As I sit here this rainy morning, drinking my coffee, like I always do, I am contemplating how so many of our family rituals have coffee at the center. Every night, Scott cleans the carafe, grinds the beans and sets the timer. Every night. In the morning, the dog wakes us up, the coffee maker dings and the entire house smells like fresh brewed coffee.
This morning Scott finished the paper, took his cup and sat next to me in our cozy corner to finish his coffee like he has done a thousand times. It is still dark out, we talk softly, the day hasn’t gotten loud yet. And I think of my first cups of coffee. We started young in the Finch Household.
Taster’s Choice freeze dried coffee, “Looks, smells and tastes like ground roast coffee.” That was the coffee my mom drank. That was the coffee my dad drank. That was the coffee we were allowed to drink, but not until we were 12, you know… we wouldn’t want to stunt our growth or anything. We drank it in the morning. We drank it all day. We drank a cup after dinner.
I remember our first Mr. Coffee pot. It was white, it was always on, some sort of sludgy scorched coffee substance sat cooking all day long. We had switched to Folger’s “Mountain Grown” coffee, certainly not influenced by scores of sexist TV commercials showing Mrs. Olsen teach pretty housewives how to make a cup of coffee that would make their husbands happy – My feminist mother would have balked at that!
When I was a young adult my parents discovered the beauty of whole coffee beans. During my many, many hours spent at their house, we would grind pot after pot of fresh coffee beans and perc it right in that same old Mr. Coffee. The coffee still sat and cooked all day, but, those first few cups were heaven!! We sort of became coffee snobs, stopping at Cafe Del Mundo, and later at Kaladi Brothers to buy our beans.
It was about this time period, early, early 80’s that I visited my Grandparents. I stayed maybe two months. I house sat for them and took care of their dogs while they took a six week road-trip and cruise. As part of that visit, I stayed with my cousins in Farmington, up by the Colorado border. I remember playing games with them for hours, late into the night. I want to say it was monopoly, it doesn’t matter, what does matter was that we drank pot after pot of the weakest, wateriest coffee from a twin Mr. Coffee pot the whole night.
When I returned to college, for reals this time, I was older than the other students. By quite a bit. I had a family. I had pets. I had a real job that I worked around. I had responsibilities, drive and determination. And yet, the younger students welcomed me in their study groups they let me join them between classes and I learned a little about their lives. What I learned was that during finals week, you could order coffees with grandiloquent names like misto, mocha, macchiato and you you could order a quad shot espresso from the barrista in the dining hall. One of those and I got all jittery and wild eyed. Whoops! I wouldn’t be doing that again! I stuck to doubles after that, but I was introduced to the coffee cart, specialty coffee houses and cafes that brewed pretty cappuccinos with frothy tops.
Pretty quickly my typical order became a “Double Tall Latte with Almond.” I would whisk away from the little coffee stand with my paper cup of courage at almost any time of the day. When I married Scott, I traveled more. We had a lot of family in the Seattle area and it was ridiculous how desperate we were for Starbucks. I would get off the plane, and hit the little Starbucks stand and order my latte before going down to get my luggage. Most of our plans started with, “We’ll find a Starbucks….”
Starbucks was absolutely the gold standard. They were (relatively) new, they were growing (exponentially), but they were not in Anchorage yet, so, to us, they were novel. They were fun. They could be their own destination. For some unknown reason they stopped carrying Almond flavored syrup for my latte. I tried others, caramel, vanilla, hazelnut. Blech, blech and blech. I switched to plain. Our typical family order: 2 plain double shot lattes, two vanilla steamers (Sarah and Laura), and a hot chocolate (Gracie). We started them young in the Coffee Culture.
Then things got frozen, frapped, french-pressed, cold-pressed, mocha-chipped this, and pumpkin-spice that, and soon Starbucks felt about as special as a McDonalds. There was now one on every street corner and in umpteen-million grocery stores, a regular juggernaut! You could buy the “Morning Blend,” or “French Roast” and brew your coffee at home in your fancy German coffee maker with an insulated pot that keeps your coffee fresh all day long.
When we first moved to Ketchikan our very favorite coffee shop was Moggie’s Mochas, Mugs and More. Our routine was a morning in the library, cross the street and hit the coffee shop for our “usual” (that never changed), before heading home. To our dismay, Moggie’s closed, but like a whack-a-mole, another little shop popped up, then it closed, another appeared. It was sort of frustrating, just when you learned which barrista needed coaching, “Can you heat this to 145 please,” the shop was gone.
One standby in Ketchikan has been Raven’s Brew, “the Real Alaskan Coffee For Real Alaskans And Their Real Alaskan Friends.” Clever clever packaging, funny titles (Deadman’s Reach: Served in bed, raises the dead) and unique artwork (Ray Troll as well as others, but you gotta google him – amazing!) as well as being beautifully roasted, Raven’s Brew is seriously the best coffee. Svend and Sarah special ordered it for years from their home in Bainbridge. Every care package to the girl’s includes a pound of Raven’s Brew. When we visit people, it is our hostess gift.
I am drinking coffee as I write this. I let it get cold in my cup, that is usually the signal that coffee drinking is done for the day. I rinse out my cup because I will not drink it again, I just can’t do that anymore. Those days are over. But at least I am not drinking decaf!
Links to places mentioned below:
Cafe Del Mundo is apparently called the Black Cup now: Black Cup
Ray Troll Art Studio: Soho Coho