too late.
My coffee conversion leaves one problem unsolved, however. Since for most of my life I wasn’t a coffee drinker, yet felt obliged to make it for dinner guests, I’ve made some pretty bad coffee over the years. Plus, everybody has their own ideas about how coffee should be prepared. I own a percolator and a drip coffee maker, and have been informed by the aforementioned coffee snobs that either way makes unsatisfactory coffee. My heated cold brew is also not acceptable.
So here’s an idea. Everybody just bring your own.